Tech Trends

Software Engineering in these Challenging Times

John Glander
Posted by John Glander on Jun 11, 2020

By now most of you reading this have been impacted by the Corona-Virus 19 pandemic. It can range from being inundated with PSA messages, to loss of job, to sickness to even loss of life.

Obviously the impact of the illness has a lot to do with where you are geographically, your personal health background, and your work situation. Some live in New York with high impact, some live in Iowa with very little impact. Some work in the service industry (high impact), some work in technology industry (relatively low impact).

Here are some key concepts we have use to insure our remote technology workers can continue to operate successfully, with the most efficiency possible.

Tools for remote working

By now we are all familiar with communication tools for meeting with our teams. Some of the most popular include Zoom, Go-To-Meeting, Skype, Google Hangouts, Slack, WebEx, etc. They are very similar offering features such as “share my screen”, “video share”, “chat”, “meeting recording” and “team calls”.

These tools each have their strengths and weaknesses and a varied cost structure but in essence provide the same basic services.

These tools are essential to a remote team’s success.

Follow these key steps for optimal meeting efficiency

  • Be Human – We are all in the same boat with various stress factors in play. Set aside 3-5 minutes at the beginning of the each call to “check in” on people. “Hey how’s it going?” can go a long way to making people realize that while you are not sitting in a cubicle next door, you are still a team.
  • Join the meeting five minutes early - Regardless of whether you’re running the meeting or only attending, don’t waste valuable meeting time troubleshooting or fixing microphone or video issues.
  • Remind people to mute/unmute themselves - To avoid any background noise, ask people to keep their microphones turned off when they’re not talking. However, don’t forget to make them feel free to unmute themselves whenever they feel like contributing to the discussion.
  • Encourage people to turn on their cameras - As your colleagues join the meeting, prompt them to turn on their cameras. Of course, it’s absolutely fine if someone prefers to attend without his or her video turned on, but a remote meeting is made much more personal if people can see each other on the screen.
  • Its work, that doesn’t mean you can’t be social – Just because you are not sitting next to each other doesn’t mean you are a billion miles away. Consider a “Hawaiian shirt Friday”, maybe open each meeting with a “fun fact”. It doesn’t matter…life is too short to not to bond with your team.

Avoid Video Conference Pitfalls

Video calls are very efficient, but that does not make them issue free. The media is awash with people who have troublesome kids in the background, people who were “too casual” with their dress, or needed a potty break. Just because people are not sitting next to you, don’t forget they can still see and hear you.

Some key tips:

  • Remember to keep a professional appearance
  • Don’t invite too many people
  • Don’t schedule unnecessary calls

Check Up Calls

Different people have different personal situations and deal with problems in different ways. It is very beneficial to stay up on the mindset of your team.

  • Check in with Clients/Business Partners – A simple once or twice a week check-in. One-on-one to say, “Hey Mary…how are you doing?”. Seems simple, but listening to what is on that person’s mind goes a long way to understanding what you can best do to serve them. Maybe they have kids home and need to have less frequent meetings, maybe they can’t concentrate in the late afternoon, because they are spent. This information and being sensitive to it will go a long way to a positive working relationship.
  • Check in with team members – Much like your business partners/clients, your individual team members might have “stuff” they are dealing with. Check in with them one-on-one so that you know their key considerations.

Conclusion

We are all adapting to the “New Normal”. These are just some ideas on how you can utilize tools and techniques but more important, thoughtful, personal interaction to continue providing high quality services to your clients. Please share your tips in the feedback forum on how you and your teams are using tools and techniques to optimize your performance.

We at Starpoint Solutions have been working with onshore, offshore, near shore, and blended teams for over 20 years. If you have questions or concerns about how your teams interact, let us know, we can help.

Whatever your situation we hope that you and your family make it through the Pandemic with the best possible results.

Topics: Software Engineering

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