Name: Mandy Ross, Carrie Kuempel, AgileBill Krebs
Headquarters: The virtual office
Superpower: Being social and spontaneous in a virtual office
Sococo is a virtual office where you can see where all your remote colleagues are on a virtual office floor plan. Go to an office to have a group discussion (with video and screensharing), stand by the virtual water cooler, or focus on your work in the Do Not Disturb Room. We discuss the benefits and downsides of working in a virtual office and how this way of working can create a strong sense of community and connection with remote colleagues.
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Lisette: And we’re live. Welcome everybody to this remote interview. I’m super excited today. My name is Lisette, and I’m here today with Sococo. And for anybody that’s ever taken my Work Together Anywhere Workshop, you know who Sococo is. So it’s very exciting. It’s basically a virtual office. But I won’t go too far into it. We’re going to get into that today. What I’d like to do is introduce everybody or have everybody introduce themselves. And Mandy, we’ll start with you. Let’s just do your full name and your function, what you do with Sococo, and then what your favorite thing about working in Sococo is.
Mandy: Ooh, okay. I like all of those questions. I’m Mandy Ross. I am the Director of Marketing for Sococo. I spent a long time as their Program Manager and implementing Agile practices. And now I’ve switched my purview over to the world of marketing and interacting with our community and customers, which I really, really love. And my favorite thing about working in Sococo is that it satisfies my inner control freak nature because I can see where everybody is all the time and always know what’s going on.
Lisette: Awesome. We’ll get into that during the interview. Carrie, how about you?
Carrie: Hi, my name is Carrie Kuempel, and I’m the Director of Customer Success at Sococo. So I work with all of our customers, help our sales people with working with the customers, and I love that. And what I love about Sococo actually is the way I drop in on customers. So I’m invited to their spaces. Just before this, somebody had a question. Rather than answering in email, I time-traveled, if you will, from my virtual office to theirs and real-time answered the question. So that’s what I love about Sococo.
Lisette: Awesome. Agile Bill, you’re here as well. I’m very excited about… I’ve already interviewed Agile Bill, so those who are listening go back and listen to that. So we get to hear him again, which is great. Hey, Bill.
Bill: Yeah, so I’m AgileBill. I teach and coach the Agile style of project management and software development. I’m getting a Master’s degree in Distributed Staff. Specifically, the thesis project is how you design your space. I’ve used Sococo for five years. And I also use some other platforms. But I definitely find Sococo to be just right.
Lisette: Yeah, in terms of virtual worlds and management. We’re going to get into so many things. If anybody has questions now or in the future, I should say go ahead and tweet to #remoteinterview, and we can get those answered any time, or contact us directly. But that hashtag will always get you everywhere.
Let’s start with the first question, which is kind of exciting. I start every interview with this question, but it’s actually exciting today because the question is what does your virtual office look like? And you guys are the first people to ever have [crosstalk – 00:02:47] office that you can describe. So let’s talk about what Sococo looks like. I don’t know who wants to answer that question. So I don’t know who to direct it to.
Mandy: I’ll go ahead and jump in with this first one. Our office actually looks like an office. It is a map. And every morning we launch Sococo, we log in, and it shows up as a little floor plan, kind of a top-down view of a map. And everybody has their own office, their conference rooms. I will pop in. And we actually have a kind of a nice blue and green office color scheme right now. And the fun thing is that my office can change the way it looks simply by switching the floor plan map out in Sococo, which is really fun to do. But I pop in and I see who’s there. And if Carrie is there, I go in and say hi to her. And we chat about the day. And the CEO, whose office is right next to mine [inaudible – 00:03:42] immediately comes in and wants to talk to me. So that’s what my office looks like. It’s where I go to work every morning.
Lisette: And everybody then at Sococo, everybody logs in when they’re online and working.
Mandy: Yeah, when you’re in Sococo, you’re at work. It’s just where we go to work.
Lisette: And is this maybe a good time to show people, for those who are watching the video, what Sococo looks like? I know if you’re listening to the podcast, we’re going to try to be as descriptive as possible. But I think when you see Sococo, when you first see it, you get it immediately. It’s that easy and that simple.
Mandy: So let’s see. Can everyone see the map now?
