Updated: Nov 20, 2020
On a seemingly normal Thursday leading up to a seemingly normal March weekend, employees across the nation began closing out their day just as they would any other. However, March 12, 2020 was among the first days in which numerous companies across the United States established COVID-19 policies as an effort to keep every employee safe from the spread of what was then being considered a “low-risk” virus. In actuality, we were only witnessing the start of a world consumed by remote work.
As a nation, we frantically raced to prepare for a quarantine mandated state-to-state, which in short time threw away the possibility of in-office meetings or work. Mid-day walks, improvised home offices, and sweatpants became a shared routine for so many office workers in America who now were forced to work from home. Days turn to weeks, weeks to months, and as time goes on the shared experience of adapting to this newfangled lifestyle has turned into a work culture.
On October 29, 2020, CNBC’s Squawk on the Street featured ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott, who stated his vision of work in the foreseeable future. According to him, a “hybrid model” will be common practice through 2021, leaving behind all doubt that a systemic shift toward a more digital mindset for the long run will be necessary. The case to leverage a platform like ServiceNow has never been stronger.
But the ability to run an efficient and high quality ServiceNow instance is also affected in a remote work world. Whereas development teams are typically able to collaborate in shared spaces, working in a hybrid work world will mean time interchanged in and out of the office for many companies. So how will team leads and platform owners extract the best value from their teams through a hybrid work model? We have just a few ideas worth noting:
Lean into Agile
One of the most popular software delivery methodologies of late that acts as a nexus for all activities is called the Agile methodology. One of the leading priorities on the mind of any manager is bringing your team together in an efficient and effective way. Agile is one of the leading methodologies employed to do exactly that. It preaches the importance of cross-functional collaboration and transparency in the process of accomplishing team goals.
In the software development life cycle, Agile is seen as a way to iteratively improve the quality of an entity (be it program, webpage, application, etc.). So why is Agile useful for running a remote work team? Importantly, Agile also holds highly the idea of moving as one whole rather than several disparate and isolated parts. For this reason, some of the best traits of Agile play an obvious role in how ServiceNow team managers can continue and enhance their productivity as a whole.
While complete Agile adoption may not be realistic for every team, we use this article to explore some of the best ideas employed from Agile methodology for remote work.
Daily Standup Meetings
Communication will be key, so attack it head on with a daily standup. This is a morning meeting that occurs every day at the same time for the purpose of sharing and understanding the work getting done across the entire team. Each employee (depending on your team size) should have several minutes to share their most recent short-term accomplishments, upcoming goals, and immediate obstacles to be conquered. They also have the chance to ask any small questions that might come up, but larger discussions should be taken to a separate conversation as one of the fundamental advantages of the standup is its brevity to avoid wasting time.
It is certainly not a new concept as departments have conducted daily standups for years prior to the current remote work landscape. But its value is that it can act as a recalibration for employees to come back to center after seizing the opportunity of work the rest of their day. Use this time in the morning to set up your team for success!
Shared Scrum Boards
It is another key element of Agile methodology, but is held as a top priority in our to-do list for a hybrid work team. Prior to the pandemic, development teams could use shared office space as a tool in itself to streamline communication. They might have tracked all assignments on a physical whiteboard using Post-it notes to maintain tasks that have been handed out to individuals on the team. Eventually, this idea was translated to a better and more nimble online version, offering teams the chance to get rid of the whiteboard and login into the shared scrum board with their web browser. Today, the use-case couldn’t be clearer to track all your tasks on a shared online Scrum board accessible through any web browser.
Tools like Jira, Trello, and Zepel (just to list a few of the many) offer an elegant and functional user experience that make getting started and managing the board easy. What makes these platforms great to use is not just their utility, but the fact that most of them are free or offer competitive pricing structures which don’t break the bank, meaning development teams of any size can access these tools and get off the ground with them fast. You can read more about some of the best digital Scrum boards available here.
As a team lead or platform owner, communication with your remote team is vital. Even more so in a hybrid model, staying connected to everyone and making expectations clear needs to be front-of-mind as employees manage time collaborating in and out of the office setting. There are a couple of primary considerations that are core to maintaining expectations.
First, be transparent. Your goals and leading concerns should be made clear with different areas of your ServiceNow instance as work is done there. Failing to be open about what you are expecting will lead to incongruencies in production. One of the best ways to avoid that is to share what types of metrics your developers are being evaluated on when it comes to an analysis of their effectiveness. It may be the number of errors or a quantified amount of technical debt stemming from their work. This is crucial in remote work because the physical space between people leaves room for uncertainty and doubt to breed. You’re able to effect that by remaining transparent.
Secondly, keep track of each person’s productivity on the team. As we have seen, the pandemic can take a toll in several ways, one of them being mental health. As team lead or platform owner, you should connect with individuals to make sure they do not slump in their output. This is not a call for draconian measures like overwatching their every move nor a call for remote desktop tracking employees from home. Simply take the time to set your own expectations of each person’s output and check in weekly to analyze whether their work lines up with what you might anticipate. From there, go back to being transparent and discuss any pain points or especially tricky obstacles which you might be able to help remove.
Lastly, don’t lose the forest. Of course, you need to foster the work of every “tree”, but don’t let that take away from the fact that you manage a forest, whatever its size may be. If you are indeed leveraging a hybrid model, expectations might need to be set for in office and at home workers respectively. Recognize how the hybrid model affects the team and work with them to improve its efficiency. If one thing is certain, it’s that no path is right or wrong, but can continually be iterated to improve for everyone’s needs as efficient employees.
Keep it Light!
The final bit of advice in a hybrid remote work world is to just keep it fun! This will challenge certain people and others may find it incredibly unimpactful. However your team members operate through it, keep things light and always leave time for people to learn about each other and have a laugh as possible. One of the best parts about ServiceNow is the way it improves the experience of work for everyone; don’t let your team get run over by the difficulties presented. Have fun with it and make work a great experience!
Surely There’s a Better Way
One of the scariest thoughts is staying in the dark for all of this. Your team is executing their tasks, but how sure can you be that their work is error-less or that there aren’t knowledge gaps causing technical debt? Are there areas in your instance of growing concern which will become too cumbersome over time to remediate?
Governing your instance is not a simple task, but the Best Practice Engine, ServiceNow’s top-rated app on their app store, has been making it easier for customers for the past 3 years. BPE’s dashboards make it easy for management to understand how work is progressing in your instance and where errors are coming from. It will help you prioritize technical debt and squander under-performance within your instance, breathing quality throughout it.
Whether you are in the office, completely remote, or using a hybrid model in the coming months, Best Practice Engine is a must have tool to ensure the highest quality ServiceNow Instance possible for your ServiceNow DevOps team. Learn how to work smarter here and contact us for a demo.