With customers in different time zones, how to keep them up-to-date and fully synchronized with your team? Among many others, these 5 tools are the best to help.
We have clients everywhere, from the United Arab Emirates in the East to the United States in the West. Our headquarters is based in Kyiv, Ukraine (UTC+2h Time Zone), so our customers are often behind or ahead of our time. With our official working hours from 10 AM to 7 PM, catching up is a challenge.
We work with dozens of instruments, but won't list them all here. This post is about the 5 coolest tools that help us stay available 24/7 and keep smooth communication with our clients as if our offices were next to each other.
For meetings, planned or occasional. Old good voice and video chat is a must when you want a clear answer.
- Supports video calls by default (with no extra tweaks or charge)
- Still the most stable and reliable (despite all Microsoft's experiments)
- Encryption, which is a necessary security demand for some customers
- Most likely, the customer already has it installed. So you won't feel awkward and spend extra time synchronizing your chat clients
We speak with our clients a lot. Especially, at the beginning of every project, when we spend hours discussing every detail of our client's needs. The regular meetings are weekly or biweekly (since we usually run 2-week sprints), but occasional talks are also many.
We also use GoToMeeting, WebEx, Google Hangouts — whatever the customer prefers.
For daily updates and project management. The Swiss Army knife for managing the entire development process.
We find the Jira Agile Board the most convenient instrument to:
- keep our partners fully updated about the project status
- give a detailed picture of the development process
With Jira, we're flexible to work with any Agile methodology (Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP), and have tools for all team members: Developers, QAs, Managers, etc.
For everyday discussions. Finally, we're communicating in the same place (and use tons of enhancements).
With Slack, we're fully connected with customers in everyday dialog. Our team members know where to discuss ongoing issues and ask questions. At the same time, our partners keep track of every step in development, address issues, answer questions — in short, they take an active communication role.
Slack is good in many other ways:
- Plug-ins to connect with Jira, GitHub, Jenkins, Ansible, etc., and never miss critical notifications
- Channels to split talks into topic-based streams within one project. It saves us from mile-long nested emails that nobody reads
- Great to share files and find them later
- Effective search in chat history, shared docs, people, and notifications
Finally, we're 100% synchronized with our customers in daily project talks.
For code operations: deployment and collaboration.
The last detail in keeping our partners engaged is to ensure they:
- have full access to the project repository
- can perform all operations as we do: review, work with pull requests, see commits and history, and much more
GitHub is good since it allows everyone to work with the project code, no matter the physical location.
5. Clock. Wall Clock :)
Six analog tic-tac clocks in the heart of our office. They knock out all time sync services on the internet.
After years of experience, we're strong with respecting our customers' time zone and flexible to have meetings whenever partners need it.
Also, we carry out deployments to the client’s platform, which is best when web traffic is low.
- They are REAL!
- They make our office look like a Command Bunker
- It just takes a head turn to know the time at your client's place. We haven't invented a tool to know time faster (yet)
We don't like clocks because of replacing batteries. But we consider this as a workout exercise (giving us the right to skip the gym), so we're okay with it.
0: Our People
The Team to make tools work.
Our Project Managers supervise any project and keep in touch with the client 24/7.
The client is always the Product Owner and stays in contact with any member of the development team. At any time.
Finally, once in a while, we organize personal offline meetings at our place or the client’s office. Occasionally, our specialists may visit the customer to fix a very specific problem. In most cases it's not needed, but we're ready.
Once, our potential customers decided to pay us a quick visit. "We'll be at your place tomorrow," they said. Surprise! Still, it was after that personal get-together that we gained one of our dearest customers and began our core project.
What we have in the end?
Skype to talk in person and have meetings.
Jira to inform about daily updates and manage the project.
Slack to chat, solve issues, and exchange info.
GitHub to share and work with the project code.
Clocks to know the time out there.
With these instruments, our customers are fully informed, synchronized, and engaged. Thus, distance and time zones are not a problem anymore.
But after all, it's our Star Team that makes tools effective. That is why it has number 0, the base and foundation for everything we do.