Lately, the topic of which projects are using remote LIMS resources and which aren’t seems to be the big topic of discussion. Actually, it’s not just with regard to LIMS, ELN and LES, but all aspects of the IT community projects. Whether that’s because we’re coming so close to the beginning of Autumnal work or other factors isn’t clear. Regardless, today’s post gives five of the tips I’ve been handing out, lately.
This One Doesn’t Count
Let’s start with this fact. If you have me working remotely that you don’t have to listen to me sing. That comes to mind because I’m writing this in my own office, all alone, door closed, and the music streaming service challenging me to keep my silence. There’s a reason I’m not a singing legend.
Seriously, none of you have yet heard me sing when I’m on your site. But, trust me, if I ever slip, people will be leaving your project pretty quickly. 😉
But here are the real ones are and don’t consider these to be in any particular order:
Remote LIMS Tip # 1: Remote Doesn’t Mean Travel
Most people who call me about working with my company are looking for us to handle an entire block of work. Most of this remote LIMS work, is actually just configuration/customization work done separate from a project team (often additional work after the project is finished or a specific block of work). Recently, though, there have been a number of phone calls to subcontract to larger projects through a preferred vendor.
Here’s what I find to be odd. Only around half of this second category of people who contact GeoMetrick Enterprises can answer the most basic questions about the project.
What I find to be even stranger is that some of these companies begin the conversation by what I think they believe is dangling a virtual carrot by mentioning the work is “remote.” Some truly mean they don’t require resources sitting on their site. However, others soon make it clear that “remote” means “you don’t have to move.” That’s not what “remote” means.
If you’re speaking with resources, be clear what your intentions are. In addition, telling them they’ll do 25% travel when it’s closer to 50% is what we all call “bait and switch.” Word does get around the industry if you do that, by the way.
Remote LIMS Tip # 2: Communications, Management and Other Good Habits
If you have poor communication skills when people are sitting together, these will be exacerbated when you have remote LIMS team members. We’ve all heard of Agile projects that, sprint after sprint, make no progress. We still hear about poor management or project management or improperly sourced projects. Some of these will end up costing the company a great of money before delivering very little. Or, these projects cost a lot of money before the company ultimately cancels them.
You’re looking at serious problems with remote teams If you have poor management or project management. The same goes if you just generally have communication issues in your teams. If you deliver anything at all, consider yourself lucky that you have such fantastic and professional resources. It’s rare that projects are this lucky. Usually, even great resources can’t overcome these problems. While it’s true that a single excellent resource can make a huge difference, they can’t usually force the schedule forward when they’re not the person in power. Sometimes, they can’t force it along even if they ARE the person in power. It’s a problem when the rest of the management or project management doesn’t work properly with them.
The larger the group of people involved in any project, the more serious these issues become magnified. When the team then is not sitting together, that’s like putting one more huge magnification glass on the problems.
Remote LIMS Tip # 3: Put Systems and Tools in Place
For starters, make your remote LIMS team effort an organized one. As I was just yesterday telling someone, tools don’t make a remote situation work, good habits make it work. Having some appropriate tools in-place helps the situation but, once again, it’s just so common to hear about someone inappropriately using their tools.
For example, some of the projects I’d recently worked with have those all-encompassing tools, where everything is running off your computer. Phone, chat, e-mail, meeting – it doesn’t matter – it’s all in one dashboard. It’s all just one click away. But which one do you choose? And if you desperately need something and a team member doesn’t immediately reply, do you then try to call?
Here’s where a few simple ground rules about how to use the tools comes in. Remind people to use their common sense about discussions. If two team members are getting nowhere in chat, if it’s getting to complex, too many people are getting pulled-in, or people are getting aggravated, stop and take a breath – maybe it’s time to change the format to e-mail or a phone call, or both.
If the tool has team statuses, have a few rules about how to use those. That way, if a team member is away from their desk and another team member has something critical they need, the team member in need has an idea when the other one might return. They might wait or they might try a different team member who is actually available.
Remote LIMS Tip # 4: Make an Ongoing Effort
No matter what you do, just like anything else, you’ll learn as you go. Remote LIMS teams do sometimes have unique needs or habits. It’s not that difficult to adjust to them. At team meetings, ask if anyone has suggestions for improvements to the process or tools.
Some of these will be truly simple, too. Occasionally, there’s a technical problem that the team has some suggestion for. For example, there are occasionally team members who have issues with their microphones switching between their laptop microphone and their bluetooth headset. This can cause cause some issues with other team members hearing them. This seems trivial but it can cause real problems during meetings. In addition, it’s fairly common that someone else on the team knows the fix to it.
Some issues are more difficult but when you bring them to light, you can at get people to recognize them. Let’s suppose that the steering committee frequently calls the project manager out of important project meetings. The project team can’t necessarily do anything about that but might come up with practical ways to work around it.
Remote LIMS Tip # 5: Pick the Right Team Members
Your remote LIMS team will be comprised of a variety of people. This is true of ELN, LES, LES, ERP, and basically any other team you might have around. There tend to be two types of people – those who stay motivated and get their work done, and those who don’t. Those who don’t tend to become obvious fairly quickly if you pay any attention to progress, at all.
Can you change the non-performers? Sometimes. Some people actually aren’t comfortable working remotely. Some have too many distractions or are just too easily distracted. You can lay down the law with these people. You can also discuss with them how they can build better work habits. Individual development isn’t out of the question, if the person is willing and interested. But, as with any other bad work habit, some people just aren’t going to change. You have to be able to recognize that.
But how do you recognize good habits in remote workers? Well, it’s like anything else, really. If you have at least one person around who has the right experience, you can use them to help you build this.
For example, if you have a team of LabWare programmers, you usually have at least one with more experience to help the others when they get stuck and to act as a good example. The same goes for working remotely. Have at least one person with experience with remote work on the team. This person can help recognize and overcome obstacles with remote work just as the LabWare LIMS / ELN programming expert does for the technical portions of the project.