When only live and visual interaction will do, video conferencing allows you to conduct meetings as if you were there in person.
Jeff Cavins shares 7 ways that videoconferencing is making engineering teams more effective.
1. Increased focus. What engineering managers say is that with video, you don’t experience those moments of “Are you there?” or “I was on mute” that may indicate someone was really debugging code or checking email. Video draws people in, keeps their attention, and promotes instantaneous, impromptu interactions.
2. Full communication. Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and a top researcher on the importance of body language in communication, found that words alone account for only 7 percent of the communication of attitudes and feelings. Tone of voice accounts for 38 percent, and facial expressions another 55 percent. So when you ask an engineer if he likes an idea, he may be conflict averse and say, “Sure, sounds good,” when in fact his facial expression says otherwise.
3. Break down cultural barriers. According to a study by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, nearly 90 percent of leading executives from 68 countries named cross-cultural leadership as the top management challenge. Video conferencing can remove barriers to cross-cultural communications, helping with dialect, accent, and cadence of speech.
4. Find talent. Just as Bill Joy said, there are more smart people outside your company than inside it, and the same goes for your country. The engineering talent pool is global. Hundreds of thousands of engineering jobs in the U.S. can’t be filled. To find the best candidates, companies are using video conferencing to interview talent from around the world.
5. Bring in rare talent if your group isn’t distributed. You can’t always get employees to relocate. This was the case when Luke Melia, co-founder and CTO of Yapp, had the chance to hire “a former colleague who ranks in the top three engineers I’ve ever worked with.” Melia was reticent to have a remote team member, but “after a trial contract, I decided to bring him on despite the distance. He is basically a fixture on someone’s screen all the time in a VSee window or Google Hangout. We do a lot of pair programming and augment the video conferencing with lots of screensharing and real-time collaboration software. He comes to the office for a week once every two months. I wish he lived here, but I’m very happy to have him on the team even as a remote employee.”
6. Shorten meetings. Even if you only do your morning stand-up meeting on video, that can be enough to energize a distributed team. Apperian CMO Mark Lorion said, “We use video daily to coordinate with distributed team members. It levels the playing field greatly and ensures more balanced contributions. Our meetings tend to be more to the point—like a quick standup meeting—instead of a more formal conference call.”
7. Improve team cohesion. With DevOps catching fire, we need more face-to-face communication, not less. Video provides immediacy to collaboration that’s focused and drives faster results. For these reasons, Tempo CEO Raj Singh says his development team lives on video conferencing. “At first, it was a bit strange because it’s like you are being watched, but you soon realize the benefits of seeing everyone and hearing everything. It feels like you are in the office, which is a key part of corporate culture. We almost never turn off video, but we may mute audio if the office gets noisy and distracting.”
Video is increasingly becoming the go-to solution for engineers, for a variety of use cases, from paired programming to team meetings. Even though nothing replaces face-to-face meetings, when that’s not practical, video brings a level of focus, communication, and camaraderie that phone meetings can’t touch