Mandy: All right. So this is Sococo headquarters right here. You can see there’s different rooms. And I can go into our big conference room, which is called pterodactylus maximus, giant pterodactyl. Our engineers like to rename the rooms in creative and fun ways. You can see that there are people interacting. Over here our CEO is talking to Henry. You can see a little bot that we have hanging out with Michael in the corner here. And Carrie has just joined me in there. And I can actually be really [chirpy – 00:04:57] and turn on video over here [inaudible].
Lisette: Oh, how meta.
Mandy: [Laughs] That’s pretty weird.
Lisette: Great. So we can see that when you’re in the same office together, you can actually see each other and hear each other. But you can’t hear anybody else that’s around you in the various offices unless you go into their office. And if I remember correctly, there’s a knocking on the door function as well. You can actually knock on the door and ask to come in. So you’re not going to pop randomly into somebody’s office.
Mandy: Yup, you can knock on the door. You can pop in. We’re actually redesigning that feature for our new version so that it’s a lot richer instead of just knock and enter. It’s going to be a little bit more subtle about like, “Oh, give me a minute. I’ll be right there.” So there’s a richer, kind of more nuance level of conversation that people will have when they’re interacting in this space.
My favorite thing I want to show you here, anybody who’s watching, I’m going to pop over to what I call my vacation home. And this is my vacation home in outer space. And this is another new map and our new product. We can see there’s all these different fun little rooms that are designed similar to the other map. It has the same exact functionality, just looks cool.
Lisette: How many different office designs do people have within Sococo?
Mandy: It could be infinite, actually. You can have as many maps as can be designed. In the new version of the product, you can actually design your own map using Illustrator with an SVG file. So anybody who’s artistically or Illustratorly inclined can go in and create their own map. And it really only is bounded by your creativity at this point.
Lisette: Wow! Exciting. So what really works about this for your team? When you guys are working together, what is it that really works? What’s going well with this style of working for you? I don’t know [crosstalk – 00:06:51]. I don’t know if we want to go around. I wasn’t sure who to point.
Bill: Just to touch on that, you guys can add. The staff in my field, project management and Agile staff, they literally have a practice in there. They call it osmotic communication. It’s literally on the test. You need to do that. And they really like high-bandwidth communication, and to them that means co-located teams because I can reach around and say, “Hey Mandy, how’s it going with this?” So I can overhear Carrie and Mandy talking and chime in. So the assumption there is that’s the only way to do it, buy office space and airplane ticket. With Sococo, I get that. I get that virtually. And it lets me work with people that are at home, with the best talent in the world across the ocean, whatever, and still have those accidental water-cooler conversations. For me, that’s what the winning piece of it is.
Lisette: Because you can actually bump into people randomly in Sococo [laughs].
Bill: Exactly, just like you would in Agile workspace, it’s designed to have everybody sitting in one room, open landscape. But you can design it. So you could design your Sococo space that way. Or you could design it with offices. You could design it with functional rooms. And that design, plus the ability to bump into Mandy, is the winning ticket for me.
Mandy: Likewise, Bill.
Carrie: Right. It also goes a long way to making you feel part of a community. So when you’re on a team, or in our cases the entire small company that is living together, we all know our shared purpose. Building on what Bill said, I know what people are doing. I’m not in Scrum. I’m not a developer. But when I see Scrum happening in the center room, I get that beat of Scrum is happening today. Work is happening. I know the marketing team is meeting. I’m working with the client. It’s just you’re all working together. And to demonstrate how powerful it is, right now, we Sococo are living in the newer environment that we’re developing. [inaudible – 00:09:00] in the development sections [inaudible] an area called pre. And then there’s the production version of it. And the fact that we got fractured… And we have to sort of… as we’re testing and learning. We just called that out as an organization. I’m feeling disconnected. That’s how powerful being in this space is. We miss it. And in fact start feeling a little dysfunction we no longer have it. So we just actually experienced that and [called it out – 00:09:26] for ourselves as an organization. It is this power of feeling connected to the shared purpose, to each other, and this sense of work happening around you that you’re contributing to.
Lisette: Was it hard or is it hard for new people to get used to having something open all the time when they’re working with the team. There’s not a lot of teams, I must say, that are doing this sort of… I mean I call it… I guess programmers call it pair collaboration or pair programming when they’re sitting and working together. But normal people just… Non-[crosstalk – 00:10:02] of the world, they’re not used to working in that squiggle way. You’re right, Bill [crosstalk].
Bill: [Crosstalk] already doing it.
Carrie: Yeah, right, Bill.
