The Role of Online Task Management Software in Virtual Teams

John Reeve | November 27th, 2012 | , ,

The Role of Online Task Management Software in Virtual Teams

The modern-day workplace is in a state of flux, as more online productivity apps are becoming available and as more companies are moving to the cloud to take advantage of the benefits of online software. As a result, design and development teams are becoming more virtual, meaning that not all members of the team are in the same geographical location.

Some teams have gone completely virtual, while others have only a few virtual team members. Either way, they’ve opted to work with other designers and developers who are in different geographical locations. They could be on the other side of town, or the world. It really doesn’t matter.

If you’ve chosen to not go virtual and to keep your team in the same physical location, that is fine, too. There are plenty of good reasons not to break up a team and spread them out. But it’s important that your team have a plan in place for working from a virtual office. While it may not be the norm for your team, working with others in a virtual environment will likely be required on occasion, some planned and some not.

Online task management software, such as our web-based app Intervals, is a great resource for teams working together in different virtual offices. It allows teams members to collaborate and communicate back and forth. Following are two stories about customers who used Intervals to successfully navigate through an unplanned outage.

Server Down

The Role of Online Task Management Software in Virtual Teams

James had optimized and hardened a set of web servers for an upcoming e-commerce event. The server, firewall and load balancers had been load tested. The web site had been code reviewed and tested. Everything looked good. Then the shoppers hit the site and the server buckled, because one minor optimization tweak had been overlooked.

The web site was immediately taken offline, much to the chagrin of the shoppers, while James began troubleshooting the issue. James had to reach out to some system administrators he had on speed dial and get to the bottom of the issue.

Because James had used Intervals to manage the tasks for setting up these servers, this ad-hoc virtual team was able to go through his notes and review each task’s history. And there in the history of one task was a note about an optimization that sounded suspect. Shortly after this discovery, the problematic optimization was reverted and the server put back online.

Even the most hardened system administrators are prone to panic when a server goes down. It can be difficult to recollect and communicate details in the moment.  This virtual team turned to Intervals instead, where they could quickly search and sort tasks, and found the details they needed to fix the issue.

Lights Out

The Role of Online Task Management Software in Virtual Teams

Beatrice manages a talented team of graphic designers who occupy a retrofitted warehouse in the industrial outskirts of Seattle. Being together in an open space is what gives them the ability to churn out so many creative and award-winning campaigns. Then one day the power went out — a nearby transformer had blown — and wasn’t expected to be restored until the following morning. They found themselves at a loss for what to do.

Fortunately for them, Beatrice had been using Intervals to manage their client’s projects and track the designer’s tasks. Each designer returned home and fired up Skype and Intervals. Using Skype to chat and Intervals to review the current task load, they were able to divide up the work and get a fair amount of it done. A few people even met up at a local coffee shop to brainstorm some design ideas together and sketch out some rough concepts.

A power outage may not seem like show stopper, but going without for an entire day will quickly bring your workflow to a halt. Using cloud-based apps like Skype and Intervals can help a team virtually get back on its feet and resume most of their daily activities, because they can be in the same online space from different physical locations. It may not be the norm for them to operate virtually, but these tools give them a viable alternative when the time comes.

Photo credits: Virtual Team by neyssensas, Linux Terminal by Konstantin Leonov, Power Lines by shog9

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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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