Just a few years ago the idea of working remotely was kind of a strange idea and sometimes even frowned upon. As of late, it has became more widely accepted. Now with the coronavirus pandemic spreading across our world, working remotely is now a norm and a new norm for a lot of people. I thought I’d provide some info on how we’ve been operating remotely as a team for several years now. Let me know what you think.
- Embrace an Agile way of working; no you don’t have to be a software company to do this!
- Leverage collaborative tools for communication (Slack is amazing…we’ve tried many.)
- Online meetings (Slack, Zoom)
- Collaborative documentation (Dropbox Paper or Google Docs)
- Work planning tools (Trello, Monday.com)
- Have a schedule and be true to it…and don’t book too many meetings!
- Take breaks… go outside.
At ZAM Apps (the team that crafts vinoEZ), like other software companies, we are an entirely remote team. Moreover, we are a global team (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, England, Germany, Mexico and USA). We rely heavily on collaborative tools and some light business process structure. I’ll go over how we do things… maybe it will help those that are new to this way of working.
- Be Agile – We adopted the Agile way of working to get our development done. Although this approach started in the software development space, there are definitely aspects of this approach that can be leveraged elsewhere. Here are some Agile concepts that we use and that can be used regardless of your industry. Note: This is not a full deep-dive of the Agile way. I’m glossing over some details in an effort to hit home the key elements that can benefit you. I’ll leave it to you to dive deeper.
- User stories – tasks or small bits of work that need to get done. Each user story also is tagged with an effort estimate to help identify how big or small this task is (this becomes important in planning your Sprints).
- Epics – in some cases you can group user stories into Epics. These can be thought of as a project or a theme of user stories. For instance, we just finished building out a Vessel Board (virtual tank board) feature in vinoEZ. We had about 30 user stories in this one Epic. Epics help you not lose site of the overall work as you’re closing out the smaller user stories.
- Sprints – a span of time (we do two weeks) where you plan out user stories and assign them to people on your team to get the work done. Knowing the estimated effort of each user story helps build a plan that is achievable.
- Sprint Planning Meeting – work with our team to plan out the work to be done in the next sprint. This meeting lasts about an hour and it is done just prior to the next sprint. We do a little bit of pre-work to organize some of the user stories prior to the meeting, but it is within this meeting that we all agree to what is going to get done in the next sprint. We also assess how we did with the last sprint and learn from any of the issues from that sprint.
- Daily Stand Up Meetings – this is probably the most important thing we do. We go around the virtual room and everyone talks about what they did yesterday, what their plan is for today and bring up anything that is blocking them from getting their work done (aka “blockers”). We also do some socializing during this call. Which helps the human side of working as a team. Just today we discussed how everyone’s country is handling the pandemic.
- Our Tools:
- Most of our documentation (project docs, functional designs, tech designs, etc.) is done using Dropbox Paper. Very useful, light-weight collaborative document tool. Others use Google Docs.
- We use two tools to organize user stories (tasks).
I hope that there is something in this post that you’ll be able to use during this crazy time. Good luck and stay safe!