Bill: I guess it’s not visual.
Lisette: But the visual component, I think, is something that sets it apart. Is it hard for people to get used to that? Or what kind of learning curve have you seen?
Mandy: You know, what’s interesting is many of our customers, when they start using it, they’re like, “You solved the problem we didn’t even know we had.”
Lisette: Oh, awesome.
Mandy: And what it does is… Here’s the thing. I think when people go virtual, they aren’t really prepared to think about it as being something different. Everyone wants to believe that being virtual is just the same as anything else and we’re just going to toddle along and just pretend like everything is fine. But it’s not. You have to recognize that being a virtual team is not easy. It takes extra work. And as leaders, you have to recognize this. And you have to decide how you want the company to be? How you want your team to be? What you want your culture to be? And you have to lead by example. If you don’t do that, then just forget it. If you’re not willing to put that into being a virtual team, it’s going to be really difficult. And I think recognizing that off the bat and just being very conscious of it… Like Carrie said, we recognized the other day we were fractured because we were testing in all these different environments, and nobody could find each other. And not having that glue, that social capital that sticks us together, that was bad. And everybody was like, “Oh, what’s going on?” And Carrie actually called it out and said, “We’re fractured.” We need to be in the same space. And we said okay. We’ve recognized it. And the leadership said, “We’re making a change. We’re going to do things this way.” And it’s got a lot better in a day. It’s literally gotten completely better in a day because we’re all like, “Okay, everyone will be [then free – 00:11:40] as the home base. But if you have to work in another environment, just look for people where they usually are.” And it’s worked.
Carrie: Right. I think this is actually an unspoken part of our culture. We should call it out. And it’s true what Sococo gives to us. We really are there for our team. And part of living in Sococo is you are that door knock away or that pop in the opposite way from giving someone the answer they need to go full speed ahead on what they’re doing. You’re not sending an email. You’re not scheduling a meeting. I do it all the time. You hand me a quick question. Who can I go to that might know the answer to this? Is it just [crosstalk – 00:12:17]? Or is it somebody else [inaudible]? And he can tell me that it’s not an email. Developers don’t check their email regularly. So the fact that I can pop in and get an answer and attention and move ahead, it’s great. So the culture becomes this we’re here for each other. We’re going to get work done together. And because we’re building something together, we need each other. So accessibility, visibility, these are important. This is why we go to work every day in Sococo. It’s not a problem to log in every day because I’m logging in and connected to my… It’s my lifeline to my teammates.
Mandy: Yeah, we’re just completely connected through this tool.
Carrie: [crosstalk – 00:13:02] connected. Sometimes I don’t want to log in.
Mandy: I know.
Carrie: [crosstalk]. Or I’m [inaudible] and I realize that’s going to be a problem.
Bill: I’ll give you an example or two if you have a minute if you want.
Lisette: Yes, please.
Bill: What I’m going to do is… Let’s see. Here we go. How does that look for you? This is an example for my class. Sometimes it’s about the content. You can see a thumbnail here of who’s in the room together, which I find useful. And the dots will give you cues like who’s speaking, who has sound, who’s talking right now. It’s not like a telephone conference where you say, “Now who was that just talking?” You can see. But here I feature the content. So I’ve got a big picture of something I’m talking about and teaching. I still have the faces. Sometimes it’s about the rooms. And this is what Sococo does and other tools don’t, that I can see who’s together in this room and who’s in a different room. And yes, to take care of Carrie, I made a room called Do not disturb. [Laughs] If you don’t want people to bug you, go into that room. And what I loved about it is being able to design that room and see the flow of what does it mean when you’re in a different room and your teammates are [inaudible – 00:14:24] take a room. And then sometimes it’s also about just the faces. You can zoom in and see someone’s ageing face [laughs].
Lisette: Oh, come on.
Mandy: Cheerful face.
Bill: Yeah, that’s what I meant.
Lisette: I love the idea of the do-not-disturb room – that’s really clever – because there are times when you want people to know that you’re there. You are physically there. But you’re deep down in whatever it is you need to be doing that you’re deep down in that you don’t want to be disturbed, so what a brilliant solution. It’s interesting because I hear a lot of teams talk about how the group instant messaging system becomes their virtual water cooler because that’s the one place that they go to connect together. But it’s just text, which for developers and people that are from the open-source world and are used to gamers. Not even gamers because there’s avatars and 3D worlds. But for some people, the text is really fulfilling. But I can imagine now this takes things to a whole another level because the visual representation of the office just is so powerful. I can only imagine. So Mandy, you’re now showing us something on…
Mandy: [crosstalk – 00:15:32] the water cooler [laughs] [crosstalk] actual water cooler.
