The Journey to a Remote Team

Azuro’s journey to remote working started in 2015 when we adopted Office 365 for email, document storage and collaboration, with Skype for Business for chat and calling. Thank goodness we’ve moved on from there to Microsoft Teams. The reasons for us adopting these tools are varied, but they were primarily about reducing the internal support burden, disaster mitigation and convenience.

The first objective was to reduce our support burden. We were maintaining our own Exchange Server, a file server, an on-premises SharePoint server, an on-premises TFS (Team Foundation Server), on-premises database servers (SQL) and on-premise CRM server (Dynamics CRM prior to being renamed to Dynamics 365). This meant lots of server hardware, virtual machines and infrastructure overhead. We were experiencing frequent power outages and our hardware was aging, so we had to decide whether to invest in additional hardware to mitigate the power problems and to support newer versions of software, or to make an alternative plan.

We opted to migrate all of our core business services to the cloud as it would reduce the internal support burden with fewer servers to maintain, it would mitigate the power failure risks as the services are no longer hosted in our office and we would not need to upgrade the power mitigation options for our team, as we could work from elsewhere if the office lost power due to a power failure. By adopting Office 365 we replaced the file and SharePoint servers with SharePoint and OneDrive, we replaced our Exchange Server with Exchange Online and our Dynamics CRM server with Dynamics 365. We also migrated our TFS server to Visual Studio Online (now Azure DevOps). This meant we only needed a database server for our accounting package, so we migrated the accounting database to Azure SQL.

Once we were fully deployed to the cloud, the next hurdle was to understand how to better manage a team that is no longer in the same place every day. We realised that we needed better metrics than the old consultant metric of hours logged vs hours billed. Being a delivery-oriented business, we developed a set of KPIs based on story points completed. Since our sprint boards are deployed to the cloud on Azure DevOps, we were able to automate the production of KPIs, and grant our customers access to their projects ensuring greater transparency and collaboration in the delivery process.

Fast forward to 2020. The world is in crisis with a global pandemic that’s ground almost all travel to a halt and confined most people to their homes. For Azuro, this just meant switching off the lights in the office and letting everyone continue from their homes. Of course, there are challenges, but most of them relate to environmental issues such as intermittent connectivity issues and expensive data costs. All in all, the transition to fully remote has been largely uneventful and we mitigate the isolation issues by maintaining an open “chat channel” on our Teams for anyone to dial into and touch base and connect with whomever else is online. We recommend that our team members have their video on during any calls to increase the connection with the rest of the team. All non-delivery members have been invited into the stand-ups to enable them to remain in touch with the daily operations of the business.

We’ve been advocating a shift in consulting behaviours for quite some time and are encouraged by how well our team and customers are adapting to the new normal. The ease of this transition would not have been possible without the adoption of great tools and our preparedness with the processes to support them.

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