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
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.
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.
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.
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
invaluable, but the Skype chats make
our work faster, more efficient and much more fun!
Sales, kalmstrom.com Business Solutions
(A similar article has earlier been