My time working on site in Mexico
Working on projects for different clients around the globe is typical in the IT business. As a project manager you learn quickly knowledge of time zones and intuitively find windows for possible meetings. What is especially difficult are meetings involving clients, partners and colleagues from 3+ countries. All participants have the required tools and skills to work remotely and conduct efficient communication. This is just a ‘normal’ way to deliver a product.
Of course it’s much different and better to meet your clients in person. It is much easier to connect to a physical person than to their virtual ‘avatar.’ This is why the sales process often involve personal meetings, lunches, dinners or drinks as these possibilities absolutely help communication and the building of trust. In this post, I would like to speak about how being physically present with the client helps an ongoing project during the most difficult times.
It is a very good feeling to finally meet and shake hands with someone whom you have been working with for months. Matching faces with names, talking in person and even better, collaborating alongside one another. No matter how efficient your remote work, you simply don’t know what you miss sitting next to your client side contact and working through various issues. Over the 12 months Magento 2 development cycle, from inception/planning phase to launch of Ezetera.com, I had the opportunity to visit their HQ in Mexico City three separate times. These were wonderful experiences, personally and professionally and I would like to share some lessons learned as well as a few personal insights.
The usual flow is to have recurring meetings to discuss project news. During critical periods, there are daily meetings. Collect everything in advance, prepare and then wait for the dedicated time to discuss it all. A good example of this would be an automatic deploy. The time window is there and if the information is made available, you will receive it in timely fashion. But even that is not as simple as rolling back to the desk behind you to tap the client on his shoulder and ask about something as soon as it comes up. Information flow becomes result oriented and not time driven: you talk about issues when they come up, until they are solved, as detailed as possible. Of course this is what we do in remote communication too, but it is simply not the same as if in a meeting. Being on-site with Ezetera allowed me to solve problems quickly and in an ad hoc fashion.
Having access to client’s team and partners
Every meeting focused on gathering information has items that require further investigation from a specific team or person, client and contractor both. Pending issues to be discussed when that information is gathered from somewhere else. I think the biggest benefit of being on site was the short walking distance to the stakeholder whom could answer questions or explain reported issues in more detail. Situation was further improved with third party contractors ITEGRATION collaborated with to deliver the project. From our end we worked closely with several 3rd party vendors from the onset of the project. Like the UX specialist to help work out final wireframes and flows or the senior architect to handle any go-live issues ad hoc. Our presence and visible dedication to the project’s success helped the client take these difficult steps with confidence.
Working side by side helps build teamwork and over time becomes automatic. When contractors can build colleague-level relationships with their clients, it is often clear that both are working on a common goal and able to face obstacles as a team with all the skill and capacity of both participants. ITEGRATION is an expert Magento integrator but couldn’t have solved all of the issues without truly understanding the clients needs and key business drivers behind their decision. Working together on site was clearly the most efficient way forward.
Being out of office
Unfortunately, while enjoying all the benefits of being on-site with the client, you must also face the reality of having your support team remote. But in my experience, the onsite advantages absolutely outweighed the disadvantages. First of all, the support team is your team so remote work is something they know well. You know what they need and by when, they are adaptive to your timetable and work to support you as face of the company to the client. Of course, the chances of misunderstandings and missing information are bigger than usual but these situations will reveal flaws that you can be fixed to improve the team’s communication. I am lucky to be a part of an exceptional team with very talented people, so things went really smoothly. Teammates took responsibility while handling their own scope conscientiously. The overall exercise helped colleagues to really ‘bloom’ in terms of their confidence and self knowledge–a very rewarding project overall!
So here comes the aforementioned personal view: Mexican people are lovely! The Ezetera/ITEGRATION partnership has a very good business partnership going on for 4 years now. On an individual level, visiting the Ezetera’s project manager’s mother in Puebla to drink tequila and talk about life was a personal highlight. Being friends with the client is an amazing experience, work just becomes very enjoyable and you become a real team (as mentioned above).
Mexican people seem to work ALOT but still enjoy themselves and do so sincerely. There is such a deep humbleness in the people I met that really demands respect. If you are the complaining sort, working in Mexico and being around that sort of mentality might go a long way to improve your attitude to change for the better. Delivering a 1 year long project is never easy, but the Ezetera team handled it with a really positive attitude that became contagious. As a project manager, I very often calculate the worst case scenarios, but working on Ezetera helped me to overcome difficult moments with a positive attitude..
All in all, I strongly recommend on site work, especially in critical phases of the project if possible. It is really beneficial and rewarding both in the short and the long run as it dissolves hardline boundaries between teams and makes common work a completely different experience. Also, I strongly recommend to visit Mexico City and surrounding states like Chiapas and Puebla. You will not regret it.