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Austrian Startup Advent

We are really excited that 7Sheep was chosen to be part of the Austrian Startups’ advent calendar! And we’re today! Check it out – especially if you’re thinking of starting, or have a 7Sheep account! You should know that there is a great saving to be had on Day 18! http://austrianstartups.christmas/window/18 So share in the holiday spirit! There are also some great deals being offered every day in December, by us and 23 other amazing Austrian...

Onboarding and off-boarding a distributed team

We, as a team, are pretty serious about knowledge management. Spear-headed by myself and Tina, we needed to think about on- and off-boarding staff members as a distributed team. What does this mean? Essentially, how do you keep as much of the knowledge of someone who is leaving, and how do you transfer knowledge to someone new. When we talk about knowledge it is both expert knowledge, and tacit knowledge which includes how the company works, where documentation is stored and generally just how stuff works. Recently, we were explaining the company set up to someone and I mentioned that a distributed team works just fine but one challenge we need to think about is integrating new members into this set up. He said that it might prove a challenge and we weren’t sure how we would do it. However, we had just recently on-boarded a new team member. Apparently it was so easy we forgot! First of all you need trust. As a distributed team you cannot onboard a new member that you do not fully trust! And also the new member needs to trust your organisation! One onboarding method you can use is a structured knowledge transfer. You plot the knowledge of the expert in a mindmap. In this mindmap you consider the social connections, knowledge bearers (people and items like memory sticks, ring binder, etc), expert knowledge (what you learned in school and university and is relevant for the job) and process know-how. Based on this mindmap the expert is then story telling his job and ongoing projects to the new team member. Depending on how...

Lessons from a distributed team

We have been working as a distributed team since 2010. We’ve learnt valuable lessons and been rewarded along the way. The question I most frequently get asked (apart from, ‘but why would you get out of your pyjamas?’) is about communication. Here are a few lessons that we have learnt. 1. Physical presence does not equal better communication A physical office makes communication easy, you would think. However, when sitting together in your own task bubbles communication can sometimes be slow or you can make assumptions. When we’re not in the same office, not even in the same time zone, we have to communicate as well as possible. Far from it being a burden we work better together, and we have more knowledge of what each of us is doing as we have a greater understanding of the processes of each of our roles and tasks. 2. Open communication channels help teams learn more about each others work and increases productivity Our communication changes have ironed out frustrations and increased each of our learning curves. For example, I’m not a developer, but our communication channels have meant that I see step-by-step processes and am able to witness, or later read, discussions on the development process, something that I was tuned out of on a day-to-day basis in the office. This means smarter working for me to the team, as vague feature requests have evolved to a somewhat more solid presentation that then gives the team a firmer basis to work from. 3. Communicating well beats communicating more We use a variety of tools to communicate. Mostly, it is chat...

Rethinking app and social media use in a developing region

I’ve been back and forth to Erbil, North Iraq, over the last 18 months and for the sheer beauty of the scenery, the incredible history and amazing hospitality of everyone I met in Southern Kurdistan, I can only recommend that you all visit this amazing region.   But living here has also forced me to re-think and re-purpose my social media and iPhone usage. You have to get creative and tune in to a different culture of use. And now I marvel at the ingenuity of how people use it differently, hacking purpose to redefine it in order to fit with their needs and how it fits locally. Getting Around Whatsapp isn’t just a go-to messaging service (also rumoured to be popular as it is an SMS that isn’t monitored here), it has also been how you can find people/offices. There aren’t really addresses in Erbil. In my first week here I was directed to an office ‘behind 60m street, opposite Kak Supermarket’. I had a vague idea where 60m Road was (it’s long! it’s circular!) and no idea what or where Kak Supermarket was. It took me 1.5 hours to find. It is true that there are house numbers within gated communities but, honestly, no one ever found my house by the number. I spent a long time looking for a map of Erbil, finally finding a not very detailed one at tourist shop in the Citadel. Even the Google Map of Erbil is outdated with the continuous improvements in infrastructure in the city and the ever growing number of roads. ​ Sharing a location on Whatsapp is something...