Remote work & agile projects continuity

Remote work is the new reality for businesses now, no matter you are a customer or a supplier, it affects us all. Our project teams have cooperated with customers remotely since the very foundation of SPOC, yet never at such a scale. Let us share how we faced the challenge posed by COVID-19 outbreak and our lessons learned, and find out how to go remote smoothly and quickly.

Preparation for remote work

To be prepared is not only having a plan, but also walking through it in reality. While still working at the SPOC offices, we successfully conducted a full stress test for our IT infrastructure. We asked our employees to report any issues they find. The current SPOC’s IT backbone system has proved its quality, as it was already a part of our day to day activities.

Day 1: Switch to remote work

To minimize probability of the support or project work interruption, everyone transferred their daily duties to home office.

We work mostly with the use of laptops and hardware that allows transportation, so it facilitated organization of a workplace at home. We increased data transfer packages for mobile phones where required, and allowed our employees to use company wide screen displays, laptop stands, as well as prosaic but useful keyboards, mice and headsets.

All teams established communication channels to keep people connected and stay informed. Thus our entire company smoothly moved to the fully dispersed workspace. Next days most of the customers, either already worked remotely or decided to switch to a remote mode as well.

Day 2: Continuous Improvement

To learn fast and adapt to the new ways of working, we launched Remote Work Findings Log. Thus we gather observations covering: local ISP reliance, performance of tools under heavy load, recommendations for the backup solutions etc. It also collates all findings re virtual teams and communication aspects.

Although remote work was always a part of SPOC agile approach, it was never actually tested to that scale before. Our findings are that it quickly became clear that use of cameras provides a human touch to the meetings, a simple routine of quick “hello”, as the first thing in the morning, supports keeping people as a team. Usual jokes, memes and sense of humor went along.

Day 3: Uninterrupted operational continuity

The results have been astonishing so far! Our daily schedule stayed uninterrupted.

When the virus stroke, company was right in the middle of the SPOC Academy (a month training for our new joiners). Our instructor led experience was originally planned to be onsite, but only started onsite, to seamlessly go virtual in the middle of the course. Now we are teaching our new joiners with the use of electronic means, and that’s the only change.

Almost as nothing has ever happened. All the trainings planned, where possible are run in the form of webinars or virtual classes, without any delays. The Internet based steaming is also useful for company update events. It’s an essential part of spreading the word and keeping teams in sync with action plans for now and the next weeks and months.

Remote Sprint Retro

It’s been 2 weeks now, since we switched to remote work – a typical length of a sprint. Most of the customers did not notice any difference, and they really appreciate coping well with the new work arrangements.

We did face some hiccups in the communication, caused mainly by the teleconference system stability, and related to 3rd party providers. Wherever identified, we move over to an alternative tool to remediate the issue. Internally, we have observed that switching from a collocated team to a distributed one, adds some additional load. A quick call might be the fastest way to deal with that.

On the other hand, a natural reduction of communication channels turned out to be beneficial. Of course, when the customer required physical presence, as the one and only acceptable option, it did not work at all in the current situation.

Tools for remote cooperation

The tools we use to organize and facilitate own work, project management as well as cooperation with internal teams and customers include:

Gathering customer feedback

It is crucial to understand whether or not, the new ways of working have affected our customer in any way. And swiftly adjust them where required. This is what our customers say about our cooperation in the current circumstances:

Honestly, from my perspective it was always remote 🙂 So I don’t see any difference.

Smith & Nephew

From my side, I haven’t noticed any difference, to be honest.

Smith & Nephew

I have no problems with how it is working and appreciate that we are able to continue and make good progress despite the situation we have found ourselves in. Please thank your team for their co-operation which continues to be excellent.

Smith & Nephew

The temporary remote work will be a trigger for global changes in our industry, which is already characterized by a high flexibility. By the time the COVID-19 pandemics ends, broadscale remote work will become something usual. Especially in the IT world. Thus it’a good moment for all of us to prove that distance is not an obstacle to provide top quality service. The capable professionals’ efficiency will remain the same or even increase, at the same time skyrocketing their value in the market.

Sergiusz Bojarczyk | Project Manager, ServiceNow SAIF
British Council

These are not only words of appreciation and confirmation of keeping up the progress. They are also valuable inputs for the improvements we can make in the technical and non-technical means of communication, that can be addressed immediately by our teams. We are all taking situation seriously, that’s why we are able to manage it well.

Looking into the future

It’s too bad that we cannot do a typical prank by sending an e-mail to all employees, promising donuts for everyone. A humorous reminder not to leave your computer unblocked. But it will be back, it is just a matter of time. Now is the time to excel in the effective remote work. Whereas the unpredictable challenges we’re facing now, will strengthen us, making us all much wiser and definitely far more antifragile.

All the above findings follow from our experience, where our entire ServiceNow Platform projects delivery takes place remotely, based on agile methodology. And 1 of the most recent examples is the installation and onboarding of the apps developed by ServiceNow to manage safety and operational continuity during COVID-19 pandemic and unexpected work mode changes.

ServiceNow Orlando release overview – mobile app, ITSM, ITBM

Orlando vs New York release

ServiceNow Orlando release offers the next round of enhancements to:

and the earlier existing features like:

With every release ServiceNow moves toward innovation and better products, with the main focus put on continuous improvement of organizations and value brought to the customers. Since New York, there have been many new features introduced such as mobile app and business-specific apps. Always with user experience at the center of attention.

