What we anticipated being a two-week lockdown turned into a year-long affair. Our situation was not unique. COVID-19 upended businesses around the world and forced us all to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our businesses.
At Vade Secure, the sudden shift to remote work challenged us in ways that made us question our current methods and seek new processes and technologies to optimize operations. These three lessons made a lasting impact.
Only the agile survive
Prior to COVID-19, we already had remote-work infrastructure in place. As a SaaS company in the cybersecurity space, being remote-friendly is critical not only to daily operations but also to recruitment. To be competitive in this space, we need to recruit the best talent; the best talent expects the best in return. We’ve offered flexible, remote work from our inception for this reason.
Despite having the infrastructure in place, we had to move quickly to transition to 100% remote. The technology was there, but the routines were not. The days of stopping a colleague in the hall or around the water cooler to ask a question ended abruptly. We had to reassess our current routines and create new ones. This required considerable agility, both from a technological perspective and a people perspective.
What works for IT doesn’t work for engineering. Rather than make broad, company-wide changes, managers adjusted their routines based on the unique characteristics of their teams. From structured meetings to informal communications channels, routines and rituals were adjusted to meet the needs of each team.
Though daunting, the process revealed remarkable agility among our staff and executive team. We were able to respond quickly to unexpected circumstances and develop new processes and methods of working. There were challenges, naturally, but we learned that we are agile enough to meet them and that we have a team that is willing and capable of rolling with the changes. These are key differentiators in a highly competitive space.
Communication is vital to company health
As a mid-sized company, our previous methods of communications were at times informal, which isn’t conducive to remote work. Additionally, we knew that our staff was likely on edge because of the pandemic, so we had to move fast to mobilize communication across the business.
We immediately set up Teams channels for our various departments, as well as topic-specific channels where staff could ask questions and receive quick responses. Additionally, to keep the mood light, we created remote-work-themed channels that were fun and interactive, including a quarantine picture contest, remote work best practices and tips, and recommendations for surviving quarantine.
We also streamlined communications from management and the executive team to ensure that we were providing internal communications at regular intervals. This includes what are now monthly rather than quarterly town halls, tech talks where our technologists share what they’re working on, and more personal chat sessions, which I hold in groups of five to six across the different regions.
Finally, we deployed an internal survey to determine strengths and weaknesses in our remote work environment as well as challenges our employees were experiencing. We provided additional financial support to procure additional equipment for our employees’ home offices and invested in an e-learning platform to expand training opportunities.
Redundancies are costly
It was obvious from the start of lockdown that we had some redundancies in our technology stack, especially in our communications tools. Before COVID, this was known, but solving the issue was not a priority.
The internal survey revealed that these redundancies were causing confusion and distractions. Different teams were using different tools—multiple tools in some cases—and staff were jumping from one platform to another to participate in conversations and ask questions. Redundancies are not only counterproductive but expensive. Like most companies, we found ourselves asking, “Why do we have so many tools?”
We migrated our chat, meeting, and team collaboration tools to a single platform. This was a significant project for an already busy IT team, but it could no longer be ignored. With the exception of a single platform for dev and engineering communications, we now have a single tool for chat, meetings, and team collaboration. The result is more streamlined communications with better efficiency, fewer tools, and lower costs.
An eye toward the future
The year that no one expected taught us valuable lessons about our company that we otherwise might have learned too late. Although challenging and, at times, distressing, it inspired new ways of working that we will utilize well into the future. We are fully confident that we have the people and technology in place to meet what comes next.