Lisette: [crosstalk] water cooler.
Bill: So do you guys know what it means when I’m standing by the water cooler?
Mandy: I do.
Bill: What would it signify to you?
Mandy: It means you’re hanging out. You’re just taking a break.
Bill: Yeah, drop in.
Mandy: [crosstalk – 00:15:50] saying hi to whoever walks by because people are just cruising around and saying [inaudible] people.
Bill: Exactly. I want you to come and if you have time, just come and talk to me. So that’s the opposite of the do-not-disturb room. [crosstalk – 00:16:02] if I’m in a functional room, like that’s your Scrum room or something. So the room gives you the social cues on how to operate, whether it’s spontaneous anything goes in water cooler or I’m heads down do not disturb or I’m in a function room of a particular kind. And you can have continuous… In fact, they do. They leave Skype open. They have Slack. They have HipChat. They have all these great text-based tools. They’ve got their phone, their tweets. But that’s completely missing the visual aspect. So you can’t do that social context. So some people like the plain text because it’s lean. It doesn’t take a lot of space. But you’re not getting the full picture.
Lisette: Right. And I think a lot of people complained about not having a sense of team or togetherness on their teams and how do they create that virtually. And I think, well, here you go people. Here’s how you create it virtually. If you’re really serious about working as a team, then put this in place. And I think one of the stigmas is that virtual worlds are complicated because so many of them are. If you’re trying to learn something like Second Life, for any normal person, [crosstalk – 00:17:13] about normal because developers are like these [crosstalk] features to me [crosstalk] magic things marvel people of the real world. Most people are not going to go learn second life or something. But Sococo is one of those things where it seems so simple. I don’t know what is the ramp-up time for most people. Or let’s talk about the onboarding for this.
Mandy: Carrie, take it away.
Carrie: We talk about that a lot because just [inaudible – 00:17:44] with the software product, often the adoption of a software product depends on a user, a single person understanding the value and then adopting it. Using a software product is a change process. You’re doing something different. Hopefully, if the gain is greater than the pain, you adopt, you learn, you change your ways. One thing, a challenge, frankly, we have with Sococo is it requires a team to realize value. If I just test it out myself, whose door am I going to knock on? How am I going to have that meeting with you? So the adoption process, the actual getting in and knowing how to share screen and turn on your mike and your camera is super simple. But you don’t realize value until you first experience, [Mandy – 00:18:29] is the word social capital. But it’s that little bit of the [inaudible] most of the time, picking up all these visual cues that are making me feel connected and are making me more productive. So it’s actually a challenge for us. How to get that experience of value fast? So we talk about it a lot. If I understood it, we’d be very happy.
Lisette: [crosstalk – 00:18:55] magic question.
Carrie: We have data that will say it takes four people, maybe, or so being in a space to take some meeting of a certain length. We’re looking at ways [recording malfunction]. Even team building [recording malfunction] quite a group. And a group to have done something together to feel the gain. It’s not a simple meeting or maybe [inaudible – 00:19:22] using this tool. It’s got to be… The meeting and the little spaces between the meeting where I’m realizing that value of togetherness. So the ideas you’ve got out there [laughs].
Mandy: Seriously, this has been the biggest hurdle with Sococo from the very beginning, the getting it part. I like to think of us as sort of like the iMac of [SaaS – 00:19:51]. So [inaudible] through virtual teams like we’re a little bit ahead of our time. We took the floppy drive out before everybody was actually ready for it. So right now I feel like it’s really critical for our community to gather around and help us figure out the best way to get people in there and understanding the value of it. It is a hurdle. The only people I’ve really worked with… There are a few people who just jump in and get it. There’s a friend of mine who used to have a startup that was an Internet-based music collaboration service back in the 90s though. So he jumped in. And he was like, “Oh, this, this, this, this, yeah, I get it,” immediately. But then I was in support yesterday. And I was working with a lady. She’s a little bit older and wasn’t quite as familiar with a lot of technology. And she just had a really hard time figuring it out. And so it’s a really broad spectrum right now, but the thing is we need to make it for everybody – not just to the people who jump in and get it. That has to be for every single person who wants to be on a virtual team.
