Tips on How We Went Remote With Our Software Development Company
It’s just a seasonal cold, and things will get better soon. Stay calm and keep going on. That’s the prevailing thought that people shared here in Ukraine back before coronavirus (COVID-19) became mainstream.
MobiDev’s board decided to evaluate all company processes and adjust them to ensure a smooth and fast transition to remote work—just in case. The most important was figuring out how to switch 300 employees with no delay in delivering software products to 38 of our clients.
We should mention, our business model is based on providing software development services to our clients. This made our business compatible with remote work. Also, we were using plenty of cloud solutions and very few locally-based ones.
In early March, COVID-19 reached Ukraine, and we rapidly turned our plan into action. Please take a look at how we made it possible, and maybe you’ll find some valuable insights into our approach.
Setting a Remote Software Development Process
It all started through an internal survey that involved our employees. This helped our team to double-check themselves whether they were ready to work from home. Our initial survey asked the following:
- Do they have a stable Internet connection?
- What kind of working conditions exists at home?
- What equipment would they need to take from the office to continue working?
- Do they have the necessary access to company accounts and systems?
MobiDev runs G Suite services, and in some cases, we use IAP (Identity Aware Proxy) to secure development operations. Other cases needed separate VPN connections to be set.
As most of our software development projects are integrated into the client’s workflows, we have to be ready to adjust our processes. And we had time to move and configure all the development equipment and infrastructure—this was the most important part.
We were always able to share devices for testing with no issues when working from the office. But when shifting to a work-from-home regime, we experienced a device shortage. Here’s how we handled this problem:
- Redesigned projects QA strategy
- Allocated devices among QA engineers
- Prioritized testing tasks
- Decreased test coverage with minimum losses
As an alternative, we now investigate remote devices farms like Amazon device farm, browser stack, perfecto, and kobiton.
Managing Communications and Teamwork
Years ago, MobiDev rearranged all its processes around Jira, Confluence, and G Suite. But more importantly, we designed flows taking into account the need for cooperation between different offices throughout Ukraine. This meant that running project communications with Skype, Zoom, and Hangouts weren’t anything new for our team.
The daily schedule and personal discipline is something that we had to adjust. Here’s how we managed the WFH:
- Set scope for an internal release (2-week sprints on average)
- Decompose the scope and create tasks with baseline estimations
- Hold daily team meetings to keep the team synced and share progress
During daily meetings, we made sure everyone highlighted their achievements and plans. Meetings also took place at the end of the day, so the team would be sure everyone would have to discuss their progress before making it through the day. We felt this process motivated people.
The ‘work-from-home’ shift, in general, was painless. The nature of our work implies a permanent online presence. Moreover, our project team is located not only in Kharkiv but also in Mykolayiv, Chernivtsi. So, the only thing that has changed is the workspace, instead of office desks, we see cozy sofas in the backgrounds.
It’s common to consider using time trackers to control a remote employee. We definitely recommend using a tracker for self-discipline. But we do not see it as an efficient tool for management. Managers stick to Jira planning, task decomposition, and results evaluation. Employees should still log time spent on certain activities. This process has not changed with our move to remote work.
Securing Infrastructure and Company Operations
System administrators are the guys who made it possible for the company to WFH. Some of the essential dev and test environments were still tied to office infrastructure, and they had to grant access and keep it secure. Depending on our goals, several approaches were implemented, including:
- Login/password access and 2FA authentications
- Whitelisting IPs and monitoring suspicious activities
- Decreasing numbers of failed authentication attempts before getting banned
- Connecting certain teams with encrypted links
- SSH access to work stations
- VPN access to critical components
- Using SSL for internal services accessible only by an encrypted VPN
Another security aspect to consider is people working from their home environment. Here are some basic guidelines from our administrators:
- Use local disk encryption
- Do not store any data on any easy-to-lose devices
- Avoid insecure passwords for home Wi-Fi networks
- Store all the data via corporate storage and communicate through corporate accounts
- Ensure system administrators are available 24/7 in case of an emergency
There were plenty of cases at the beginning where admins were helping employees through remote assistance tools to install equipment and configuring software.
Supporting Clients With a Positive Attitude and a Smile
The World is an uncertain place, thanks to the current pandemic. We now know our clients have put plenty of energy into maneuvering their businesses through this challenging period. Here at MobiDev, we had to think about the value we deliver and what our role is. Here’s what we decided:
- No matter what, we have to stay reliable and deliver the product. It’s our responsibility to set and secure all processes while working from home.
- No panic and anxiety. Negative thoughts kill passion and energy faster than the market will fall. Our team has to keep calm and share that approach with our clients, while our HR department works to maintain employee well-being. Everything from holding webinars and launching #MOBIDEV_STAYHOMECLUB, to online birthday greetings—it all helps our team to stay positive.
- Where would you like to see your product after the virus? It’s the strategic question that needs to be asked. And this question impacts more than just the client. We know we also have to come up with ideas and options to assist.
Any crisis is an opportunity for business visionaries to create and deliver new value. And we can do plenty for our clients to be able to look over the daily fog to steer them in the right direction.