In recent months many companies have had to adapt quickly to the new situation. A number of companies have had to transform themselves and offer some or all of their services virtually. The nature of the work of our teams, who work with clients in this way on a daily basis, has not changed. Let’s describe what remote work looks like in terms of using different tools and practices.
1. What communication tools do we use?
We base our current conversations on Slack. It is a very intuitive, yet comprehensive program for efficient communication with employees and even customers. Teams appreciate the web, desktop and mobile versions of it.
As a company that uses G Suite business products and services, our main tool for video conferencing is Google Meet. Planning, creating and holding a conference in technical terms is literally a few clicks. Our meetings are automatically visible in the schedules, which means there is no need for additional appointments and reminders. We often use Google Meet also in videoconferences, in which people from outside our organization participate (e.g. in case of recruitment or conversations with clients). Then it is worth remembering about the appropriate settings for participation for people from outside the organization. These two tools cover about 90% of all communication in the company. The remaining 10% are the tools selected by individual teams for intra-team communication or tools used for the customer and their requirements.
2. Ensuring safety during remote work
The phrase that the user may be the weakest link in security very often runs through the web security portals. Therefore education and good practice should be the basis. We have developed standards and requirements that guide all employees; obviously, this includes training and periodic reviews. Apart from them we use a number of solutions: from VPN, through MFA (multi-level authentication) and disk encryption, to our own active directory with LDAP users (employee database with access to Gitlab and servers). This is of course only a handful of the solutions.
3. Tools for workflow
Our software house is an agile organization and most teams work on the SCRUM model. This allows us to take advantage of specific practices and rules that set the framework for action, which consists of sprints and related ceremonies. This gives us the opportunity to achieve excellent results, which are based on teamwork.
Teams are free to choose the tool that will support the daily organization of their work. The most popular tool in development teams is Jira (Atlassian). It is adapted to organize the work of agile teams that create and develop software. Thanks to that we have information about tasks , responsible persons, estimations or progress of work in one single place. The main advantages of Jira are common dashboard, quick and easy preview of task status, and clear work division.
Restrospectives are an inherent element of work in SCRUM. While working in an office, all we need is a conference room, a board and sticky notes. Remote work allowed us to discover another, very interesting tool. After testing, most teams decided to use Parabol. The simplest solutions are the best, hence Parabol simply replaced the board and sticky notes.
Insofar as we are able to pass a lot of information on in-person while working on a stationary basis, it is definitely difficult to do it remotely. Therefore, another important aspect that we took into account when organizing our work in the new reality was to create a place that will be used as a knowledge base. A place which everyone will have access to, where they will find answers to their questions and we will be able to easily develop them with new, needed information. We chose Slite, a very intuitive tool that allows one to create notes, segregate them, attach files, insert tables, photos, etc. Additionally, it is possible to set up access in various ways: for individuals, groups or even just for yourself. For us, the biggest asset of Slite is its easy accessibility. By creating a note, the changes are visible in real-time to all users, and the search engine browses all the resources and you always find what you are looking for.
The development teams most often use Confluence (Atlassian) to collect technical documentation of projects. This tool is compatible with Jira and is dedicated to this kind of use.
4. Do we use any ‘entertainment’ tools? For chitchats after hours, playing together, or soft house party etc.
Legend has it that developers need coffee to turn it into code. Currently, we don’t meet in the company’s kitchen over a cup of coffee to discuss solutions to the challenges we’ve encountered. That’s why we’ve taken the meetings over coffee to virtual reality. For this purpose, we use Google Meet, because it enables meetings for up to 250 participants. (So far, we did remote planning of the subsidiary teams, which was attended by 151 people!) Every Wednesday and Friday, we meet for a quarter of an hour over a virtual coffee, where we talk as if we were together at one big table.
Not just programming (and coffee) the software house thrives on. Sometimes even we have to hold a workshop meeting and work creatively on solutions. It is good practice to start such meetings with a game that will allow our mind to ‘relax’ and switch to more abstract work. Do you need any additional tools for this? No. The tools we have described above are enough. The most important thing is to see and hear, the rest is already a matter of the team’s imagination. However, it’s worth mentioning the plugins to Chrome that can be used during such virtual meetings. Virtual Backgrounds for Google Meet allows one to change the background, so that in an instant we can find ourselves in the spaces of a modern office on the top floor of a skyscraper in New York, or in a house with a view of the Grand Canyon. It does fire the imagination! The second plug-in we tested was Visual Effects. It allows one to add such effects to the video as face filters, background blur, or 3D effects. Meetings over coffee certainly gain in attractiveness.
Good practices and rules of remote work
No matter what tools we choose to organize our remote work, good practices are the key. For this purpose, it was worthwhile to develop not only in the team but also in the entire company, “Basic principles of remote working”. Many things can be talked about, but when they are written down, they are more respected and easier to implement. Our collection contains such rules as morning and afternoon briefings, obligatory use of cameras during meetings, informing the team about breaks, taking care of good quality of connection, and comfortable workplace, especially during meetings with the team.
Effective communication is the critical element of teamwork, because most often mistakes in communication are the root cause of some problems. That is why in fireup.pro we cultivate the culture of communication and feedback, we talk to each other honestly and openly. As part of daily scrum events, we report on an ongoing basis what we do, what we plan and what we see as a challenge. Thanks to the practices developed over the years in fireup.pro, remote work is a standard for us.