By Scio Team
The way we conceptualize work is changing, first as a result of the pandemic, and second as a result of technology letting us do something unthinkable a mere five years ago. The result is a landscape where a lot of organizations are more willing than ever to adapt to their collaborators, offering ways to work that strike a better balance between their personal and professional lives.
However, what does this balance mean? Because the more we think about changing our actual practices, the more challenges and conundrums appear in the need of a solution. And the software industry, as one of the leaders in this evolution of the workplace, is experimenting with ideas more than ever to hit the specific balance between work, personal life, and the needs of a given project.
A right to disconnect
A lot of buzzes were heard when France, back in 2018, began to implement the so-called “Right to Disconnect”, a legal framework aimed at protecting workers from retaliation if they choose to not attend calls after their shifts. As proposed, this regulation showed that “work” as we knew it was starting to evolve, as more and more tasks in a company started to need a kind of specialization that sometimes could not be accomplished in the traditional 9-5 office hours.
This fostered a culture of being “always-on”, which could not be healthy or sustainable at all in the long run. After all, a good outcome for any project could come from an exhausted team that always had to be ready and reachable? The Right To Disconnect tried to solve this, with mixed results.
“We have our best ideas in unexpected places, at unexpected times. Excelling in today’s economy thus demands short bursts of intensive thought followed by seemingly unproductive – yet necessary – lulls. Nourishing such approaches requires workplace flexibility, not regulatory rigidity; depriving skilled professionals of these practices by telling them exactly when and how to work also deprives them of potential opportunities to create value”, says this article by the non-profit policy research organization R Street.
So, even if the intent of these legal frameworks is desirable and necessary, it could be argued that they also fail to solve many of the intricacies of working in industries like software, where different dynamics are at play. Programming, for example, is as much of creative activity as it is a technical one, trying to solve complex puzzles as efficiently and elegantly as possible in a given timeframe.
This means that, even if everyone obviously needs time to rest and relax, the idea of rigid boundaries to solve a programming challenge during a project is closer to the idea of “mandatory fun” than keeping a healthy boundary, with some companies even going as far as disabling emails and chat programs to ensure their workers comply.
“While some procedures, like taking the email server offline, will help to ensure that all employees are on equal footing, this approach may have unintended adverse consequences on employees with flexible work arrangements. Many caregivers, for instance, handle family responsibilities during the day and resume work after hours. IT departments will need to navigate these issues with human resources and user departments”, claims the HR blog First Reference in this article.
This same quote, however, points out a solution that can keep boundaries clear, without enforcing a total disconnect that can result in counterproductive outcomes: flexibility. As the pandemic rages on, and we rethink what work is, the idea of flexibility starts to become more than choosing to work from home or going to the office on a given day; is the ability, up to a point, to set our schedules, our times, or to select to collaborate with an organization that closely aligns with ourselves.
We’re here for you
Thanks to the rise of remote work, the possibility of working with clients abroad in tech hubs like Silicon Valley and Austin without having to lose boundaries or sleep is closer than ever thanks to Nearshore development companies like Scio. But what distinguishes a Nearshore, exactly?
Nearshore companies are getting popular lately, and it’s easy to see why: the whole idea is to offer outsourced development services within the time zone that matches the clients as closely as possible. Being located in Mexico, Scio works mainly with clients based in the US, collaborating with tech firms on projects with all kinds of challenges to solve, without needing the odd working hours that might result from working with a client in Europe or Asia.
This results in a close collaboration that still leaves room for boundaries, as the working hours of the team and the clients are the same; in fact, the schedules offered by Scio make sure there’s overlap in the middle of the day while leaving every developer to choose when to begin and stop working.
“Some of our clients realized that their developers not only can come from Wisconsin, Wyoming or Missouri; they are finding an enormous amount of talent available in Mexico and other LATAM countries that have no problem whatsoever connecting remotely to collaborate”,
“We can see that in our more recent applicants, who value these opportunities and are more than ready to join from anywhere in the world. Our focus is on certain time zones that are not too far apart from our clients, but Latin America as a whole has opened as a software development possibility like never before.”Tells Rodimiro Aburto, Service Delivery Manager at Scio.
This results in the possibility of expanding the scope of things you develop and learn from, while still maintaining real-time communication with clients in other countries entirely, and without having to adjust your working hours to maintain the same boundaries you are used to, because of the idea of a Nearshore company is to offer convenience in collaboration and communication for both clients and developers, giving you the space to work as you feel best, while maintaining the excellence in outcomes that’s expected in these projects.
“So, what Nearshore comes to offer is the flexibility in which a Development Lead can chat in real-time with a collaborator in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, or Honduras, for example, as a full member of their team while keeping the healthy boundaries in hours that having the same time zone brings”, finishes Rodimiro.
