Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, we made an instant decision past few weeks to let all our employees work from home for their safety and well-being. Having said that, I wouldn’t shy away from saying that remote working has affected our work execution as a team.
The last few weeks have been a true reflection of our business-readiness to adapt in a versatile environment. Organizations working in full throttle have been brought to a halt. While co-location has been reaping its benefits, the dynamics of the business has changed. Distributed teams have become part of the risk management strategy, even for co-located teams.
Which made me question if we are future-ready to handle such crisis in-hand? Can we move on to a remote-working model in a single day? If yes, what could be its impact on business and revenue?
Through this blog, we attempt to understand and unfold how an enterprise can respond to such changes without affecting the functioning.
Moving to Remote? Consider These Factors
While considering the decision to move to a remote working model, we should consider some important factors -
- Distributed leadership
Accountability should be shared across multiple geographies - the roles of lead engineers and product owners should be shared. Ensure that there are grooming meetings defined at different levels - Portfolio, Project, and Team level in place. This helps in streamlining the workflow and gives clarity irrespective of the current working setup. Ask the company if we are keeping a groomed backlog or is it “just in time”.
We have seen situations where the product owner is based out of a different timezone and the turnaround time is very high. But, in situations where the product owner is not available for a brief period, should we keep the team hanging?
Therefore the need to streamline the backlog from a future perspective is important. Teams should understand the value of product backlog and consistent grooming in these risky times. The role of proxy product owners, distributed across geographies becomes crucial for the business.
- Staggering sprint
When we have multiple scrum teams with a shared goal, a staggering sprint always comes to the rescue. Proactively maintaining the backlog and keeping at least a week’s difference in the sprint start dates can prove constructive.
Though teams use this generally for UI and development sprints, however, with multiple dev scrum teams onboard, it can help them too to be well-prepared and remove the friction for any dependencies; thereby, leading to seamless delivery.
- Team structure
You need to understand the right team structure for your business. It should not just be co-located because of the ease of doing business and efficiency. The global business impact analysis should be done as an exercise and teams should be distributed strategically. We can select between fully-distributed and semi-distributed teams. But this should completely depend on the geography and nature of the business.
- Are we taking meetings seriously?
We often ignore the importance of the most basic but the most impactful meeting, like standups, which can be distributed between different timezones where a quick note on Slack can help the team to be in sync.
Small teams can be co-located because their working from different centers can help us mitigate the business risk arising due to changes in global variables.
- Right artifacts
Are we documenting the right information? Is the status of the task updated, such that the distributed teams can avoid meeting which could just have been a single line comment.
Information should be informative and actionable. We can use the portfolio and project level backlog as well to keep it on priority. Teams working in tandem should be able to groom the project backlog always, if well prioritized!
Everyone needs to understand the process and the flexibility it offers to distributed teams. Teams with no overlapping of working timezone should be able to pick up work from where the other team left. Instead of depending on emails, teams should rely on Slack/Skype channels for instant turnarounds
- Compliance and regulatory
Companies that come under strict compliance and regulation would require the tools for their employees to connect them remotely. From VPNs to authorized mobile supported tools, these will enable people to stay connected and ensure that the information is not compromised.
Slack and Jira have been pioneers in providing tools for distributed teams to work together. The mobility support of the tools running our business would be crucial for selecting the infrastructure and supported tools.
Can we predict the next time such a situation forces us to work remotely? No, we can’t! But, this incident has surely triggered a greater paradigm shift already in the way business is being operated now. We will have to be ready for future catastrophes.
Certainly, this cannot be rolled out immediately but we can assure that the system would not fail. Intermittent remote working would help us trial this model every month. While the employee benefits from the flexibility of working from home/remotely, we’ll also end up doing our internal audits remotely for situations like we are facing today. The investment required to upgrade the current team structure will not be an option for the business.
Hence, the ROI would be business sustainability and not just the revenue numbers on the board!