Remote Engineering at Kongsberg
With several international customers, Kongsberg being one of them, Xpirit has been fully equipped to work remotely for years. Our consultants are hired because of the expert knowledge they share with clients. Nowadays, this is all done remotely.
Remote engineering is not necessarily an advantage or disadvantage, merely a new approach you need to explore.
Xpirit has a longstanding relationship with Kongsberg, a Norwegian company that builds maritime simulators. Simulators are complex products, and guaranteeing high-quality is essential. This relationship started with Xpirit improving Kongsberg’s software quality checks. After that, the company asked us to guide and support their journey to Azure Cloud. At this moment, we are building a new cloud platform for Kongsberg’s 30-year old simulator. This will allow the company to offer a new type of simulation, and innovative additional services.
Of course, you can’t just move 30-year-old software to the cloud. Doing so requires extensive knowledge and state-of-the-art technology, from containerization and Kubernetes clusters in Azure to an assessment of the existing software and what is needed to become cloud-ready.
Roy Cornelissen, Cloud Software Architect at Xpirit: ”The simulators were built without a cloud in sight, so they need quite some work. We need to dive deep, address what will work and what will cause an issue, and adjust accordingly.” Roy is responsible for Kongsberg’s solution architecture; he designs and builds the software to solve problems and ensures the simulator will function in the cloud and is developed in a cloud-native way.
Moving to the cloud offers Kongsberg benefits, like new business models, tapping into a new market (SaaS > Software-as-a-Service), and overall, evolving in line with technology. Today, Kongsberg sells a large part of their simulators to schools. Students need to go to school to have access to the machines. With many students using the simulator, capacity challenges were arising. By switching to the cloud, schools can now provide online, on-demand simulation, whenever and wherever. Students log on to the portal, where exercises start from the browser. This way, they can practice for their exams from home and even take their test online in the future. This reduces the school’s costs and saves students time.
For Kongsberg, remote engineering is nothing new. With teams in Norway, the Netherlands, India, and Russia, they have worked like this for years. However, the technologies and tools available to make remote working (even) more efficient have changed. Remote engineering is becoming the new normal. Partly because of Corona, many people work from home now. Finding ways to make the most out of remote work is becoming increasingly important.
“Both employees and employers are gradually getting used to a situation where not everyone is at the office. There is growing confidence in this way of working as people see that things are going very well. Nevertheless, it is still exciting for companies to embrace remote engineering. It’s a matter of trust,” according to Roy.
One of the reasons Kongsberg opts for remote engineering is because it’s hard for them to acquire new talent. For instance, in Oslo, it’s not easy to find consultants with the knowledge and skills that Xpirit’s consultants have. Talent is spread thin. Kongsberg’s headquarters, and Product Owner and Developer, are located in Norway (Horten). The company’s development team is in India, offering great talent at an affordable rate. However, that team misses seniority. Xpirit’s consultants are here to fulfill the role of Senior Architects, with a focus on DevOps. Our task is to make sure the teams operate smoothly and contribute to the platform’s architecture. Besides that, we act as a role model for India and ensure all teams successfully adopt new technologies. Kongsberg is pleased that Xpirit is living up to expectations and bringing its cloud vision to life.
Roy elaborates: ”We know how to approach the transition from an architecture perspective. How to build it, bring it into production, and make it work (the entire DevOps cycle). We encourage Kongsberg to embrace a new way of thinking and working with DevOps, to deliver value continuously.”
One of the benefits of remote working is the ability to tap into talent in many different ways and work with the best people worldwide. It does require you to organize remote engineering accurately, which comes down to choosing the right approach, technology, and collaboration style.
Roy: ”To enjoy a smooth sail, you have to pay attention to how you set up remote engineering. For instance, using Agile or Scrum and visualizing processes with a Kanban board to create an overview of what has been done and what still needs doing. The essence of engineering doesn’t change by working remotely, as long as we make sure that the whole team is on board. It’s important to keep each other updated and perhaps make more notes than you would otherwise.”
The client will usually have a Project Manager to guide ongoing projects, and management will take care of the bigger ones. An experienced Product Owner is needed to define priorities and create a clear vision of the product’s direction, which will then be further evaluated from a technical perspective.
Remote engineering is not necessarily an advantage or disadvantage, merely a new approach you need to explore. It’s a different way of working because there are no real-life meetings. Instead, there’s a screen between you and your colleagues, and WiFi might not always be the best. Non-verbal communication is less spontaneous and occasionally challenging, especially when it comes to direct feedback. So you have to get used to this way of interacting. To sustain the team spirit, Kongsberg’s team gets together once a year to meet in person and work on teambuilding.
Roy: “Every morning, we have a daily Scrum stand-up call. Thirty minutes in which we discuss the current status. That way, we ensure we are all up-to-date. Based on this, sub conversations and ad hoc calls will occur to chat about specific problem areas in detail. Sometimes we spend the whole day on the phone and share our screen for pair programming with a colleague on a specific subject”.
As Scrum prescribes, every Sprint is followed by a demo. During the demo, we evaluate what was built, what the next Sprint entails, and what needs improving. Of course, we now do this online using conference tools, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, which also enable you to record the demo and share it with the rest of the organization. This way, you can show management and other stakeholders what you have done and what progress you made. By sharing, you receive valuable feedback you would not get if this update stayed within the team. This is just one way new technologies and methods of working create new opportunities to work together and inform each other. With customer benefits as a result!
Are you keen to explore remote working and discover what doors can be opened for your company’s future success? We are more than happy to share our experience with you. Contact us for more information. www.xpirit.com/contact.