Time Zone Management: Secret Productivity Weapon
With the right tools, management and planning, distance can be used to your advantage.
The internet has made the world smaller. People can communicate from one side of the planet to the other in real time, share their screens, and work on projects simultaneously.
However, while geography can be bridged through technology, one thing that cannot is the time zone.
The pessimistic view considers the difference in time zones to be an obstacle or necessary evil that has to be navigated.
This perspective comes from the idea that an optimum working environment is produced when all members of a team or participants in a project are working at the same time.
However, we would beg to differ: a difference in time zones can be turned into a benefit.
This article will discuss some of the tools and methods that can be used to leverage time zone difference to your advantage when developing IT projects.
What are Time Zones?
First, while it might seem obvious, a definition of time zones and how they are measured will be useful (both for this article and whenever you start a project with team members in different time zones).
A time zone is a region of the world, usually running from north to south, in which people observe the same time.
There is no specific answer to how many time zones there are in the world: if each time zone were one hour apart, there would be 24.
However, some time zones are split from the next time zone in an increment of 0:30 minutes or 0:45 minutes, and these often change according to the time of the year, once daylight savings times are factored in.
This will be something that will have to be considered when configuring any time management software for your development projects.
Different time zones can be referred to by specific names – for example, in Europe, there are roughly three time zones:
- Greenwich Mean Time (GMT),
- CET (Central European Time)
- and Eastern European Time (EET).
CET is GMT+1, and EET is GMT+2.
For purposes of clarity when managing a project, it’s best to just use a single reference point: GMT.
For example, South Africa goes by GMT + 2, which is called EET in Europe, and South Africa Standard Time in South Africa. They are both GMT + 2. This system of measurement is called the time zone offset.
What is Time Zone Management?
Now that we’ve established what a time zone is and how they are measured, it becomes clear that a problem can arise if, for example, a project manager is found in a time zone 8 hours ahead of the team they are meant to be managing.
Either the team or the manager is going to have to adjust their working hours in order that they overlap at some point, if they are ever going to have the chance of working together simultaneously on a project.
Or are they?
The main idea of time zone management is to find a working arrangement that allows a segment of a project to be worked on in one time zone while that team is ‘online’, before being passed on to a team in another time zone while the other team is sleeping, and vice versa.
When managed well, this can result in round-the-clock activity on a project, and has the potential to cut down production timeframes by significant margins.
When it comes to meetings and briefings, don’t expect team members to be online at crazy hours of the day to attend – find common times that work for both for catch up calls.
How do you make it work?
Well, first of all, you (obviously) need to find a development team in a different time zone.
Then, you need to establish a structured workflow that involves end-of-day submissions that can be valuated and checked by a project manager or senior developer when the primary development team has gone offline.
You can set the frequency of deliveries that best suits your project and the work style of your team.
This approach has two immediate benefits:
1. It creates a regular and structured timeline for evaluation, feedback and improvement,
2. It saves time – one team works while the other sleeps.
There are also a number of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions that can be used to manage teams when working remotely. We’ve written a blog post exploring the subject in more detail, which you can read here.
If you would like to find out how you can make the most of time zone differences to realize your IT project with our highly skilled development teams in Vietnam, Madagascar and Mauritius, get in touch for a conversation.