We hope that this article has helped to introduce you to the possibilities of Nearshore outsourcing and shown you how Scio can provide a valuable solution for your business needs. Our team is passionate about creating healthy boundaries for our collaborators while still providing the flexibility needed in the modern workplace. If you are interested in learning more, please send us a message. We would be happy to discuss our services with you and answer any questions you may have. Thank you for taking the time to read our article!
The show must go on: Developing a venue booking app with UPick
As the year winds down, it’s time to look back and celebrate all of our achievements of 2021, the challenges and the goals we conquered, and the clients whose projects we helped to become reality.
This time, let’s take a look at the story behind the development of the UPick app, which had the goal of creating a useful and reliable booking tool for both venues and artists, and how we helped them bring that dream from concept to a product you can use today. Enjoy!
What goes into making a good idea into reality? For the creators of UPick, it meant finding a reliable team that could build upon their idea, understand the concept completely, and offers the best technical know-how to bring it from paper into every smart device you can imagine. The beginning was simple enough; back in 2020, a couple of friends were looking into an area of opportunity no one else seemed to be exploring yet: what if you could simplify the process to book a show for a venue through an app?
The pandemic gave them a wide-open window to implement a solution for an industry that felt the consequences of this crisis deeply. Live shows account for nearly 50% of the music industry’s revenue, so six months into the pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum, shutdowns had already cost venues around the world 10 billion dollars in sponsorships and ticket sales, with no end in sight.
But with vaccination rates increasing, it was probably a good time to try and bring shows back, and UPick’s creators thought that an app that offered a quick way to reconnect performers with venues had some fertile ground to grow.
So, in February 2021 they started considering Scio as a partner, looking for developers who could create this app from scratch, decide the full scope of the final product, and make important decisions about the direction of the platform.
This was the first time our clients worked with Nearshore developers, and the advantages of having a fully experienced team equipped and ready to roll inside your own time zone became invaluable, keeping the costs of development down without sacrificing quality.
Since our clients had never been involved in a project of this size, constant communication to decide the specifics of UPick was critical, going from things like how to monetize the service, to the best hosting platforms to use.
Typically, development at Scio consists of a 5-step plan designed to arrive at a solution in the most productive way possible. Understanding users and their needs, as well as the objectives and constraints of the app itself, was Step 1. Step 2 involved analyzing the requirements of the app in order to trace a plan for the UX/UI and architecture of the platform. Then, Step 3 is pure Agile Development, up to the official launch, which was Step 4. And after the kick-off, is a matter of support to ensure the quality of the app, giving ongoing maintenance and adding features as a Step 5.
The Scioneers chosen were a Programming Lead who developed the architecture of the app, a UI designer tasked with creating a comfortable and stylish interface, another one assigned to create a search bar and review functions within the app, and a QA lead who would make sure everything worked perfectly.
Communication was key. Thanks to daily scrums, a core pillar of our process, we walked our client through the progress of the project, needing nothing more than 15 minutes every day to discuss the changes and challenges that surfaced, as well as what we accomplished, every week.
Here, we solved tons of questions born during development, like “how will a band schedule a show?”, “how will refunds work?”, and “how will the venues and bands make deals?” to more technical matters, like choosing a cost-effective hosting solution (AWS in our case), implementing login credentials from Apple, Spotify, and social media (including some necessary workarounds), to selecting the best payment processor.
Also, as we briefly mentioned, the business plan of the app had to be revised entirely once the booking process was decided, as Upick could easily be cut out from the deal between venue and performer, and our team took care of that.
The biggest breakthrough was deciding to make UPick a “progressive application”, where a web portal could function as an app with consistency across devices, like desktops and smartphones, making it as convenient as possible.
Then features were added, like the ability to share photos, videos, setlists, and even playlists from Spotify, and we had to rethink the way bands could contact venues as our understanding of these deals grew.
Progress went smoothly until finally reaching our Minimum Viable Product, where one of UPick’s users, whom the client showed a preview, managed to run all of their bands through the platform before it was 100% finished, which not only showcases the talent of our team but also made the customer base excited about the final product.
All in all, by September the app was ready to be launched, a whole project contained within the chaotic year of 2021, where Scio was able to offer the exact solutions UPick was looking for. A learning experience for both our team and our clients, we celebrate the effectiveness of Nearshore development, which can deliver no matter the circumstances.
The Key Takeaways:
- Since communication is crucial to make a product succeed, choose a development option that can communicate with you at the best time possible.
- It doesn’t matter if the details of your idea haven’t been ironed out yet, a good team will help you with those decisions.
- Development time of an app, depending on scope, doesn’t have to be too long. It took us around nine months to bring UPick from concept to reality.
- Some APIs are not very friendly, but there are always workarounds to any obstacle.
- If better ideas surge during development, it’s good to always voice them. The schedule might need to be reworked, but the final product is always going to be better.
The importance of soft skills in the workplace cannot be overstated, and doubly so for remote work, when coordinating a team you may not know in person is the core of a successful project. But how to apply those skills?