Bill: I think that’s a good point about the onboarding. For me, my experience with onboarding, you know it can take people about five minutes. Get in there. You have to learn how to turn the microphone on and off. And it’s amazingly fast. The 3D worlds I also use because they let you do more stuff. It can take you months to get people fluent in that. So what scale you want, like a big on-ramp time for a lot of fancy stuff? Or do you want a quick on-ramp time for something pretty practical? Or do you want no on-ramp time and just only have text and no visuals? So I find there’s that sweet spot, the three little bears. That one is too small. That one is too big. This one is just right. [inaudible – 00:21:37].
Carrie: I love that.
Mandy: And there is where the Goldilocks.
Bill: That’s right. If you haven’t read the book, I recommend reading Goldilocks. [crosstalk – 00:21:44] read that, cultural assumptions here.
Mandy: Literary references, Bill. You’re so [lofty].
Lisette: What are the personality traits that really work for this kind of [inaudible – 00:22:03]? Is there an age divide? I’ve heard from a couple of interviews. Ericsson, for example, said that when they tried their new… They have a tool where anybody can submit an idea in the tool. The idea can be talked about and voted on and all these things. But they said that the older generation didn’t submit their ideas as readily as the younger generation because the younger generation said, “Oh, I have a hundred ideas. Here they all are. Judge them. Let’s pick the best ones.” Whereas the older generation would say, “Oh, I have this idea. I want to keep it to myself until the right time. I’m afraid somebody else will steal it, or they’ll make fun of me.” And that was a clear separation in their organization. So I wonder you see something with age or personality.
Carrie: It’s a really good question. [crosstalk – 00:22:50] I get it [laughs].
Lisette: Yeah, I’m 40 and I thought [inaudible].
Bill: Yeah, I’m 25 and [laughs]… Also in gaming industry, so you have to be careful about age myths, like now that I’m old [crosstalk – 00:23:03] to this. The average gamer is 37 years old. And a lot of people I know in my most complicated 3D virtual [recording malfunction] are all… they’re 50, 60. A lot of them are disabled. So it’s perfect for them. And they can work it [inaudible – 00:23:20] got [MS]. So younger people want to be into their career in serious [offense]. They want to get off to a start and be perceived as really into the business sense [recording malfunction]. They may have played many hours of World of Warcraft. They know these tools. They don’t necessarily want to make that connection. So I think there’s data out there and it says what you might assume that young people like this and old people won’t is actually backwards or don’t assume anything about that.
Lisette: Yeah. I didn’t know if there was any sort of assumptions that one could make about age because it’s such a generalization. There are so many loopholes in that that I didn’t know if there was a real generalization or just something that was easy to say [it’s the myth – 00:24:04] gets perpetuated.
Carrie: I’ll say this. Actually, very young people in their career want to maybe be physically present with people. This whole notion of virtual work versus… Even it’s their social… They don’t want to be in their apartment by themselves online. They want to be in that hip cool office. So I agree with you, Bill. It can be skewed the other way. People who value the… We all value the flexibility, although I actually work harder [probably – 00:24:36] [laughs]. The flexibility, work from wherever, it’s still said, “Hire the best talent.” It doesn’t matter. We’re all equal, on equal playing ground here in Sococo. So yeah, it’s a very interesting question. I think it does get border personality types. Mandy, you’ve done some research and then some webinars on it. But we all know this. You need to be self-motivated. You have to have very clearly-defined goals. Again, that sort of heartbeat of shared purpose and accomplishing team is… staff together as a team is important. No software is going to mask that. You need that [inaudible – 00:25:26] as an individual. You need to be accountable for what you sign up to do and do it. There are certain traits that both an individual and a team require for success, separate from any kind of technology. And I don’t think those are age dependent. The individuals aren’t necessarily age dependent.
Mandy: In terms of getting it, though, I will say it’s something that may sound ages, but every person under 10 who have shown [inaudible – 00:25:51] gets it immediately. They look at it and they’re like, “Oh, you go here. You go here. You do this.” You [inaudible – 00:25:59] like this, like that. [recording malfunction] get it. [recording malfunction] future, you know. These are the people who are going to buy the product in 10 years, but [crosstalk].
Lisette: Right, like just 10 more [crosstalk] [laughs]. Just hold out for 10 more [crosstalk].
