Managing Teams Across Time Zones

It’s midnight. Do you know what your team is doing?

It’s midnight in London, 4PM in Los Angeles, and 3AM in Dubai. You have a major project due tomorrow at 3PM New York time. Emails are flying left and right, but are you really moving the project forward? The challenges of successfully managing a global team are many. Even the most organized team leader can’t possibly watch all aspects of a project 24/7.

In the past, leaders tried solving these global challenges, first through policies and procedures, and then at the dawn of the digital age, through proprietary project management systems. In reality, however, most workers just relied on email. Have a question? Send an email. Have changes to a document? Send an email (and hope the other person tracked changes). Sisi Zhao, Executive Assistant & Translator at Interush, described it this way: “I think half the battle with some of the old systems was getting team members to use them. If we had to go through a three-day course here in the states just to use it, how was I supposed to get a contractor in Asia up to speed?”

Today’s workers are more spread out than ever and as leaders we are dealing with more and more sub contractors that we don’t have time to train on complex systems. Thankfully, a new breed of collaboration tools have hit the market that look and feel more like their social media cousins than their confusing project schedule predecessors. Social/business collaboration tools are much more user friendly, and adoption is way up. “Everyone has jumped right on board. They sign up and just start using the account. There was no training needed because team members have been posting, commenting, collaborating for years now in their personal lives through a similar type interface,” said Sisi Zhao, Interush.

Sean Crafts is Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer of Mavenlink, the first online interactive workplace and social project management solution created for today’s networked economy. He says ease of use and an intuitive interface is why Mavenlink has seen record numbers of users and, more importantly, user adoption of its cloud based collaboration products. “Companies with global resources who have struggled to get teams on the same page are telling us social-based collaboration tools are changing the game,” said Crafts. “We can see it in the numbers. You’ve got accounts not only being created, but we see an ever increasing number of interactions which, in our minds, equals collaboration.”

Social-based collaboration tools don’t solve every problem, and you will probably still have to set your alarm pretty early if you want to be up with the markets in London. There’s a good chance, however, if your team is using one of these tools, you’d get a good night’s rest knowing everyone is on the same page and the progress of the last 12 hours will be waiting and organized for you in the morning.