Adapting to remote working- our tools and tips for success

Adapting to remote working: Our tools and tips for success

We’ve now been working completely remotely for over six weeks. From sprint planning to virtual events, we’ve had to adapt to ensure we can maintain customer engagement and project momentum in a remote working world.

Here we share some insight into the ideas and tools that have helped us, along with tips from each team at Pythagoras to ensure smooth remote working.

Project Delivery

Our consultants and project managers are used to working remotely and collaborating with our customers using tools such as Microsoft Teams and DevOps. However, there are still many activities that we would normally conduct face to face, so we’ve had to get creative about how we can continue to deliver these in an engaging way.

Sprint Planning with Azure DevOps

One example of this is sprint planning for our Agile projects. For the past six weeks, all sprint planning sessions, sprint playback sessions and sprint retrospective sessions have been conducted via Microsoft Teams. These sessions showcase what we have delivered for a specific sprint and agree what we want to achieve for the next sprint.

One tool we have been using to help with sprint delivery is the Estimate plug-in in Azure DevOps. Every sprint has a set amount of resource, so it’s up to the project team to come up with what they want to achieve within that resource allowance. DevOps enables you to select work from an iteration, query your backlog and estimate the effort of those items with the rest of the project team. The Estimate plug-in allows you to update the work items immediately. We’ve found that this tool helps keep project delivery fun, inclusive and collaborative whilst working apart.

‘We’re very proud that our project delivery has continued as planned. In fact, we’ve celebrated six new project go-lives since we started lockdown- a testament to the dedication of our customers and colleagues to continue delivering high quality work under challenging circumstances.’

Koren Bamford | Consultancy Director

Remote Scoping Workshops

When a new project kicks off, we conduct detailed requirements gathering workshops to enable us to come up with a tailored design and project approach. Moving these sessions online has required some thinking outside of the box, as we are unable to rely on traditional cues to check people are on the same page. Our workshops are intentionally very collaborative, so we also needed to make sure a shift to remote working didn’t result in less participation from our subject matter experts.

What have we changed?

  • We appreciate home working comes with additional distractions, so we take extra time to confirm that every attendee understands each point and agrees about each decision before progressing.

  • Our consultants pause and invite questions regularly. Our workshops are known for being professional yet friendly, and recreating this atmosphere helps put people at ease to chip in with questions, clarifications and suggestions.

  • If we’re likely to get a high number of emails and chat messages, we set our Teams status to ‘Do not Disturb’ to help us focus on the call. If necessary, breaks can be scheduled to give everyone the opportunity to catch up on these messages.

  • On the subject of breaks, we make sure to book these during longer sessions to allow attendees to get up from their desk, stretch their legs and grab a coffee.

  • A benefit of remote sessions is having the ability to record using Teams. This helps us and our customers to be more present in the sessions and gives us a point to refer back to later down the line.

We’ve also started to use Microsoft Whiteboard to support our workshops, standing in for the flipcharts and physical whiteboards we’d usually use.

‘Microsoft Whiteboard is a brilliant tool to allow participants to quickly mock-up wireframes, diagrams or share thoughts on a blank canvas where everyone can see them. Another advantage is that you save time taking and saving photos of whiteboards when you’re finished!’

Pete Williams | Principle Consultant

Virtual Events

We regularly host face to face events to discuss the latest technology with our customers, so we’ve had to rethink how we deliver this content.

Here are some of our considerations when planning a remote event:

  • Rethink your content to check that it will still land well with the audience when delivered remotely. You’ll be in competition for your audience’s attention when working online, so be sure to trim each session down to keep them as snappy as the can be.

  • Switch presenters regularly to mix up the tone and pace of the content being delivered.

  • There are fewer cues that your audience members might be lost or looking for resources than there are in f2f sessions. Make sure to resend all resources for the day on the morning of the session, and we use the chat window on Microsoft Teams to signpost where people can find what they need at each stage.

If you’re running a larger event that requires a lower level of collaboration between the presenters and the audience, a good option is to use a Teams live session. Teams live events provide popular webinar features such as live event usage reports and a Q&A window for delegate participation.

‘As we move to new ways of delivering content, it’s more important than ever to collect and listen to attendee feedback following your events. We use Microsoft Forms to quickly capture people’s thoughts on each session and ideas for how we can improve the overall experience for next time.’

Kate Alexander | Marketing Manager

Remote Support

Our support team have also switched to fully remote working, we are pleased to have received some great feedback from our supported customers. The team are going above and beyond to assist those that need it by resolving any issues or making small changes quickly. Service Review Meetings are continuing online which allow our customers to keep up to date with their Service Delivery Manager and enables them to share opinions and feedback.

‘With organisations adapting their operations in the midst of crisis, our highly skilled support team have been busy working around the clock to keep systems running smoothly and making small system changes to accommodate new ways of working.’

Herman Sadie | Technical Director

If you’d like any tips or advice on anything we’ve discussed, please do get in touch at info@pythagoras.co.uk.

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