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Use Skype Chats to Create a Virtual Office

A SharePoint tutorial by Peter Kalmstrom

Keeping a dispersed group together

Skype chats are extremely useful if you want to create a virtual office with staff from all over the world. The kalmstrom.com team has for several years used Skype chats in the daily work, to facilitate the contact between team members who are not in the same room ‒ or even in the same country. The technical staff of kalmstrom.com Business Solutions is in India and Russia, and Sigge and I take care of administration, documentation and support from our homes in Spain and Sweden. Peter, our CEO and product creator, also lives in Sweden but he often travels abroad. A lot of communication is needed within this dispersed group, and our main tool is the chat.

Common language

Our common language is English, which we all know fairly well. We try to keep it proper and not use too many abbreviations. Of course we are also very used to working at a keyboard, so the actual writing is quick for us.

Multiple chats

Each day several chats are used by the team. We have one group chat for all staff members and another one for the support handling. The support chat is very active, since support questions often have to be discussed within the team. Say that a customer has a problem with TimeCard, the application that lets users report time and expenses from within the Outlook Calendar. There is a general discussion in the support chat, and then it continues in a separate chat between a developer and a tester. When they have found a solution they come back to the support chat and tell the rest of the group what should be done.

All is documented

A great advantage with chatting compared to talking is that you get everything documented. With the chat history and search function it is easy to go back and look what was actually said. We never have to appoint a secretary for our virtual meetings ‒ the attendants take care of it themselves. Important information must be copied and saved elsewhere though, since chat history follows the computer, not the Skype account. If I change to a new machine, I can copy the log manually and continue using it, but if I use several computers in my work, this shortcoming is a problem. I wish I could see all chat history for my account from any computer, like I do with the contacts, and I hope this feature will be added in a future version of Skype.

Invitations and file sharing

The possibility to invite another person to the chat is extremely helpful, because often two team members in a discussion discover that they need input from a third and maybe also fourth person. Another useful feature is the file sharing, which is very quick and secure and also manages big files.

Emoticons

The Skype chat emoticons express feelings in a way that seem to be universal, and we often use those
cute little guys. They help us overcome culture differences and the problem of not seeing each other's faces ‒ because we don't only discuss technical solutions. As in all teams we share jokes and private information, small things that make the atmosphere among us easy and nice. Of course we also use e-mail, and our SharePoint intranet is
invaluable, but the Skype chats make
our work faster, more efficient and much more fun!


Kate Kalmstrom
Sales, kalmstrom.com Business Solutions

(A similar article has earlier been published at Technorati)