Remote Engineering at Mosadex
Xpirit has been working remotely for customers for years. "Before you can start sharing the advantages of remote working, you need to gain a client's trust,” Xpirit explains. Mosadex, a company that supplies pharmacy chains, also known as a pharmacy wholesaler, gave us that trust.
Remote working turns out to offer more structure. Because people can't just walk over to each others' desks, they need to schedule a meeting.
At Mosadex, a strategic program is currently being created, and plans are being made to launch innovative projects. These innovations are necessary to save money, remain competitive, and offer pharmacies and customers the best services.
Since Mosadex doesn’t have a development unit, these innovations are outsourced. Internal units and external suppliers collaborate in a DevOps manner. Mosadex doesn’t have its own IT department, but it does have Product Owners and Project Managers. Working in a DevOps way enables Mosadex to gain control over their product management. In total, every day, 80 people work on, implement or build Mosadex’s unique products.
Mosadex asked Xpirit to fulfill the roles of Enterprise Architect, DevOps Coach, and DevOps Accelerator. “Our value lies in accelerating existing activities. Our clients have little to no experience doing this. We do,” according to Xpirit’s Maira Camu, DevOps Accelerator, and part of Mosadex’s strategic program.
Xpirit’s team was involved in all Mosadex’s 22 innovative projects from the very start. The six consultants set up teams and enabled third parties to work with the system. Xpirit set the stage by looking at how the projects’ integral architecture comes together and ensuring suppliers are in sync and the pieces of the puzzle fit. At the moment of writing, all of this is done remotely.
Mosadex: ”We see the unique value and identity of every one of Xpirit’s consultants. Every team member accelerates the project in their own way.”
Initially, some online consultations did take place, but Mosadex wasn’t fully equipped to work remotely. As with any other traditional way of working, people spent much time driving from location to location. “I believe remote engineering has opened Mosadex’s eyes to the working online, and not being in the same place at the same time doesn’t have to be a problem. Remote working enables people to make better use of their time and kick back and relax now and then,” Maira adds.
All Accelerators are part of a team that supports the transition Mosadex is currently going through. A team that is here to support all 22 projects. Maira: “Within these project teams, people move from a so-called waterfall organization to an Agile way of working. The teams have made great progress through Digital Accelerator and training sessions, in which everyone was able to participate and learn.”
How do you build a team that works well together remotely?
Maira: “Normally, you start with a sprint 0 or a sprint kick-off in person. Because of Corona, we had to do this online. We looked at the goals we wanted to achieve and mapped essentials, which were then turned into digital alternatives, like coffee rooms, break-out rooms, and digital boards. We gathered insights into flow and defined the time people can focus and when they need to take a short break. For example, people who have children and work from home will need more than 30 minutes to have lunch. Think of it as offering work-life balance support. We created a weekly schedule and used sprint 0 to involve all stakeholders in a creative and fun way. Something we continued to do throughout all sprints and retros that followed.”
Remote versus traditional
Live event storming sessions require people from all over the country to come together. Planning a meeting like this needs to be done in advance and isn’t always easy. When the session is online, more people can join on short-notice, because it requires less traveling time.
When forming a team, personal contact is required. To create and maintain a relationship, Mosadex’s teams get together (online) for a coffee and a chat about anything but work. Once a week, you can join your colleagues for an online lunch. Additionally, regions are clustered, so people from the same area can meet in person for a drink or a walk. Some retros are considered teambuilding moments, activities are organized outside, and social distancing rules are respected.
When Xpirit started working with Mosadex in January, remote working was no option. But when the circumstances left us no other choice, Mosadex quickly adapted and even begun to see the opportunities and advantages of collaborating online. It inspired the company to think outside of the box and kickstarted additional innovations. “Some digital sessions are even more valuable than they were in real life,” Mosadex adds.
The Do's and Don'ts of remote working
• We recommend a social check-in before the meeting officially starts. In a typical office setting, we are always very inclined to ask how things are going. When we’re meeting online, we sometimes forget the importance of that question. Ask each other how you are doing before you start discussing the to do’s. Keeping it human is essential!
• Back to back scheduling doesn’t work well, because we all need some time to recharge. A break helps you consciously switch from one meeting to the next. Usually, this happens by walking from room to room, which gives you a little exercise and the opportunity to grab a coffee. Allow yourself, and your colleagues, at least 5 or 10 minutes between meetings.
• Are you in calls with teams all day? We agreed on a maximum of four 50-minute calls a day. We meet for 50 minutes but block an hour. That way, there’s ten minutes of free time between every call, with a maximum of four meetings a day. Day sessions consist of four 90-minute blocks, with breaks between each one. Effectively, we spend six hours together online. It’s a lot, but it works! To round off a day like this, we always leave the call open for 30 minutes after the last session to talk off-topic and share experiences.
• Last but not least, social rules. Set the stage! For instance, mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. Create space for each other. Let the other person talk, without interfering or all speaking at the same time. This can be challenging when you’re not in the same room, but it’s not impossible!