Remote work & agile projects continuity

30 March 2020| 4 min|


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.