How to set up remote team work? Studii.md shares its experience

24.03.2020 tagged as , , , , ,

Like Google, Yandex, Tweeter, Facebook and other IT companies from all over the world, Simpals decided to temporarily switch to work from home mode. Based on the example of the Studii.md project, which develops the functionality of distance learning systems for Moldovan schools, we will share how to maintain team productivity during quarantine.

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– What is the Studii.md team currently working on?

We’re developing new features for the Studii.md platform, which will allow the students and teachers to continue the learning process during quarantine by studying remotely.

At the moment, three teams are working on the Studii.md project. The first team develops a new feature for learning from home, it is called “Homework for students”. The second team connects other schools to the system. And the third one provides information support to all platform users.

Video tutorials for teachers, students, parents and school administration are already available on Studii.md. We intend to create new tutorials, which will help the users find answers to all their questions regarding the use of the system, as well as learn how to work with the new features on their own.

– How did you manage to arrange work from home for this project, considering that the team has only worked in the office? Was it difficult?

The problem of switching to a remote working format is that people aren’t used to operating in such conditions. It’s quite hard to get your idea across in a chat without being able to illustrate it.

If one big team is working on a task, it is important that they keep the pace. Each member of the team must understand what they are doing and how their work influences other teammates, and vice versa. Studii.md platform has 4 apps and about 8 services. So, when one of them is modified, all the rest also need be modified. The cooperation between information systems must be properly designed.

Generally, work from home principles of the Studii.md team aren’t much different from the office working process. The only difference is that now we have online conferences, which we combine with boards. But the main activity is carried out in task manager just as before.

– How is Studii.md work from home being conducted?

We schedule at least 3 online conferences: in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Each teammate shares what they have managed to do and what they haven’t, what problems or difficulties they face in completing their tasks.

At present, the team works based on the Scrum Kanban method; we make work analysis daily, which can be seen on the board. Kanban method implies working on just one task, i.e. the team develops one feature, and it is clear and transparent for each team member.

Additionally, we conduct group meetings. The core Studii.md team consists of 12 people. 3-4 of them work together on one task, therefore, they not only participate in general meetings, but lead their own conferences. On the other hand, other teammates are constantly in touch and work in the common Zoom chat.

– Which tools are you using?

We use Zoom for video calls and online conferences, Telegram for chats, Bitrix and Jira for setting and executing tasks. We also use the Miro board. It is a very useful tool which allows to visualize what is added, discussed or changed in the project.

– Who sets the tasks and how?

We use Jira for task setting. The functionality of this service is very simple.

The first thing a working day starts with is error correction. Each development (whether a button, a new window or an additional tool) has a detailed instruction – documents that have it specified what has to happen to the design, keyboard response and what has to appear in each field, for example.

All tasks are created according to documents, and each employee receives prescribed activities. We concluded that each teammate within the Studii.md project must create their own tasks, because it is clear and convenient.

Jira tracks how much time is used for one task. It helps identify what issue consumes time the most and why.

– How does the team cope with urgent developments in such circumstances?

Nowadays, due to the crisis and need of releasing new and quality products in a short period of time, the Studii.md team was expanded by three times. So, we have the core development team, Mass-media Simpals team and 999.md team, who assist and instruct. To be able to complete all tasks shortly, we added more administrative staff, who connect schools to the system and keeps them informed. At this point, the team has 20 more people.

When developing a product in a short time, you must keep in mind that the clients are always first. So, Studii.md priority are the students. We try to deal quickly with the problems, because there are 88 schools which have already applied for connection to the system, and 40 of them have started collecting data.

Studii.md system is unique, because its settings were designed to suit our education system.

A kind of conclusion

We have a few pieces of advice for maintaining productivity to all who work from home during quarantine:

– Set working hours and ask your family not to disturb you in that period.

– Maintain the working tempo and mood during the working hours.

– Track your tasks and keep in touch with your team.

– Take short breaks to get a little exercise or to have some rest.

– Arrange a cosy working place with a comfortable chair, table or armchair; open windows to ventilate the room.

P.S. What is the advantage of switching to work from home mode? “I’ve trained my cat to bring the ball”. 🤣

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