After my last startup was acquired by Symantec, I became a Director in that company overseeing the incorporation of our web-based VPN Linux appliance into their product line.
We relocated our startup office from Emeryville, CA to Redwood Shores, CA in the SF Bay Area (everyone but our developer in Flagstaff, AZ who continued to telecommute from 742 miles away). I reported to our division Vice President in Waltham, MA located on the other side of the country 3100 miles away. That VP in turn reported to Symantec corporate headquarters 3100 miles away in Mountain View, CA (ironically just 14 miles south from my office).
Immediately prior to that I was a chief technical officer for a startup in Irvine, CA simultaneously managing ERP consultants in Irvine, CA, Web Developers in Santa Monica, CA and programmers in Sao Paulo, Brazil 6,100 miles away. Several years before that, I setup a the first US-based Japanese test bed for DELL in Austin, TX and collaborated with a more extensive test bed site in Japan about 10,500 miles and 14 time zones away. Finally, before that I worked in Tokyo supporting a global financial information network with nodes in London, New York, Hong Kong, Sidney and several other smaller cities in Asia.
All this is to say virtual teams comprised of individuals working across many geographical regions is extremely common – especially in high-end knowledge fields like finance, engineering, design, film, etc. As a result we have a great deal of technical tools that will help us collaborate with JP in Costa Rica (and you will all be better prepared for the future).
Here are my short list of tools that we will find useful to coordinate our collaboration:
Screen Sharing: ScreenLeap, SkyFlex, Mikogo and CrossLoop (more research needed)
File/Code Sharing: Dropbox/Git
Project Management: Asana, Trello, Bitrix, etc
Bug Tracking: (may be relegated to a todo list in Project Management)
It’s difficult to come on accurate figures for the percent of the workforce that telecommutes but this Forbes.com freelancer cites 35-40% telecommute in businesses she deals with based upon her experience and the opinions of HR people she deals with.
Unfortunately, virtual collaboration will not address all the challenges that we will face this fall in FIRST LEGO League. Much of FLL is based upon teamwork and developing good interpersonal skills that are optimally achieved face to face.
Fortunately, JP will be visiting us periodically before our first Nov/Dec FLL tournament during which we can focus on addressing these short comings of technology with team building exercises. In any case, our team will have a unique opportunity to be introduced to the future of work via FLL.