One of the big benefits of being an offsite consultant is the improved quality of life. Having commuted every workday for years, it is truly a blessing to gain an extra hour or two per day, as well as the energy normally spent gritting teeth as traffic inches forward. Not to mention the gas savings (even my Honda Civic which gets 33 miles per gallon, at $4/gallon, this is still worthwhile).
Still, nothing beats a face to face meeting, and we’ve seen contractors fail to deliver and subsequently fall from grace with the client, due to misundrestandings that simply don’t occur when you’re regularly onsite. How to get this benefit without actually being there? We’ve become instant fans of GotoMyPC and Camtasia, both of which have saved us many commute hours.
GotoMyPC allows us to access a PC using a browser. Although there are cheaper solutions such as LogMeIn (which is free), GotoMyPC’s performance (approaching that of Microsoft Remote Desktop) and ease of use make it well worth the cost. As an additional benefit, you can share your desktop with another person over the Internet; he or she can use mouse and keyboard to control the desktop simultaneously with you. It’s like the two of you are collaborating side by side, but it’s actually better because you have your own private screen/keyboard and don’t have to share! It’s hard to beat GotoMyPC for two-way, interactive communication.
Camtasia records your screen along with your voice, making it easy to create Flash-based videos (which look good and aren’t huge). Since everyone has the Flash plug-in, simply e-mail the url where you’ve uploaded the video and it instantly streams to their browser and starts playing within seconds. Creating videos allows clients to see the product actually running as well as deep dives into the Visual Studio IDE to discuss technical coding issues. Compared to being there, the information is conveyed with near 100% accuracy. Both client and contractor prefer it to a physical meeting, since it’s less stressful and eliminates another time commitment. I figure if I can save a handful of trips per year to client sites by recording Camtasia videos, it will easily pay for itself.