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The New Normal

The effect of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on business will be felt long after the outbreak itself has passed. We need to be ready for a new normal in the workplace, characterized by geographically distributed teams, agile processes, measurable productivity, and virtualization, among other things. These changes are both an opportunity and a mandate during this period of uncertainty. Businesses will have to adapt or fall behind.Leading tech companies like Google and Microsoft are betting that this surge of remote and virtualized work is here to stay, offering their tools for free and expecting people to carry on using them when COVID-19 is gone. Startups like Slack and Zoom are doing the same. Simply put, they are focusing on the future in the midst of this crisis.

This future focus is imperative, and an antidote to regressive, fearful thinking. Fear leads to near-sightedness and paralysis – both lethal for a business. We have to continue moving forward and upward as we traverse this challenging season or we will find trouble on the other side as well. This graphic represents the opportunity available to every business.A workplace evolution is already upon us, accelerated by COVID-19. Some degree of adaptation is inevitable of course for everyone. Latecomers to the remote work model are now learning on the fly (because business must go on) while early adopters are moving forward seamlessly.

Having the right tools in place for remote work is a prerequisite for succes. But let’s focus instead on one of the characteristics of this new normal, namely geographic distribution.

Working as a cohesive team when nobody is in the same place is hard. It creates a host of new problems and it significantly magnifies old ones. For example, if individual accountability is a “speed bump” in your traditional office it will become a brick wall within a geographically distributed model. This is your opportunity to do remote work well – to get ahead of issues like these – because that’s increasingly how work will be done going forward. To that end, here are the most important principles to implement in your business right now (…based on decades of experience virtually integrating and co-creating with our clients).

Adopt Agile

The agile approach to project management and software development is highly iterative. Instead of betting everything on a “big bang” launch, an agile team delivers work in small, consumable increments. Requirements, plans, and results are evaluated continuously so teams have a natural mechanism for responding to change quickly.

Agile calls for collaborative cross-functional teams with open communication, collaboration, and trust amongst team members. This approach isn’t just for product development. Any business where projects and deliverables require team collaboration across a geographic divide must implement agile.

Measure Productivity

Studies show that employees – remote or otherwise – spend 50% of their time unsure what’s expected of them and unable to properly prioritize tasks. That’s a huge problem for remote work. In fact, it’s such a big problem that people often treat “working from home” as personal time. A combination of project management tools and check-in meetings go a long way to solving this problem.

Projects need to have clearly defined start, middle, and end points. Use due dates and assign tasks to specific people based on the agile approach, i.e. break up the work into smaller pieces and track accordingly.

Un-Sync Communication

When your team is working remotely, you’ll want to embrace chatting and collaborating asynchronously, as opposed to synchronous methods like phone calls and face-to-face conversations. Email also falls in this category but sending an email every time you have a quick question is not efficient. Why send a “confirmation receipt” email, with a greeting and signature, when a thumbs up would suffice?

Asynchronous chat tools allow teams to engage with or watch a conversation without CCing everyone on an email thread. They also help to alleviate team chemistry issues that may arise from remoteness.

Virtualize

This is an abstract principle, but it’s among the most important. Wherever creativity and innovation are needed there’s a human element that’s not easy to capture or mechanize. The right combination of modern communication tools, including chat and video conferencing, can virtualize the tone, personality, and frictionless repartee of face-to-face team meetings and brainstorming sessions.

In some sense, virtualizing complex human interactions is like learning a new language – it takes buy-in and time but eventually you become fluent. Do you know the frustration of communicating across a language barrier? That’s how your customers and clients feel if you’re behind the curve on remote work, so take this opportunity to catch up and even get ahead.

Centralize Information

Remote teams don’t work unless your data and docs are in the cloud. People need to access information from any location or device in real time. Fortunately, most professionals already know how cloud file sharing works, but we find too many companies that basically don’t use it. The result: team members inevitably end up doing conflicting or overlapping work which wastes time and slows progress. No company should operate this way, but in with the emergence of COVID-19, it’s not even possible.

Also, note that when your team uses a cloud file sharing system it helps to keep your information safe. Company files that live in the cloud are far better protected than those stored on local hard drives which are prone to viruses, keyloggers, or phishing attacks.

Moving forward…

COVID-19 has accelerated a process that was already in motion. The virtual interconnectivity of teams and companies has now reached critical mass and adoption is imperative. That reality may not be obvious now, but it will once the fog of COVID-19 has passed. At 10Pearls, we look forward to that new normal.

In fact, our company might not exist without the tools and methods that support remote creativity and development. Our OneTeam approach brings together world-class software developers on three continents; product managers, creatives, digital strategists, cyber security experts in the US; and client partners in their respective offices around the globe into a single cohesive team. If you want to position your company for similar success in the future, let us be your partner, and make our team a virtual part of yours.

Do you have a digital initiative you’d like to discuss? Schedule a consultation with our team today.