See you! Working in globally networked teams with virtual meetings

Digital conference systems are part of modern working environments. Tools like Skype for Business support fast development cycles in international project groups.

A look says more than a thousand words. That's why people meet, go to conferences and arrange meetings. In a personal meeting, countless information is exchanged in an instant – no e-mail can do that. But in global companies it is practically impossible for everyone who works together to see each other personally. The solution: regular video conferences.

Virtual meetings save time and travel costs. "A collaboration tool like Skype is essential if I want to manage a multi-site team," says Frank Lorenz, Senior Vice President of Research & Development at SKIDATA. A global player, he works with Scrum, for example, which shortens development cycles enormously. This requires regular coordination within the teams and with customers. However, the participants are rarely all in one place. "When I want to talk to my American, Indian or French colleagues, I just click the Skype button," says Frank. The need to see each other is simply human. "We need more contact than just over the phone." Frank has also observed that people can sometimes be very harsh towards others via email. On the phone, that's different. "If you switch on video, people become even more cooperative." It is best to meet face to face, of course. "Now that we have about 230 people on the team, it's not always possible for cost reasons.

"SKIDATA is active in more than 100 countries, with 27 subsidiaries and numerous partners. SKIDATA consciously uses the different skills of its employees at different locations. "We can not only bring all colleagues up to the same level of knowledge very quickly, but also make decisions faster – and together," says Frank Lorenz, who keeps in contact with his teams all over the world via Skype. A colleague from abroad is involved in every meeting.

Especially in agile teams, members who are based at other locations must be actively involved time and again. Virtual meetings give all participants a visual interaction. Thus, not only is each participant perceived, but the individual is also challenged to get involved again and again. "When you look people in the eye, you know if your counterpart means what he says or if he just says it," Frank observed. A Skype conference cannot completely replace a face-to-face meeting. "Typically, we do the creative processes face-to-face," Frank explains. "It's better for discussion." But they are essential for agile and globally networked teams. Of the ten meetings Frank has on the agenda every day on average, three are on site and seven are virtual. And the virtual ones come quite close to the real meetings, says Frank.

See you around.