Geographical Divergence

by Michael Benda

By all means, we’re not making life easy. Our core team consists of 7 people plus the outsourced three-person sound team. With such a small staff it’s already not easy to produce a marketable product. In addition, we’re all currently in between study and work and we’re either drawing from the last money-reserves of former jobs, or we already have part time jobs to keep our toilet flush running.

Small team, little time and a big project to handle – in fact, that sounds like any common project that wants to survive in economic reality. But there is another small thing: I lovingly call it „geographical divergence“. The good times are over, when we were all in Vienna and sat together working hard for the next release. It’s as if a bowling ball had rolled through our ranks, scattering our team members across hundreds of kilometers. Graz (distance to Vienna: 199km), Hagenberg (dtV.: 180km), Berlin (dtV.: 681km) and Leipzig (dtV.: 585km) are the additional cities we’re stationed at now. It’s truly a joy for project management. Daily meetings, regular exchange of opinions, and last but not least the common celebration of successfully accomplished milestones – all this is impeded and makes team work immensely difficult. A solution is needed!

Right now we’re in the process to revive many of the dynamics. Instead of general office hours, online hours have been introduced: At fixed times each individual is required to be online. This results in lively interaction via chat and/or online phone calls. Furthermore, we get inspiration from agile project management: There are several mandatory weekly half-hour meetings. Following the idea of daily scrums, they bring all team members up to date and help them to phrase and present their own tasks. For longer-term discussions the forum is accessible to all team members. An internal part of the forum is used to post messages, lead discussions and start polls. All of these ways to improve communication have revealed to be useful and have become an integral part of our interaction. And to celebrate the end of the work day, we sometimes start one or two rounds of some multiplayer game.

Although a real physical office would be the ideal place to achieve success as a small start-up company, we are slowly edging closer to our goal, despite the great distances.