Mandy: Yeah, exactly. They just get it. And most of them are like, “Also, I could hang out with my friends in here. We could go over here and talk. And they couldn’t hear what we are talking about.” Very basic social stuff that kids just get.
Lisette: Right, super interesting. So on the other spectrum of this… And I’m noticing that I’m getting a little bit of a delay or some pauses sometimes. I don’t know if you guys are seeing that as well. So we’ll just work through that nature of technology. So I just want to acknowledge I’m seeing it. And I think it’s on my end. I’m not sure what’s happening.
I want to ask a little bit about management and management of a virtual team. Are there any specific techniques that you guys have been using that are successful? What’s different about managing a virtual team than a team in a co-located space?
Mandy: May I?
Lisette: Yeah, I don’t know who to direct it to.
Mandy: [Laughs]. A good virtual team leader knows that everything in the team has to be deliberate, and they have to lead by example. As good as our tools are in this day and age, all they do is give you the ability to connect and communicate better. It doesn’t absolve you of being a good leader. It’s easier to ignore problems in a virtual team. So you have to be very self-disciplined in recognizing the issues and just tackling them as soon as they arise and just tackling them and killing them till they’re dead [laughs]. You can’t just think that things are going to work themselves out because people tend to organize around their issues in the physical world a lot easier. And in the virtual world, it’s easy to just not deal with things. So leaders need to make sure that they’re holding people accountable and also not letting problems just drift off and go unaddressed, I guess. So I think one of the best things is to be as proactively engaged with your team as you possibly can. Make sure that people are connecting. Make sure that there are social things that are happening. It can’t just be about work all the time. In a physical office, people naturally socialize. In a virtual office, a lot of times, they get encouragement to socialize. Obviously, in Sococo, it’s a lot easier because you can just spontaneously drop in on people and rename your friends and play pranks on each other and rename your avatar to look just like somebody else and do crazy things, not that we ever do that.
Lisette: [crosstalk – 00:29:02].
Mandy: Yeah, exactly. You have to really proactively make sure and check in with people more often because people are largely just going to be like oh, oh. They’re not going to run into you in the hallway. And if you say, “Hey, how things are going?” They’ll be like oh, oh. They’ll reveal something that’s happening or they’ll share something good. In a virtual world, that’s just not going to happen. More regular one-on-ones… But really the spontaneity part, so great to have that as a virtual leader. I mean it’s just such a special thing.
Lisette: Right. I can only imagine.
Bill: One thing I find that helps with that is if you see the background, it’s kind of anonymous and impersonal. But if I show you a part of my little workspace here, you see I’m serious. I have serious Lego. I’ll never play with Lego unless it was serious.
Mandy: Of course.
Bill: Yeah, exactly. So you get a little feel for what books I’ve got or what hobbies and this kind of stuff. And that’s actually a little nicer than just a static background.
Mandy: We were talking about that on the virtual… We have a Virtual Life Panel that Bill participates in where we talk about the challenges and best practices of management and team building in the virtual world. And we talked about the whole props thing. So I always show my evil hello kitty doll that I’ve got [crosstalk – 00:30:30]. And this is my little prop with her little devil tail.
Lisette: [Laughs] Awesome. I always have a KUBI on hand. I’m a big fan of the [crosstalk]. So that’s my prop. I have to compete, sorry.
Mandy: So everybody [crosstalk]. We’re doing it right now. We’re sharing parts of ourselves from our own lives in a virtual space and building up what we call the social capital between us. It’s like okay, Mandy likes weird evil-looking stuffed animals, and Bill is a Lego maniac.
Carrie: I have a tattoo but it’s on my wall [laughs]. So for those in the listening world, right now I actually have a wall tattoo. This looks like it’s a wind-powered light switch [crosstalk – 00:31:20] in the video behind me. But that was my quick prop.
Lisette: Love it. But it is important. I think actually the visual component of Sococo is so powerful that people underestimate how powerful it is because they have an experience and they don’t see it. And they think it’s really worth checking out. Just watch the video on the home page. That alone will show you in one minute all the different… You’ll get it in one minute. So it’s worth your time. Just go to the Sococo website.
Bill: Social Communications Company, right? Is that the trivia behind that?
Lisette: I didn’t even wonder. I just thought, “Oh, the name Sococo is like Flickr.”
Mandy: [Laughs] A cool marketing word.
Lisette: It’s fun to say.
