November 5, 2009

Global Collaboration: Virtual Yet Real


Recently Perforce Consulting Services assisted one of our global customers with migrating from half a dozen different SCM systems to Perforce. The project spanned several hundred man-days, and included customer’s development groups across multiple continents. And here is the punch line: the project was executed without any face-to-face interaction at all. Users were trained via online training methods, while all collaboration with development groups was done using very basic tools: secure remote access (VPN), email and online screen-sharing tools. So we ended the project with a phone-huddle with the customer’s project manager, and lamented not having ever met each other.

While all of us, particularly the ones reading this blog, don’t think twice about conversing electronically as part of our day-to-day job, I still cannot help marveling the fact that it is quite feasible now to collaborate with a geographically dispersed group of people, in real time, without ever getting to shake hands. It does further obviate the need for top-notch stream of ongoing communication, but today’s technologies make that absolutely possible. Of course, face-to-face interaction is still nonpareil, but it is often the cost and time factors that drive electronic collaboration.

Internally here at Perforce, we have our Perforce Consultants in different offices around the world. A very simple yet effective tool that we use to keep everyone in the loop is the Perforce review daemon. In our busy daily schedules, it takes very little effort just to know who is working on what, just by putting the folders of interest on the review watch list. The graphical diff tool, and the P4OFC plug-in for Microsoft Word are the other tools that come in extremely handy for comparing multiple revisions of a document being worked on by different team members. So yes, we do love our own dog food.