Covid Era Software Development – New Rules
Covid has changed the economy beyond recognition and is catalysing the transition to a remote-first workplace. Many organisations embraced the concept of remote work decades ago, some by outsourcing Software Development. In the Covid era more organisations will be driven to instinctively focus on remote-first as a tool to achieve cost minimisation and efficiency maximisation goals, especially for Software Development. Different work practices and an agile framework, such as scrum, could make the transition easier and embed the change required to achieve those goals.
The new office work paradigm
The remote working trend was already well established and accelerating fast before Covid. The number of people who work from home increased by 140% since 2005 (Global Workplace Analytics). 52% of workers work from home at least once every week and 18% work remotely full time (Owl labs). Personally, I’ve worked with remote peers for decades and I now coach and work with numerous remote Software Development teams. A recent Gartner survey indicates that 74% of companies will permanently transition more than 5% of their employees to remote working and a quarter would move at least 20%, after pandemic related lockdown measures end. This will affect all work that can be done remotely, especially Software Development.
First organise around remote workers
Office space cost savings, easy access to a global pool of talent, more diversity and greater employee motivation are just some of the benefits that employers seek to achieve through remote working. The office value proposition may actually shift away from “where you come to do your work” to “where you come to have a unique experience”. Encouraged by employees who prefer working remotely at least a few days each week, some employers will embrace the opportunity and optimise work practices for remote workers, rather than the other way round. For example, organise meetings around remote teams’ time zones and/or require everyone to participate in meetings by video rather than just remote workers.
Focus less on surveillance and more on outcomes
Managers accustomed to counting heads in an office or checking up on employees will need to acquire new skills and adjust to new roles. Knowledge workers undertaking complex work perform best in small self organising teams, without the traditional manager/worker control structure. Scrum, an agile framework, provides a lightweight guide and is often credited with being 3 times more successful (at delivering successful projects) than more traditional (typically referred to as waterfall) systems. Scrum principles such as value prioritisation, inspection and fast adaptation to change, maximise efficiency. Scrum values and practices, driven by small self organising teams with clear responsibilities and a focus on outcomes, minimise costs.
Responsibility delivers tangible outcomes
The very nature of knowledge based and creative work means that managers know less than the workers and are less able to “manage”. Instead of managers, an agile scrum team will be guided by a coach or scrum master. Their job is to make sure that the team adheres to the scrum framework, not to dictate or show them how to do their jobs. At set agreed intervals, scrum teams deliver pre-agreed tangible outcomes, such as working software. Rather than managers judging teams on attendance or activity, scrum teams are judged mainly by their ability to consistently deliver outcomes that are of real tangible value.
Have your cake and eat it
As the Covid era unfolds, more employers will instinctively balance their needs with workers’ needs for a remote-first and less shackled work experience. As organisations become more aware of the tangible benefits – minimising costs and maximising efficiency – work location and proximity to head office will become less important. This will blur the difference between co-located and remote, local and international Software Development workers. It will encourage employers to engage the most competent and effective in-house or remote workers, irrespective of geographical location.