It’s no secret that managing an effective team requires a special kind of talent, one able to bring the best of every individual in the team, while also keeping everyone on the same page, looking at the same goals. In the old days, you could achieve it by having close proximity with your collaborators, keeping an eye on their needs and difficulties, and doing your best to lessen them to create an effective working environment.
But yeah, that was when the office environment was a given, and managing was a face-to-face affair. However, in the New Normal, where remote work is becoming commonplace, probably with coworkers living in entirely different continents, the skill set necessary to complete a well-done project is changing.
How do you communicate an effective company culture remotely? What do you need to manage talent through a screen? Here at Scio, where working remotely has been the norm since the very beginning (both with clients and collaborators), we know how important these skills are, and how they will become more sought after as this organization model becomes more commonplace.
1. Communicating through a Zoom call: More difficult than you think!
Hey, raise your hand if this situation is a tiny bit familiar to you:
Trying to make a joke on zoom – YouTube
Yeah. As we all know very well, conducting a videoconference is tough, as reading your coworker’s body language, emotions and predispositions are nearly impossible at a distance. Humans are social creatures, designed to pick up on gestures and the tiniest social cues while talking, and doing so through the barrier of a Zoom call is an important skill to attain.
That’s why implementing clear communication rules, and enforcing them effectively is so important. Simple etiquette rules (like turning the mic off when not speaking, giving space to questions and answers, or RVSP any invitation), assigning a person the specific task of conducting the call, as well as being clear if the call is more formal (i.e. presentations with clients) or informal (like a brainstorming session) can make a world of difference in the way a team functions.
Once your collaborators internalize these rules, further strategies will be easier to implement, and you will avoid awkward scenarios like that one.
2. The importance of choosing the right tools
“An artisan is as good as his tools”, the shared wisdom says. And that’s true whether you are talking about making a vase or developing a software app; selecting your tools well is just as important as the technical knowledge applied behind.
Zoom is a good example of the pros and cons of these tools. There are plenty of reasons why Zoom became the choice to work remotely during the pandemic (it’s friendly to use and offers a good range of basic options), but that doesn’t mean this software lacks drawbacks (like its lax security) you need to take into account.
The same is true for any tool you have at your disposal to manage teams and projects, and learning to choose and use them effectively is a valuable ability in any remote team. There are plenty of options to try and decide, but also don’t be afraid to discard anything that is not helping the team to reach their objectives.
Here at Scio, for example, beyond the usual suspects (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Trello, etc.) we developed some internal tools, like an internal guide with the names and positions of everyone in the company, or a proprietary clocking-in page, that we continually improve and tailor to fill the needs of our clients and developers, making sure all of our developers and collaborators have any piece of information they might need.
3. Remote company culture is possible
As we mentioned, certain skills are needed to do remote work well, and these will grow in importance as more projects realize the potential of Nearshore development. The importance of soft skills has grown in recent times, as being able to communicate with your team is just as important as the technical talent you have behind. So what do you need?
- Have clear expectations: For anyone joining an organization remotely, knowing exactly what’s required of them helps build boundaries and focus efforts on things that matter. Lay them out at the beginning, and should have no problems making everyone work towards the same goal.
- Create working structures: For remote teams, lack of structure on a given day can be an obstacle to productivity. That’s why good team leaders establish a clear schedule of deadlines and meetings and explain in certain terms where a particular collaborator fits into the workflow.
- Determine delivery: In a traditional office, the time in front of the computer seemed to be just as important as the work being delivered, which of course is unsustainable in a remote environment. This is why an effective manager keeps track of the actual output every review (let’s say, once a week), to determine the effectiveness of the collaborator, who can set their rhythm with flexibility. As long as the project delivers by the agreed deadline, everything else becomes unnecessary.
- Encourage social interactions: The best teams have chemistry and rapport behind their collaboration, and managing that remotely is truly a challenge. That’s why social interactions are important; celebrating important holidays, giving them channels to communicate freely, and organizing activities for fun help a lot and creates familiarity between co-workers that otherwise will never happen.
- Give ongoing feedback: Good feedback is the lifeblood of any team, and for remote teams, doubly so. Being gentle with it, but also effective and certain, is an important skill for everyone on a team (not only leaders), and learning how to give and receive feedback is critical to delivering better and better projects.
4. The Key Takeaways
So, what does this all mean? That the best remote teams are those with strong structural support behind that lets their talent be used to its maximum potential. So we can have these few takeaways of the soft skills behind an effective remote working environment
- Pure technical knowledge can only get you so far. Managing with a wide range of skills helps everyone feel part of a team in order to achieve objectives.
- Remote working needs certain flexibility to function, but firm boundaries keep the team focused and productive, from a simple call to delivering a whole project.
- A good company culture needs to be clear and well communicated, and implementing it effectively means the difference between a good team and a so-so one.
This is clear for us in Scio, as our Nearshore model is designed to use these methods to their fullest, and guarantee that any project you have in mind has the right team for you.