Team, Meet SharePoint

  • 10/29/2008

Discovering Common Working Hours by Using the Team Wiki

When you work with people across multiple time zones, it is a challenge to remember the right time in all of the different places. You may be able to remember two or three different places and get it right most of the time, but as the number of time zones increase along with the number of team members, it gets more and more likely that mistakes will be made. You can use SharePoint to help with time zone coordination, but more than that, you can use SharePoint to make it clear what overlap exists between standard working hours in the various places that people work from.

One of Roger’s first requests to everyone on the team is to go into the Project Delta wiki, open the page named Common Working Hours that he has just created, and fill out the column of working hours during which each person will generally be available. The trick to make this work, however, is for everyone to enter the times against a common time standard, or in other words, a time list that is time zone friendly. When Roger on the East Coast looks at the page, he will be able to see which other members of the team are available for real-time interaction at 4 P.M. his time. The purpose of doing this is to make it evident to everyone on the team when others are generally available for work; of course, emergencies are one thing, but regular working hours are another, and as much as possible, team members need to show respect to each other by keeping requests for real time meetings by phone or IM within the bounds of the identified common working hours page.

It is better to create this as a wiki page rather than as a Microsoft Office Excel 2007 worksheet, for two reasons. First, it is faster to edit the wiki page than to open and edit an Excel worksheet. Second, by doing it on the wiki, people can create a browser link to the actual page and the information on the page, rather than having to download and open the latest edition of an actual document. So it’s faster and easier to use the wiki.

Creating the Common Working Hours Page

Roger goes into the Project Delta wiki, clicks into the Project Delta Process Comments page, and creates a heading named Team Information. (Using the rich text editing control, Roger can type the text Team Information, select it, and click the Bold button). Directly under that, he types [[Common Working Hours]], which tells SharePoint that he wants to create a new page named Common Working Hours. Within SharePoint, the “[[” and “]]” around a word or phrase are code tags that tell SharePoint to create a linked page (see Figure 4-18).

Figure 4-18

Figure 4-18. Create a linked page in the SharePoint wiki.

When Roger saves the page, a link is created with the words Common Working Hours highlighted. This means that he has entered the information correctly, and can now click that link to create the page. Roger does so, and gets another blank page in the SharePoint wiki.

He looks at the list of nine names on the team, and notes the place that each comes from and works from. He creates a table in the SharePoint wiki page, with nine columns and 26 rows. He clicks the Insert New Table button to create the new table (see Figure 4-19).

Figure 4-19

Figure 4-19. Add a table to the wiki page.

SharePoint opens a dialog box to ask Roger to specify the number of columns and rows in the table (see Figure 4-20).

Figure 4-20

Figure 4-20. Specify the number of columns and rows in the table.

Across the first row, Roger enters London in columns 1-4, Edinburgh in column 5, France in column 6, Boston in column 7, New York in column 8, and finally Australia in column 9. He has laid it out this way to show the general flow of a working day for the team ... who starts first, and who works latest.

In the second row, he enters the names for the nine team members, based on where they live and work. From left to right, that’s Robert, Shannon, Matthew, Gregory, Laura, Eric, Nancy, Roger, and finally Yvonne (see Figure 4-21).

Figure 4-21

Figure 4-21. Set out the locations of the team members.

He then enters the working hours that he can generally do. It is important to note that these times are a general statement of Roger’s working reality, and don’t take into consideration other meetings, scheduled travel, or other things. It’s just what his normal working day looks like, and what he is willing to do at a pinch to ensure he can actually talk with others on the team (see Figure 4-22).

Figure 4-22

Figure 4-22. Roger sets out the times that he is available to work on Project Delta.

Thus, when looking at Roger’s working hours, we see that he works 8–6 P.M. each day, and is also available between 8 and 10 P.M.

After Roger has filled out his general day, he creates a new announcement in the Announcements list, telling the team about what he has done, and requesting that they do the same (see Figure 4-23).

Figure 4-23

Figure 4-23. Create an announcement to request team members to fill in their times.

Because all the team members have either an e-mail alert or an RSS subscription to the Announcements list, Roger knows that they will see his announcement and the request within a few hours. Once everyone has filled in their columns, he will be able to see about setting up the meeting times when he can view the overlapping working hours; and if there are no times that are self-evident, then he can consult with a couple of team members to see if he can make it work.

Taking this approach to figuring out when people will generally be available to work means that people can work on this project at times that are best for them. If someone wants to sleep all day and work all night, then it doesn’t really matter ... but what does matter is that such a decision is made clear so that others can see when they can rely on that team member to be available for conversation and interaction.

Once again, it doesn’t really matter when people are available, just that everyone knows when others are generally available so they get a sense of when things will be done.

Roger is delighted to note the next day that the page is all filled out (see Figure 4-24).

Figure 4-24

Figure 4-24. Everyone has contributed to the Common Working Hours page.

It is, however, immediately clear that there are no overlapping times for everyone on the team, so meetings that require the attendance of everyone will need to be carefully planned.