Getting Face to Face
By Clinton Jones on Nov 29, 2011
I have just returned from a visit to the Winshuttle India offices in Chandigarh located near the foothills of the Shivalik range of the Himalayas in northwest India and reputed to be the first planned city in India. This wasn’t my first visit to these offices, but it was my first opportunity to spend a little more time in meetings with the faces who build the Winshuttle’s applications in their home setting and to commune with them on a schedule that was amenable to both parties.
It seems that for most of us, the idea of meetings often result in much rolling of the eyes, sighing and concern about the wasting of time.
Certainly in some particularly dysfunctional organizations and teams this is definitely true. The concept of meetings FOR meetings for example is not unusual although it seems quite crazy. In fact esteemed author Seth Godin writes in an amusing item in which he called out the ‘problem’ of meetings in a blog post entitled Getting serious about your meeting problem. He talked about the meetings for meetings and also gives some suggestions for how to manage meetings and keep people and meetings effective and efficient. There are some good suggestions there, you should read it.
In the Winshuttle Product Management team, it is not unusual to have a meeting with the Chandigarh offices around 5:30am PST, sometimes a little earlier and sometimes a little later. Occasionally, we will have meetings at 10:30am IST, by which time it may already be 9pm PST or midnight on the East coast where some of our team live. Understandably then, meeting on a common schedule can be tremendously efficient. Certainly this outcome was absolutely true in the context of the visit this month past, the end result of a 12 day visit was a resounding conclusion that on-site visits to the nerve center of Winshuttle software development adds exponentially more benefit to a larger audience than the product and program managers simply meeting at Winshuttle HQ or one of the Winshuttle regional offices. The limited team meetings are important also, but for a different set of reasons.
For the developer and development lead collective though, product management meeting with them is a great opportunity to explain the experiences that product management has with specific customers and specific customer use cases. My involvement in the recent Winshuttle User Group meeting in Chicago put me in a great position to talk with some authority on how a handful of fundamentally different SAP and Winshuttle customers were using Winshuttle products to build improvements into their standardized business processes. Outlining some of the creative ways that Winshuttle products were being used enabled me to not only explore the depth of understanding that our developers have of business processes but also some of the limitations and strengths of Winshuttle’s core products such as Transaction, Query and Direct. Bringing context to the way applications are used are key to improving the product feature profile and ensuring that we continue to produce a compelling and easy way to automate SAP transactions and improve transactional and master data processing.
At the conclusion of the visit we had arrived at a mutual understanding of the timeline, shape and form of the coming releases of the flagship desktop applications and a sense of agreement on some experimental products that will soon be available on limited release to select candidates. Would the same results have arisen from a virtual meeting or an offsite meeting in perhaps Paris, Madrid or London? Perhaps, however coordinating ad hoc discussions with the team members and staging demonstrations of experimental prototypes would have involved more effort and would have meant someone would be getting up early for the meeting or staying late at work to attend.
Despite the risks of inefficient meetings, a 21 hour one way flight itinerary was definitely worth the opportunity for a meaningful face-to-face.
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