We’ve set up our teams, processes, and IT landscape so that we can serve our customers in an even more flexible and focused manner, while developing digital solutions (such as our TecDoc Catalogue). But how do agile teams at TecAlliance work when distance is a factor?
In the last part of our interview series, we spoke with Bryan Rozman, Agile Coach at TecAlliance, España SL, who supports us in our mission to deliver the best-in-class vehicle and replacement parts catalogue to our customers.
Bryan joined TecAlliance near the end of 2019.
Which agile method are your software development teams using?
The frontend team uses Scrum with 2-week cycles. Our back end deliverables are slightly different. We still function using a 2-week cycle, but our work is tracked using a Kanban board, as we have many more states to track in our process. We also omit many meetings that are standard fare in the Agile process, such as reviews, and refinements. They are best approached as meetings by exception in the back end´s workflows.
Did you usually work in the same place with your teams before Covid-19? Or, have you been working remotely from the beginning?
As a new employee, I worked, willingly, in the Tenerife office. The atmosphere there is casual, fun, and a lot like having a second family. I really looked forward to getting to work every day. Even then, we had key team members at multiple locations around the world, from Germany to North America. The arrival of the virus and the ensuing quarantine, didn´t really alter the work dynamics at all, as we continued to use the same tools we had before.
Do you have the impression that a fully remote approach reduces cohesion and increases inefficiency?
This, I think, is a cultural issue. I am ambivalent about working at one location or another. In my 25 years in the U.S. military, having electricity, air conditioning, and ready access to snacks is quite a novelty. Many of our team members (especially our Spaniards) value regular social activity very highly. Some, I think, took the first few weeks of our quarantine quite poorly and had to take some time to adjust to maintaining relationships at a distance, but their productivity never lagged.
My teams, without fail, continued to deliver, whether they were at home, or in the office. My job is to make sure that cohesion and efficiency remain the standard, not the exception. We have done pretty well considering all that has happened residually with the virus.
What do you think about the statement: “If the necessary technology is in place, a talented remote team can deliver just as much value as co-located teams”
I completely agree. In the military, I have had decades of experience working in what we like to call the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous) environment. In fact, even today, I expect that at any work situation I arrive at. In the Agile context, I provide the necessary organizational and decision support functions to ensure (regardless of talent) that everything runs smoothly, even if it is a VUCA event like the pandemic.
In fact, I think it has become quite old-fashioned to expect that work must be done in an office at a fixed location. In the U.S. it has become commonplace for employees to work from home, use their own devices and peripherals, and when needed come together through tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and that was years before the pandemic became an issue. Now, having to compensate for all the public health considerations, it would seem to me more logical to rely even more heavily on remote work. The technology to make that work, is already in place at TecAlliance, at least in my line of work.
What advantages do you see in working remotely?
I can work out between meetings, spend more time with my family, and have the flexibility to manage my affairs without consuming time and money in commutes. My last few years in the Army, I worked at the Pentagon. The Army Staff did not have a concept formalized for working from home. Even though I lived only 25 kilometers from the office, I took a car to a metro station, then a train to the bus station, which then delivered me to my office. It was about an hour each way. My experience working remotely has been much better here, all things considered.