Delivering projects successfully — remotely
The working world as we know it has completely changed due to Coronavirus. As a company that delivers agile projects and one that already had some experience of remote working, we’ve adapted to the challenges easily and continue to deliver projects at pace.
As a delivery manager here at Zaizi, I’ve had to tweak how I work now that our clients are all working remotely too. So, what have I found useful in delivering products and projects remotely? Here are some tips:
1. Prep even more important for workshops
You always need to do a bit of prep for any workshop you’re facilitating. But when working remotely, you need to make a few extra considerations.
- Check which video conferencing tool your meeting attendees will be using. We work with many public sector organisations and for security reasons, they're often restricted by what they can use. Pick one that works best for all.
- If you're using a digital tool to help facilitate your workshops, like Mural or Miro, ensure your attendees can access and use it. If they’re using it for the first time, set aside 10 minutes at the start to take everyone through how it works.
- Individual breakout groups in a workshop are great at getting everyone involved. You can still do them effectively, just make sure you set up separate meeting room details in advance. Clearly explain how it will work at the start of the workshop.
2. Digital tools will help you
There are many great digital tools out there that make delivery seamless. It can be easy to want to use them all and over-complicate work.
My recommendation is to test a few out, find ones that work best for the team, and then stick to them. Don’t chop and change.
Below are a few I have found most useful.
- Mural and Miro - great for facilitating workshops
- Fun Retro - an easy tool to set up interactive retros
- AirTable and Trello - awesome for digital kanban; helps replace your physical wall of post-it notes
- Slack - the instant messaging tool is a must for me when it comes to Agile delivery. It's great for collaboration; as a team, on a project and for the organisation as a whole.
3. Stick to doing story kick offs
We use story kick-offs as part of any Agile project, and it's been no different working remotely.
A story kick off is when the team gets together to discuss a story that is ready to be worked on. They're no longer than 10-15 mins and its purpose is to ensure everyone understands what needs doing, what is not part of a story and what details are missing
Their importance has been highlighted even more in remote working as it can be a bit of a challenge grabbing everyone together quickly. We make sure we set up slots for all of us to jump on video calls and run through the story on a shared screen. It helps prevent any miscommunication and ensures we’re not re-working something further down the line.
4. Video call etiquette
We've all been on video calls during the lockdown — whether it’s friends, families or work — where it’s just not felt right. The conversation sometimes doesn’t flow how it would face to face. It’s also hard to factor in how your words are landing if you can’t see people’s faces or judge the ‘mood’ of the room.
There is no magic answer. Try to engage everyone with as much interaction as possible. Turning the video on a call helps; though everyone may not be able to do so, or feel comfortable about it.
Use the chat feature so people can ask questions without feeling like they are butting in. And regularly ask or prompt for feedback at the end of each section. It ensures everyone is comfortable with what is being discussed and they're able to raise their points in the way they feel most comfortable.
5. The team matters
Remote working has gone really well at Zaizi considering the challenges. We've seen many benefits.
But there’s an acknowledgement that sometimes you just can’t replace some of the things you’d get in an office environment - like those snatched conversations, or the buzz of an office environment. As in anything in life, you gain some things and you also lose some other things.
For me, there are pros and cons for both office and remote working. But what remote working has shown is the team is really the key to success. And it's important to ensure they're helped to perform the best they can.
An awesome cross-functional team — skilled, flexible and willing to adapt to meet challenges — will work out how to deliver successfully, from anywhere!