The features included, like Guided Application Creator or Now Mobile, are very helpful in everyday SDLC, from developers’ perspective. Another nice feature introduced in the New York release was Dynamic Translation. It enables users to integrate with any translation provider (e.g. Google translator), and then dynamically use it to translate texts.

The Orlando release is expected to get a wider access in March. Except enhancements and improvements of the existing features, it introduces a range of new features.

New ITBM features in Orlando release

Agile Development 2.0

Agile development has been enhanced with a Scrum Program. A SCRUM Program is a tool used to plan and track the work of your team, compare workloads, manage dependencies and more. It includes also quick start tests for Agile Development, which are a collection of tests for agile to speed up the process. What’s more, Agile Development 2.0. covers also Performance Analytics content pack.

Application Portfolio Management

Application Portfolio Management (APM) is a tool that allows users and organizations to better manage the application inventory, provide business context and determine the business value of each app. The New features added in Orlando:

  • GRC controls in business applications,
  • APM standalone plugin separation,
  • Quick start tests for Application Portfolio Management.

Application Portfolio Management - new features in Now Platform Orlando release

NEW ITSM features in Orlando release

As for ITSM, the need for improvements is higher. The ITSM suite is one of the most commonly used suites in many organizations. Some of the enhancements added in the new release:

Change Management

  • Simplified conflict change management with conflict properties,
  • Use of change approval policies to modify them,
  • Management of change requests with the ITSM Agent Workspace,
  • Delivery of change tasks with ServiceNow Agent mobile app.

Workspace Management

  • Creation of knowledge articles from an incident,
  • Generation of knowledge gap records for a specific issue based on an incident,
  • Creation of a similar incident for a different caller,
  • Addition of new search categories on Incident Agent Assist,
  • Tracking of agents’ interaction times,
  • Monitoring of Continual Improvement Management fixes from a problem record.

Analytics – ServiceNow Orlando release

Natural Language Understanding

ServiceNow offers Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to make the platform understands and answers user’s intent. To increase efficiency in understanding the intent, ServiceNow Orlando brings a number of new features like:

  • Users can make use of existing NLU models, and avoid cloning the NLU model,
  • Instead of using predefined entities users can create a custom-made derived entity based on their needs,
  • Apart from using predefined entities, users can make any entity across all NLU model intents available,
  • The interactive dashboard measures the performance metrics of NLU models.

Predictive Intelligence

Predictive Intelligence (PI):

  • Constantly monitors each resource’s capability as well as compares and creates clusters to foster decision making process. Instead of word embedding-based classification, it creates classification based on Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF). Moreover, users can define their own custom stop words that enrich predefined system stop words to improve the capability to categorize, compare, and create clusters,
  • Allows to configure target metrics for a trained classification solution and along with DBSCAN also can be configured to improve precision in clustering solutions,
  • Provides an updated API framework that permits users to incorporate machine learning capabilities in workflows.

Analytics in Now Platform Orlando release

Updated ServiceNow mobile app

The ServiceNow Platform mobile app in the Orlando release encourages better mobility of services, while offering intuitive user experience. Now it includes a range of tools to:

  • Ease accessibility – via configuration of an embedded list,
  • Avoid displaying content – admins can hide empty fields,
  • Create an applet launcher – to serve as a landing page for your users,
  • Manage mobile application integrations securely – with Microsoft Intune or Blackberry Dynamics,
  • Ensure tracking – the mobile dashboard comes with Performance Analytics widget,
  • Track which browsers users use,
  • Allow image-based search – with the use of objects,
  • Measure KPIs – via mobile analytics dashboards for admins.

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Three ServiceNow apps to manage COVID-19 pandemic

Customer care plan

ServiceNow prepared a customer care plan and three apps to help organizations ensure operations continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find the details below.

The customer care plan by ServiceNow covers:

  • Maintenance of virtually 100% uptime for ServiceNow instances,
  • Now Community forum for customers and partners to interact and share best practices,
  • Dedicated portal for customers and partners to provide ideas for COVID-19 related apps or features.

3 ServiceNow apps to manage COVID-19 pandemic

Developed in partnership with the ServiceNow’s customer, Washington State’s Department of Health, the applications* are aimed at emergency management in terms of:

  • Outreach,
  • Self-reporting,
  • Exposure monitoring and reaction.

Below you can identify the areas where they can be used, perhaps in your organization?

Emergency Self-Report app

The Emergency Self-Report app for your employees to:

  • Report their self-quarantine,
  • Inform about the projected return to work time.

And for employer:

  • Workflow support.

Emergency Exposure Management app

In case of diagnosis with COVID-19 of your employee, the Emergency Exposure Management app analyzes the employee’s meeting agenda and locations, identifying people who also might have been exposed to the pandemic risk.

Emergency Outreach app

The Emergency Outreach app allows you to assess what impact the pandemic has had for your employees. You can get in touch with your employees:

  • Via email – sharing information, safety measures and ask them to confirm if they’re safe and what’s their location,
  • Via the ServiceNow® Now Mobile App – sending push notifications asking for confirmation of safety and location.

Implement the apps & get support

All remote access happens using secure connections and multifactor authentication. All the apps are available free of charge at for all ServiceNow customers by September 30, 2020.

We’ve already implemented the apps for our own safety and operational continuity purposes. SPOC team is prepared and 100% ready to support you in the installation and onboarding of the apps in your organization.

Contact us for support

* The apps are designed for immediate use at no charge for existing customers. Others can use these apps through September 30, 2020. After September 30, if you are receiving value and would like to continue use of these apps, ServiceNow will work with you to move to the standard ServiceNow Platform App Engine pricing.