Thursday, August 13, 2015

Communications in a software development organization

My experiences on these communication/ collaboration tool:
  1. Email
  2. Wiki
  3. Instant Messaging
  4. Phone
  5. Audio Conferencing
  6. Web Conferencing
  7. Oracle Social Network
  8. Collaboration Workspace
  9. Group Calendar
  10. Discussion Forum

1. Email

Sending email is still important. It is still a major way to communicate the changes, update the status, and coordinate among different teams.

Checking emails does not require me to sit in front of my desk any more.  I also check emails using my phone.

A very important feature from Firefox is to set the emails in different color based on the sender, the receiver, and some key words.  It helps me to prioritize the mails to be read.

It cannot guarantee the delivery or delivering emails on time.  I still hear people saying that I have not receive or see your email. 

2. Wiki Page

Wiki page is used to document the meeting minutes, document the coding standards, coding instructions, etc.  It is for publishing the doc to the big audiences.  Although the nature of wiki is to allow multiple authors, I found that no many people used to edit wiki pages.

3. Instant Messaging

It is being used much more often than phones nowadays.  It can also be checked if the person is online.

Pasting URL link is an important feature.  Unfortunately the interaction between chat software and the email software is still poor. the address book are separate and referring to email needs to be done by referring to the subject.

Attaching doc is a poor feature.  It is slow.

Group chat feature is not being used widely.  However, it is a powerful tool.  We use it  to coordinate the constraint resource - lock to a file or book to an env for check-in.  It has widely impacts on the productivity.

Chat software (BEEM) is available on the phone. 

4. Phone call

It is used much less often, but still very efficient.  It can avoid miscommunication.  It delivers the right tone of the voice we use.  It allows us sharing emotions.

Conferencing -  a feature from Cisco Phone. It is not used every day but useful when we need to sync up with multiple people. When there is more three parties involved, we always switch to audio conferencing.

Forwarding office phone to my mobile phone.  Very important feature.  I almost never miss any call.

Voice Message - not a very useful feature any more.

5. Intercall - Audio Conferencing

This becomes our life and truly enables us to work with remote people.  I see that more and more teams have the members all over the world. The key enabling technology is not video conferencing or instant messaging.  It is actually the audio conferencing.

Almost no meeting is purely  the face to face meeting.  Although people still use conference room, the audio conferencing seems always enabled as always some members are working remotely.

Mobile phone allows me to participate in the audio conference from anywhere.  It also changes the life style. 

6. Web Conferencing

It provide the screen sharing capability and it serves as a supplement to the audio conferencing.

Sharing screen is definitely helping me in communicating.  When we present our powerpoint slides, we use web conference.

I like to share what I am typing in a wiki page or in a word doc during the meeting.  It helps me communicate effectively.

Recording - a very useful feature for those people absent.  However, it is considered expensive and not widely used.

7. Oracle Social Network

Good idea.  Useful, and used a lot outside development organizations.Perhaps Sales like it most.
It has a much finer data security model and can be used to keep the 1on1 topics.

It can be a good alternate to the group chat functionality from the instant messaging.  The writing is persistent.

The best feature is to flag someone to flag someone so they can get a notification in emails.  You can flag it as a FYI or Must Reply notification. 

It cannot replace wiki as wiki provide better formatting.

Also, the UI rendering from this internal service is slow.  Usability is still not better than the wiki.

8. Collaboration Workspace

It is very good in document sharing.

and that's it.

We do not use the forum feature from Beehive.  It lacks the key feature of synchronizing with the mailing lists.

We also do not use the wiki feature from Beehive. The wiki service is not as feature rich as confluence wiki. 

9. Group Calendar

Useful in sharing the holiday schedule for people working from different regions in the world.
Useful in sharing the vacation and training schedule from different people.

I feel that we can use it to deliver the group event and milestone.  An under-utilized powerful tool

We do not use the group calendar feature from outlook. Outlook only store .ics locally.  Outlook basically does not have a proper group calendar support.

10.  Discussion Forum

This could be a good way for team to team communication.  Instead of sending emails to individuals, asking people who are working in the downstream process to ask the question or send their requests via group forum, which can be monitored by different people.

This was useful in the past.  Not using currently.

I use it to sync up with the standard group mailing list for discussion and communication.  It can record/archive all the past communications, so we know why a coding standard was designed in certain way.

Support is still using the forum to ask questions.  Developers can subscribe and reply emails.
Developers can also once a while check the forum to see what has been discussed.

Support can search the archived discussions before asking questions.

It is not replaced by Social Network.  The forum has provided a much stronger search tool.

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