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In just a matter of a few short weeks COVID-19 has changed our lives in ways we never imagined. The UK Government has asked us to change the way we live and that has fundamentally impacted the way we work. At Wattle we, like many other organisations, have just completed our first full week operating under this lockdown.

 

Its been a challenge but, as a technology company, many of our team already work remotely, so we were able to make the fully-remote move relatively swiftly and seamlessly. Many businesses have not been so fortunate.

In a time where we need to band together as a society we'd like to share the tools, methodologies and processes we have implemented to make the remote working switch. Some of the tools below will be specific to the software development services we provide but many, like Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint, are applicable to any business setting up to work remotely.

If you would like any further information or some help please do get in touch.

Embracing Cloud Technology  

Our business-critical systems are all cloud-based and include capabilities for fully remote project delivery, ongoing support provision, secure chat and video conferencing and online team collaboration. In addition to using Skype for traditional phone calls, the most fundamental Wattle communication channels are Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint 

Microsoft Teams

On a day to day basis, Teams facilitates communications across the business where face to face contact is not possible. Teams enables secure video conferencing internally, and externally with clients, along with specific groups and channels enabling us to collaborate seamlessly on projects online.

Microsoft SharePoint 

SharePoint acts as both our company intranet and cloud-based document management system. We can share and manage content online, empower greater teamwork, quickly find information, and seamlessly collaborate across the organisation.

Delivering Projects Remotely  

During day to day project delivery we deploy a range of software tools including Jira and Confluence for project management, FloatMicrosoft Project and Lucid Chart for scheduling, and Teams for communications where face to face isn’t an option.  

Whilst the use of these digital channels is common practice internally at Wattle, delivering major client digital transformation programmes without significant face to face time is a challenge we've had to overcome 

Virtual Daily Stand Ups

The daily stand up is an essential part of the agile software development process. The nature of a stand up is that it promotes a more productive use of time by forcing everyone to stand up and highlight key project achievements and challenges in a concise timeframe. To achieve this remotely we utilise Microsoft Teams and a Teams plugin called Agile Polly, an virtual stand up tool where team members can write up their daily stand up, and flag any blockers.   

Remote Sprint Retrospectives

The Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint. The Sprint Retrospective occurs after the Sprint Review and prior to the next Sprint Planning. To achieve this remotely, we utilise an online collaborative whiteboarding platform called Miro. This tool enables our team and the client team to collaborate in much the same way as you would expect face to face. 

Managing Go-Live

The biggest challenge faced by our remote delivery teams comes with the launch and go-live of the website CMS and CRM solutions we provide. A go-live requires our Project Managers to coordinate both a large internal team and an expectant and excited client team.   

Our primary tool for communication and collaboration during this process is Microsoft Teams, where we host an 'always open' video channel for the duration of the process. We then schedule additional video calls with the client team every two hours to provide ongoing updates on progress. This communications methodology is highly effective when combined with clear objectives for the go-live process. Every team member is then kept up to date, in real time, every step of the way which means:

  • Jira tickets are flagged and responded to swiftly  
  • Team members can fine tune and tweak outstanding requests quickly 
  • Client updates were structured and had clear outcomes 
  • Quality Assurance teams could run tests seamlessly  

Remote Software Development  

Whilst Microsoft Teams is our core remote communications platform, it is Visual Studio that has enabled our Development teams to live share what they are working on. Visual Studio is a relatively easy solution to set up and makes a huge difference when two or more Developers are working on the same set of code. The solutions 'live share' feature works much in the same way as SharePoint and Google Docs, but instead of documents it allows for real time editing and debugging of code.  

To provide the development teams with remote access to software and machines we use TeamViewer, a comprehensive, remote access, remote control and remote support solution. We also deploy Microsoft Azure DevOps to host all of our source code and to manage our CI/CD to the cloud. 

CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS

Now, more than ever, organisations need to be 'open for business as usual'. We all need to continue to keep in touch with our clients and prospects and to market our products and services effectively.

At Wattle that means utilising Microsoft Teams to conduct virtual client visits, sales meetings and online software demonstrations. We also utilise LinkedIn as a key communications channel and have converted any planned event-base activity into online webinar format.

Our Marketing team rely on our Microsoft Dynamics 365, a cloud-based CRM system, as a single source of truth for client data and to continue to run marketing campaigns. SharePoint is our go-to cloud-based document management system that ensures our commercial team can collaborate on tender responses and sales bids. 

We hope we have provided some useful tools and insights to help other organisations work more effectively remotely. We would love to hear from you about your approaches. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact our team on info@wearewattle.com 

 

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