Business as Usual as DDSN Work from Home

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Friday 13 March, 2020
by Danielle Kennedy

Continuing Support from DDSN While COVID-19 Affects Us All

Possibly more than most businesses, digital agencies like ours are well equipped and prepared to work as a distributed team.  

In fact DDSN already works as a distributed team. You may not notice it in your day to day interactions with us, but a large portion of our team regularly or permanently works from remote desks and offices distributed throughout Australia (and sometimes overseas). We work hard to make working with us seamless for you. 

Next week, we're planning to completely close our head office in Melbourne and have all staff working as a distributed team from home offices, as warranted by some health advisory warnings. Your hosting, support, and digital services will continue uninterrupted, as we have prepared in advance for our entire team to be fully functional from a business perspective throughout, no matter where they're working from. Our preparations include seamless and secure access to data and development platforms, as well as individual health and safety considerations for each staff member's personal work environment.

We run our phones on Skype for Business, so you can contact us on the regular DDSN number from where ever we are. We use Goto Meeting for online conferences, so get used to us sharing those links with you for our meetings.

There are some actions you can be taking right now and tools you can put in place to ensure enhanced effectiveness of your staff working from their homes during voluntary or enforced social distancing.

Suggestions and How DDSN can Help

  • Plan your home page announcement now so your audience know your company or organisation's policy or approach. e.g. https://newcollege.unsw.edu.au/
  • Plan other communications including electronic direct mail (email) or push messages into your mobile app to make sure your customers and clients know whether or not your locations are open or if your service is continuing. 
  • Outsourcing of communciations and content work can help. If you find yourself short staffed due to staff illness, we at DDSN can fill in gaps for your website or mobile app updates or emergency messages. 
  • Digitizing workflows normally undertaken by a human can help alleviate stress normally absorbed by manual human interactions; application or reporting forms for example can all be digital. If you are short staffed, look for quick wins to keep things going.
  • Get the most out of your existing tools. You may be using Office 365 but not turned on Microsoft Teams, for example. Now is the time to explore what you can put in place. Or if the Microsoft tools are too hard to manage, we can "spin up" tools like a dedicated team chat or online file sharing system for you.
  • If you don't have the digital work tools you need, think about what activities you want to keep going and what you might need. Possiblities are team chat, task managers, intranets, internal file sharing, forms, or timesheet tools.
  • Security of your information and communication workflows should always be a serious consideration, even when acting quickly during emergency periods. See more about the way DDSN keeps your information secure whilst working as a distributed team below.

Should you need to do something new or extra with DDSN during this time, the same process applies as usual.

Ask through the DDSN Help Desk and if it's urgent contact us as always on 03 9533 8800 during office hours or our after hours mobile number for emergencies. 

Thoughts on Working as a Distributed Team

One digital agency who we work with from time to time has written a great blog on the topic that I recommend you read,  Preparing for business *not* as usual by Marty Drill at Luminary.

Having a distributed team works for us, but getting the procedure right has been a learning process over the past 4 years. In addition to what Marty discussed in his blog, if you take this step to distribute your team to their home offices the biggest recommendation we have is - communicate, communicate, communicate. Don't rely on email. Don't let your staff feel isolated.

Here is what DDSN do and what tools we use to work effectively when our team members work from different locations:

  • We have on our intranet home page a banner that outlines all our digital tools and how they are used in combination.
  • We start the day with a work in progress meeting (some people call it a "stand up" or a "scrum" - it's a "WIP" to us) - 10-15 min, to get everyone on the same page.
  • We chat openly and constantly throughout the day using a team messaging platform. We run Rocket Chat behind our own DDSN.net firewall so that it's robust and secure, never shared outside our own boundaries. This allows conversation style communications throughout the day, the stuff you'd otherwise drop by each other's desks to chat about. There are cloud based alternatives (e.g. Slack) but we use a self hosted product to fully secure communciations about the work we do with you, our clients, and to better integrate with our other digital tools.
  • We run a longer weekly video conference where we share screens, manage project and engagement priorities and planning documents.
  • We have a team task list on our intranet, and kanban task boards for each project to make it clear who is taking responsibility for each task so nothing slips between cracks in communication. Again there are flexible cloud based alternatives but we believe strongly in the security, flexibility, and cost effectiveness of integrated, self hosted solutions. Our internal  Wekan installation is open source task manager that we can host on DDSN.net servers, it has a ticket function, list view & kanban board views. 
  • We have the DDSN Help Desk to make sure communication with our clients is clear and the whole team has visibility. It's integrated with our intranet under the hood. The help desk is built on cm3 Acora CMS on DDSN.net servers to secure our communication with you.
  • We have timesheets built on cm3 Acora CMS on DDSN.net servers to make sure the distributed team are accountable for their time no matter where they're working from.
  • For maximum security, centralised management, workflow optimisation, and speed of access to complex digital resources, none of our staff members work directly from personal laptops or computers. Everyone connects via a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) to virtual computers managed by our IT team, operated behind our office firewall. This ensures a consistent digital working experience from any connection point, speed of access to our terabytes of intranet data, and assurance that all data stays behind our own firewalled security boundaries.
  • We have an intranet built on cm3 Acora on DDSN.net servers for storage of project plans, meeting minutes, technical specifications, files and documents, launch plans etc... permanent, centralised, easy to search knowledge about our work with you.

This is not a prescriptive solution, it's just how we work. Your business may need additional services during the next period, you may find yourself short staffed, or require digital tools to allow remote work from your teams. We're here to help.