Mandy: Yeah, exactly. It’s also the name of a coconut water production company in South America.
Carrie: So it’s the marketer.
Mandy: It’s the marketer, yeah.
Lisette: So what about for teams who are just starting out? What advice would you have for them? If they wanted to start their own virtual office, what advice do you give? I guess this would probably go to Carrie.
Carrie: Yeah. I think we’ve hit on a lot of it. I would say up front establishing team norms is just so important. It’s Team Building 101. But in the virtual world, as Mandy said, things have to be more deliberate. I actually think you have to have a conversation that you might not think you have to have in the physical world. We are going to log on every day at Sococo. If you’re in the do-not-disturb room, what does that mean? Otherwise, please knock on the door, drop in any time. In our customer base, we have a lot of Agile software development teams. Sococo is great for that kind of Scrum, that coming together in the beginning of the day where there’s a sync-up. People disperse, do their work. Scrum is not limited to software development. We’re using it in our marketing area too. So I would think that part of onboarding is looking at those sync-up points and getting again that habit or that heartbeat of when you’re going to come together, when you’re going to go apart, what does it mean when you’re apart, whether you’re accessible to your team or not. I think a lot of it is Team Building 101, but it has to be very explicit in the virtual world.
Mandy: I just want to say that don’t let things sort of happen, to reiterate what Carrie said. Decide how you want things to be. And have that conversation with your team, not only that but reinforce it over and over again. You don’t just get together at the beginning and be like, “Here’s our charter, and we’re all going to do it,” and then walk away. It has to be constantly reinforced. And you have to walk the walk and talk the talk at the same time. As a leader, you can’t just say, “Everybody, I want things to be this way and I want us to be social,” and then hide in your office and never talk to anybody.
Carrie: Right, we’re going to have fun [inaudible – 00:34:30] work [laughs].
Mandy: Right [laughs]. You’ll have fun. I’m going to work here. Don’t feel [crosstalk].
Lisette: Bill, do you want to say something?
Bill: Yeah. The biggest thing for me is don’t make [leaps – 00:34:43]. And what I mean by that is if you have 10 people co-located and 2 people working from home, that doesn’t work. But we’re going to have webinar and we’re going to have eight people face-to-face. And then people will [dial in – 00:34:57]. That just is the hardest. Maybe you can make that work. But it’s either better if you’re all face-to-face or all on the same footing for this event. If you’re all on Sococo or all on Cisco’s WebEx, whatever tool you like, but if you’re all online, that makes you equal citizen and an equal mode. You don’t have two different conversation [inaudible – 00:35:18] going on. I think that’s quite important when you’re starting.
Mandy: I totally agree, Bill. I have to actually tell you the case. We worked with a PR firm that we have engaged yesterday. And one of the things I was worried about is when you have a group of people in one room, it’s hard for them to interact with individuals who are online individually. So I was worried that we were going to sit there in this room with this PR team and it was going to be hard for us to get to know them. But what they did that was so smart which I loved was they all logged into Sococo individually, even though they were in the same room. But they all a presence there. It doesn’t feel like it’s you against them. Whenever people are in a group, there’s this weird human nature thing that just kicks in. And you’re like, “Okay, there’s a group of people and I’m by myself.” And the group of people will naturally just talk to each other because they’re in the same room. [crosstalk – 00:36:10] everybody up and have everybody have their individual presence there. It makes it so much better and so much more productive.
Carrie: Right. We have customers who are co-located [crosstalk – 00:36:22] Sococo or [crosstalk]. And it’s wild. I’ve encountered one. And they’re even sitting next to each other, logged into Sococo. But it makes the conversation richer. Let’s look at this together doing a quick screen share. Not only for meetings that they have rather than project PowerPoint slides or whatever it is they need to share. Everybody just looking down at their laptop. And it’s a democracy. And it’s just easy access to shared information and each other. So it’s interesting. So we’ve had that conversation too, “Is this just for remote teams?” Not necessarily.
Lisette: I can imagine. I know it’s same when the same Ericsson interviewed. They have a huge office in many different locations. They have a huge office in Stockholm with hundreds of people in the office on various floors. And of course, you would never just run up three floors just asking a quick question.
Mandy: [Laughs] Exactly.
Lisette: So I can imagine. Even if you’re at the same address, something like Sococo where you’re mapping the building online would be very useful. And how many people actually work in the actual same room together? I think that most companies at least have separate offices somewhere. So I can imagine this would also be useful for that.
