How Can IT Organizations Rise to the Occasion in the New World of Remote Work? | Network World

I shared my thoughts about the new world of remote work during a recent IDG TECHtalk Twitter Chat that Network World picked upp.

A4) Scaling up remote access and chat/collaboration tools top my list of lessons. Content management gaps are also going to rear their ugly head for some organizations and offer lessons (not everybody may take heed the content management lessons though). The #IDGTECHtalk— Will Kelly (@willkelly) March 26, 2020

Source: How Can IT Organizations Rise to the Occasion in the New World of Remote Work? | Network World

3 remote technical writer lessons

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

I’ve become sort of a student of remote working because of my freelancing and consulting work. A special area of interest is the changes (both good and bad) in dynamics and project management that sometimes occur when a remote technical writer joins the team.

While this post speaks more about remote technical writing projects, you may find that you’ve bumped up against one or more of these things while working as a remote writer:

Microsoft Office might just be your Frenemy

While some may color me a “Microsoft Office fanboy”, Microsoft Office is ubiquitous in my local marketplace so I’ve had to make it work to get my job done. As a remote writer, you may have to contend with file corruptions, template issues, and sundry document format and versioning issues all on your own. A couple of document versions put together with bad habits may mean your remote writing project becomes more of a font fondling exercise in (re)formatting the document. My advice is t do your best to own all facets of the document you are writing including the template and document management.

Out of sight shouldn’t be out of Mind

Writing projects especially those of the technical writing persuasion are usually lowest on the project manager’s list of priorities but still rank as a line item on a project schedule. It’s important to keep your writing project from falling off the project manager’s radar. You can do this by actively participating in team status calls; making your presence known through IM sessions; and doing what you can so you and your writing project(s) make project milestones and get the attention and resources they need to complete successfully.

Like it or not you are a project manager

Whether you are an employee, contractor, or freelancer working remotely, project management is part of your responsibilities whether explicitly or not. Too often writing projects can be ignored and you have to implement your own project management and communications strategy. Then again, if your experience has been anything like mine, you’ve found that there are a lot of managers who don’t understand what it takes to deliver a writing project. If you find yourself strapped with a manager like this, expect an education exercise at best and at worst keep a paper trail of your communications with management.

These are only a few things that came to mind based upon my own experience and discussions with clients and professional colleagues.

What lessons have you learned from remote writing projects?


Hey there! My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in the Washington, DC area. After spending years focusing on technical and SDLC documentation, much of my work now focuses on thought leadership content and marketing collateral. My articles have been published by DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

7 ways to wreck virtual team collaboration without really trying

by Mike Wilson via Unsplash.com

When I got my start as a technical writer, everybody worked in the same office, in the same building. Collaboration in those days was via shared network drives and eventually corporate email. I’ve been working remotely pretty much since 2012 with the exception of some on-site meetings and business trips. On a recent trip, I had a chance to speak with some other remote workers and the topic of collaboration came up. The consensus of the discussion that many organizations are still getting collaboration wrong with their virtual teams.

Here are seven ways that you are getting collaboration wrong with your project team:

1. Using email first communication

Email is the original collaboration tool making it a natural solution for virtual teams. Going email first for communication will catch up to virtual project teams eventually. Long email threads grow unwieldy. Likewise, forget document version control.

Email first communications also puts you at the mercy of the most disorganized person on the team. He or she is the person who always misses an email or asks other team members to resend their emails.

Email first communications invariably leads to follow up (even multiple follow ups) slowing down communications and collaboration.

2. Drowning out team member voices

Whether it’s differing personality types, micromanagement, or miscommunications there’s the potential to drown out team member voices. Virtual teams make it even easier by not centralizing communication, avoiding group level communications. Other ways you can drown out team member voices includes:

  • Delayed response to one-to-one online chats
  • Ignore one or more team members in chat rooms
  • Ignore real-time communications like video conferencing or the old fashioned phone call
  • No engagement with review comments in documents or presentations
  • No appreciation of team member’s preferred communication channels

Virtual teams also drown out team member voices when they don’t adjust after miscommunications.

3. Forgetting the art of the pitching new ideas to your team

New ideas for solutions, processes, and communications should be welcome on virtualteams. Team collaboration can break down when one or more members go around the team to sneak in a process or system change that may not fit the needs of every team member, or even cause more work unnecessarily.

4. Inflicting management by spreadsheet

Management by spreadsheet has been parodied by Dilbert and even has its own Urban Dictionary definition. Project tracking and reporting needs to be as effortless as possible for team members.

Even without agile development and DevOps, project reporting takes on a new importance with virtual project teams.

5. Using duplicate systems and tools

The mass proliferation of freemium cloud-based messaging and collaboration tools makes it easy for duplicate systems to crop up on a virtual team. Doubly so if the IT department back at the corporate mothership may not be attentive to the out of sight, out of mind employees and contractors.

6. Dodging questions and answers

Perhaps it’s because I’m a technical writer but I’ve become a student of how people answer questions. There’s what I call the dodge and denial method that can wreak havoc with virtual team collaboration. A team member dodges answering a question. The average corporate culture will excuse it as the person being too busy. Scratch beneath the surface, the person is often just disorganized or even dodging the question because they don’t know the answer and fear losing face to their fellow team members.

7. Distributing project documentation & @artifacts in the widest dispersal possible

If you or somebody on the team need to ask “where’s such and such document?” then you are doing something wrong. With the popularity of Google Apps for Work and Office 365, it’s possible for a team to have a wide dispersal of personal accounts and cloud space.

When a team doesn’t centralize project documentation and artifacts then virtual project teams may have members not using the more correct and up to date information.

Virtual team collaboration for the win

Industry trade publications are filled with stories about winning virtual project teams. Working on virtual teams on commercial and federal government projects, I’ve come to see that communications and collaboration can make or break such teams.


Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.