There is a trend in consulting these days for less on-site time with clients. The benefits are not limited to cost savings but also increased productivity and client satisfaction.
Some tasks more easily lend themselves to remote work, for instance conducting a needs assessment session is typically more productive when conducted in-person. In-person sessions allow the consultant to receive non-verbal input that leads to deeper probing into potential issues and assist in identifying solutions and reducing risk. Other tasks such as preparing documentation are ideal for remote work.
It is important that remote time match the project plan. Even if a project is 50% remote there are times that several consecutive on-site weeks are required.
When working remote, it is imperative that both the client and consultant have a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished. This should be conveyed via a detailed weekly status report and be in sync with the formal project plan. Without comprehensive status reports, assumptions can be made regarding what is and isn’t to be accomplished.
Just because a consultant is not on-site doesn’t mean client interaction comes to a standstill. There are many tools such as email, conference calls and Skype meetings that support remote interactions.
Regardless of the technology involved there are many strategies for running effective meetings whether remotely, face-to-face, a large formal presentation or a one-on-one. These include:
Have an agenda;
The agenda should clearly state what is to be accomplished by the meeting. Make sure the agenda and time allocated are in sync.
Have the right participants;
Do not waste people’s time. Review the attendee list and make sure the invitees are relevant to the agenda. Bigger is not always better. Ask the attendees if there are any omissions on the list.
Distribute the agenda and background information beforehand;
Distribute the agenda and appropriate background information at least one day prior to the meeting. There should be no surprises.
Use a parking lot;
The use of a ‘parking lot’ keeps the meeting focused while acknowledging the importance of the non-agenda items. The parking lot items must be addressed in a timely manner to maintain credibility.
Whether formal minutes or simply a follow up email, it is important to make sure everyone has the same understanding regarding the outcome of the meeting.
As the saying goes ‘if it isn’t documented it isn’t so’.
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