By Jeff Haynes and Jim Fox, Baker Tilly
Have you been working from home for the past month and a half? With remote work now a part of our national conversation, our partner Baker Tilly wanted to share some of their tips. Learn more about them at their website.
Is your project team working from home in this “sequestered world”? Don’t let that slow you or your critical project down! Two recent examples from our clients indicate major projects can continue, and even kickoff, during these unprecedented times. From these successful virtual project phases, we have assembled tips and hints that should convince and equip you to push forward, even when the dog is barking, the kids are bored, and your hair is a mess!
Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC) is a global financial services organization in New York City, with offices in 16 countries. Having already kicked off a project to implement Oracle Recruiting Cloud (ORC), and after conducting several onsite design sessions, it was time to move into User Acceptance Testing. Traditionally, these sessions are hosted in large conference or training rooms, where users test the tools following scripted activities and workflow. How does this type of meeting happen virtually for 30 people, allowing for breakouts, over the shoulder guidance and most importantly valuable user feedback? The success here really came from preparation and effective use of technology. The test scripts were sent out well in advance so testers could get familiar with the instructions and the workflow, and all testers were asked to log in 15 minutes prior to start time to work through any logistical issues. The team sent specific calendar invitations with WebEx instructions for testers to participate in specific job related testing events throughout the day. Within WebEx, a “panel” was created where testers could ask questions of the experts, and other testers could see the Q&A’s.
One of the world's top universities with over 17,000 students and about 14,000 faculty and staff located within close proximity to each other. They were one of the first organizations to take action to limit close physical contact, close their campus, move course work online, and sent thousands of staff home to work remotely. After several months of preparation to kick-off a large Oracle Talent Management Cloud project, postponing was not an option. Therefore, the decision was made to move to an online virtual project for the foreseeable future. The success of this kick-off came from emphasizing human, personal interaction through technology. Both Baker Tilly and our client were familiar with virtual work and with Zoom technology. With some preliminary testing and preparation, we were confident that a virtual kickoff was doable. Since this was the first time for most of the participants to meet one another, it was important to facilitate video introductions to simulate a live meeting. Tips were given ahead of time on the setup of Zoom, cameras to be on, mics muted unless speaking, find a quiet spot, etc. Even the icebreaker was tailored to the situation: “what do you most wish you had at home with you right now”. Answers ranged from a personal chef, to an espresso machine, to a kid friendly mansion! All told, approximately 40 people successfully met, greeted, shared stories, aligned on objectives, planned resources, assessed risks and began the work of designing goal-setting and performance management for this institution.
Set a clear agenda: Set clear goals, prepare an easy to digest, time specific agenda, and clearly explain the importance of timeliness. Allow more time than you normally would. Plan for participants to join at different times based on the content being covered. Anticipate the need for smaller breakout sessions. Allow for breaks in the agenda where participants can move away from the keyboard/video and adhere to a punctual return time.
Prepare for distractions: Prepare for distractions (kids, dogs, etc.). Find a good place (quiet, uncluttered). Make sure you have a strong internet connection. Occasionally, the technology can be a distraction – strange audio, or pixelated visuals, etc. It happens—move on quickly. Set expectations for mics to be set to mute unless speaking.
Get comfortable with your technology: Test run whatever platform you are on so that time isn’t spent unnecessarily dealing with logistics. Also, try to simulate multiple simultaneous logins to predict how the platform will behave with a heavier load. In addition to the conferencing technology, be prepared to save materials on a shared drive or other platform for collaboration. Generally, two monitors are best for viewing both participants and content.
Be human: Interact as you would in any business meeting—just do all the things you would normally do. Ask questions, share thoughts, scratch your nose, stand up and stretch if you need to. Stay engaged and be proactive to engage others. Call on your colleagues for input, set up polling questions to have them read/react to what’s on the screen. You can even ask fun or trivia questions along the way to keep people interacting. Be real, but remember to comb your hair and lose the gum (often the camera on a laptop displays a much closer view of one’s face—how do you want to be remembered?).
On behalf of Baker Tilly, we hope these examples of successes we’ve had with remote project work encourage you to continue with your endeavors. Today’s technology affords us the opportunity to do many things, from nearly anywhere. But what keeps us engaged is the sense of service to one another and a purpose beyond ourselves. We need to interact, we need to be productive and we need to share success. So, lock yourself in the bathroom to escape the kids and the dog, throw on the company softball cap and call your associates on a video chat—they will likely be in the same place!