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18 months later: Why remote software is the future of work

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

It’s hard to look back to where we were 18 months ago without wanting to tell your past self about what’s to come – the good and the bad. COVID-19 has changed our lives in a way that just wouldn’t have seemed fathomable. But what changes will remain – and we have to keep looking ahead to how businesses will adapt their operating models to thrive in this new kind of normal.

Many companies are now “Tech at Core” or simply “Tech” companies, and the almost enforced pivot towards remote working has introduced some unique challenges and opportunities specific to these companies. So, what does this new decentralised remote software delivery mean for your rituals and processes? And does it change how you think about hiring top tech talent?

Choosing the tools

Whilst there is a plethora of collaboration tools being accepted into the software community over recent years (think Slack, Notion, Miro, and even the new and improved Jira), you may have reached a point where you can allow truly collaborative delivery – much as you would have in the physical sense. Basic rituals like stand-ups, retros and showcases, as well as defined ways of working like code pairing, need to be seriously considered in our new remote world. These tools help us do that – but there’s more to it than that.

Consider your people. Take, for example, the hardware and infrastructure that each team member needs, across the various roles. As many of the team won't be comfortably set up for a full remote ‘ work from home approach, responding to their requests for extra screens, a desk and chairs as needed will go a long way to making your team more motivated to stay connected.

Setting a strategy

Agile delivery is now table stakes for many companies. Within this approach it is well defined that the best way to effectively convey information is face to face, with collaboration being at the very heart of the methodology.

There is much written (and lived) about distributed agile with teams working in different cities or even different continents. For many of these teams, an always on approach (albeit one achieved through a video link) has worked well to create the sense of one team. However, does this work when every team member is remote and in their own unique location? Try experimenting with approaches like ‘always on' during certain development cycles or times of day to test impact on morale and productivity. For those who are code pairing, I am sure this approach is adopted often along with screen sharing to monitor code production. Whilst new visioning tools may be helping dependent teams stay abreast of development progress and I’m sure we are seeing more similar traffic on Slack it is important that you experiment to find ways of working that work for the uniqueness of your organisation and for your teams.

Getting the team together

When it comes to collaborative sessions, the business – in the absence of face to face working sessions – needs to encourage regular touch points like service design sessions, retrospectives and showcases. This may seem like a luxury, but I am sure it would seem more acceptable if it was a physical thing, right? I have been in some fun and productive sessions with teams around a Miro Board recently, solving problems and creating alignment. Try some of these tools out to find the ones that work best for you. Perhaps the most important thing about doing these sessions frequently is that it maintains a sense of belonging and culture. Oh, and don't forget about the Friday desk beers (or whatever else you drink)!

It goes without saying though that the culture and team morale is best maintained by actually getting the team physically together. As the world slowly starts to open up again, the big questions include what space do we need and how will we use it? Most companies now seem to be looking at a “some days in the office” model, but what days? I believe collaborative working spaces or team spaces will become essential, particularly areas where teams can group around a real whiteboard (sorry Miro) or a wall attacked by post-it notes to solve problems. Add to this a few banks of desks where people who want to can come and work can double down, a good coffee machine, and a table tennis table and bingo (not literally) you have a space that can be used on a flexible basis and creates a sense of belonging for your teams.

Bringing in the best

So, what does this mean for hiring top tech talent? Well, clearly signalling to potential new team members that you take all the above seriously and you have a considered plan is a good starting point. This will instill confidence that your company is progressive and empathetic in how it thinks about remote working. The best talent want to make their own choices – logging on remotely when they want to, but also being able to pop into the office at a moment’s notice (where physically possible) will be desirable also.

Building cultures without borders feels like one of the more positive and cost-effective outcomes from the last 18 months. The war for tech talent in a place like London has really forced up the operating costs for many companies significantly. Being able to hire outside major cities does of course have wider ramifications for living and society in general, but that is for another blog.

A modern remote culture can help you create a highly productive and expanded delivery capability. It can accelerate getting products to market while reducing some of the bigger operating costs like salary and rent. But it is important to invest in your teams to ensure they are set up (at home) for success. In addition, companies will need to consider getting these geographically distributed team members together occasionally. Quarterly all hands get-togethers in various suitable locations will become exciting and much anticipated for those who are not in the hub city and probably be additive to the team experiences and culture.

Many companies have been delaying stating what their defined remote working approach will be, but the time to be clear is getting very close. For those companies hiring now, owning it with a modern and flexible approach will be a massive attraction to candidates across the software community. And that can only be good for your employer brand. Embrace it!

Want to talk more about anything you’ve read here – or find out how we practice what we preach? Get in touch with me or any of the Industrious Code team.

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