Re: Telecommuting...?

Subject: Re: Telecommuting...?
From: Dave Whelan <dwhelan -at- PANGEA -dot- CA>
Date: Sun, 27 Sep 1998 16:04:58 -0500

Tim asks
>What kinds of jobs have successful telecommuters done? What were the
>characteristics of the jobs? What worked...and what didn't?

I have telecommuted in nine of my last ten contracts. Four were for remote
clients, two in the US, one in Canada, and one in the UK. My work for these
clients required me to contact subject matter experts located throughout
North America by telephone, fax, and email, so the work involved
telecommuting anyway. When I needed to view equipment, I used faxed or
scanned photographs and drawings, and if I didn't understand something I
contacted the appropriate expert. I visited each of these remote clients at
the start of the contract and, in three cases, to present my deliverables at
the end. Each of these remote clients knew me pretty well.

For my local telecommuting contracts, I usually visit my clients' offices
about once every two weeks on average, for meetings and to view and handle
equipment. Most of the value of these visits lies in their soft marketing
benefits. In my experience, obtaining hard technical information remotely is
not difficult as long as management directs SMEs to be actively supportive.

Tim's requirement that "we be there to get our hands greasy" can be
substituted by asking focused questions after establishing a good
relationship with an SME who has greasy hands instead. That his "large-scale
production depends heavily on our own specially-designed templates and
project plans, things we can't impart across the I-net" is not a show
stopper because I would recommend he keep the layout and structural design
in-house anyway--it serves his purpose better because it's safer and offers
better continuity. I would use telecommuting writers to gather the technical
information needed, to write it in such a way that his audience can
understand it, and to organize it so that the delivery of information is
coherent and smooth.

I have sent queries to advertisers on this list where I thought they might
be open to telecommuting but, although I've had a few nibbles, I have not
yet been successful in obtaining telecommuting contracts. Most potential
clients object to telecommuting for the same reasons that Tim mentions.
There is no doubt in my mind that telecommuting is coming, the method of
working offers too many advantages to continue to avoid it, but I think a
successful telecommuting project requires trust, a willingness to use
innovative methods to obtain information, and a determined management.


David P. Whelan, Whelan Technical Services
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (204) 334-1339
mailto:d -dot- whelan -at- ieee -dot- org

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