Bill: Well, then it lasts until the next reorg. And then everyone is in the wrong place of the floor. And then it takes seconds to teleport and click to Carrie, whereas walking, people won’t do it. If there’s an elevator here, forget it. I think some numbers, people said 30 meters. 30 meters is the cutoff point. I’m not going to walk to ask you. I’m going to ping you on whatever instant messenger client you’ve got. And I don’t know you’re in the middle of a phone call or you’re busy with so and so in your office. With Sococo, I know if you’re busy in your office. I don’t ping you until you’re free.
Mandy: We’ve actually had customers who have closed physical offices because of Sococo.
Mandy: There’s B2T Training. He’s in Georgia. I think you know Kupe, right, Bill? And he had a single office, but it was right in downtown Atlanta or somewhere like that. It was really congested and awful. And everybody was just sick of the commute. So he said, “Forget it. I’m just going to use Sococo.” Closed his office down. Stopped spending all the money on that. And now everything is exclusively in Sococo.
Another case is a company in Brazil. And they had three different offices. The cities down there have terrible congestion problems. And he was really tired. His team was just getting fried by their commutes. They just couldn’t handle it anymore. And they would have to go in between the offices often to deal with different customers and stuff. So during their work day, they’re stuck in traffic. So he shut down. I think the office that was in the middle that everybody kept going to. And they would all just meet in Sococo. So some people still came to their physical offices, but a lot of people chose to work from home. And now it’s just if you want to come to the office, come to the office, kind of thing.
Lisette: Wow! I can imagine there’s a number of cities suffering from commute issues, a number of cities. And it’s a big deal because it eats into the work-life integration for people in such an emotional way that I can imagine they would be interested in finding a solution to that.
Carrie: I’m in Boston. And if you all didn’t hear it, we had a horrible winter last winter and lots and lots of snow. And virtually, that just became a non-issue.
Bill: It’s a waste of time, the cost of office space. You risk your life driving in the snow. I don’t get it. Sometimes it is nice to have a meal with somebody and work face-to-face to get to know them. That’s fine. But for a lot of the stuff, when you look at the pictures of four of us, you realize how many time zones we’re spreading here. What was it? Eight time zones. We’ve got four locations and three time zones. It’s amazing. But it doesn’t feel that dispersed. That’s what I like.
Lisette: Indeed. There’s also one concept that I like to bring up, which is I think there’s the concept of remote first. So whether or not you have a remote business or remote employees or not, you have the capabilities of working remote if you needed to. So when you have those snow storms or the transportation strikes in London that they’re always having or something that there’s a way that work can continue even if you don’t work remotely. And a lot of insurance companies actually are giving discounts to people if they’re able to work remote first because of this.
Just one final question, which is if people want to get in touch and learn more, besides the website sococo.com, what’s the best way to learn more and get in touch?
Mandy: The website is a really great place to go. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s an address that I monitor. And I’m happy to respond to anybody. You can also email email@example.com. I get that too. But I’m happy, happy, happy to schedule tours for people to see Sococo. I can talk about Sococo forever. I mean I can literally sit here for another three hours and talk to you, Lisette.
Lisette: I’m up for it, but my [crosstalk – 00:41:58] nobody listens to three… [laughs].
Mandy: [Laughs] That’s great.
Lisette: Great, okay, well, thanks you guys for your time. I loved this. This was absolutely awesome for me. I’m a huge fan of the product. And I hope that you get people coming for better listening from this. Tell them that Lisette sent you if you go to Sococo because I want to know how many people watch this video and then come to Sococo.
Carrie: You can follow us on Twitter too. Mandy, do you want to give that?
Mandy: Yes. It’s just @sococo. And we’re on Facebook. We’re on LinkedIn. We’re all over social everywhere. You can also sign up for our blog on our website. And for those of you who are not watching this, Bill just put a giant oculus thing on his face.
Bill: Where did you go? Can’t see anything.
Lisette: Bill is in virtual Bahamas right now.
Mandy: It sounds nice.
Bill: [inaudible – 00:43:02].
Mandy: Of course you are, Bill.
Lisette: [inaudible] exactly.
Mandy: Thank you so much, Lisette. This has been so much fun.
Lisette: Thank you guys. And I really look forward to getting this out there. So until next time everybody, be powerful.