On the endless stream of video calls.
Like many office workers my day revolves around a series of conference calls1. I’m writing part of my weeknote over my morning coffee before the first of 5 hours of calls planned today. This isn’t a normal day in terms of the number of calls but the range is a good summary of my week overall. Here’s how things looked when I got to my final coffee.
- Quick check-in with our team of delivery managers. This is a substitute for the round of good morning exchanges we now don’t get from being in an office and a chance to pick up things if someone is off ill - not many, keeping fingers crossed.
- Daily stand up with one of our infrastructure teams. The team is pretty much self-organising but is swamped with demand so I am one of a few attendees who are there to pick off lower priority items so they can be handled more efficiently later. This might mean working with the customer to get their request prioritised appropriately and fill in missing information that the infrastructure team will need to do the work.
- Resource management call which is a daily version of what we used to do before the crisis. We look at work being impacted by absence or incidents and make quick decisions about re-assigning people or work to protect the most important things.
- Incident management stand up. This is a new group sorting out medium term tools for our COVID-19 response teams. Initial focus is making life easier for our teams by getting our online tools working for them in practice. I have to confess, we haven’t put much effort into getting organised as a group but it is probably right to focus on the teams we are helping first. One of the ideas we discussed yesterday has been prototyped, demonstrated and will now be rolled out. It is quite a simple aid but will make things a lot easier for the people that need it. Hopefully we can keep up that kind of pace.
- Finishing off a round of tests of our system backups2. One example of a whole load of routine work for an IS team which has to keep going during these exceptional times.
- Planning session to reset one of our delivery teams. The planned work for this team has been cancelled or delayed due to the crisis but has not vanished entirely. We decided to keep the team going at a slower pace and reduced effort for now.
- A quick catch-up with people from a number of teams who have been getting our call-centre staff set up at home. Most of this work finished a couple of weeks ago but, as changes and refinements are made to our front-line services, this is a chance to check people have what they need and jump on any new requirements.
- We had the second session on closing projects in a more agile way and closed two more projects. Instead of a rigid process taking time from senior managers we are trusting our teams and having a quick discussion covering what work is left to do, the financial status and knowledge management (including what our service teams need to maintain what the project delivered). There are specific controls in place for all these areas already so project closure can be largely an administrative step. An idea we might introduce for the next session is to ask about the well being and development of the team.
- One quick call about an integration issue which has been escalated had to be put off because one of the key people had some caring responsibilities to attend to.
- Quick catch up with agile transformation allies to keep taking opportunities to improve things while the transformation is officially paused during the crisis. In fact some of the new ways of working are making a practical difference to our response efforts so there are quite a few win-wins. Who is behind that famous quote about never wasting a crisis?
A word about a good cause
It is a shame we have come to use the term “social distancing” because we actually want to stay close socially but keep our distance physically. Helping out friends, family and others in your local community can help us all get through the current crisis. At the moment some of the large volunteer schemes probably have more volunteers than they can use right now but it would still be useful to register3 if you are willing. After several weeks of not hearing very much my wife has now done her first befriending call with a vulnerable person near where we live.
If your family know you work in the IT industry you may well be the unofficial support engineer for everything from connecting up a WiFi printer for a grand parent to setting up a Minecraft server for a grandchild. We obviously can’t pop round to sort things out during the lock down so I have been using remote control tools4 to help members of my family from a distance. Remote controlling someone’s home PC is fraught with issues and shouldn’t be done without appropriate care but it might be better than leaving problems unresolved.
We are mostly using Microsoft Teams and the new virtual backgrounds have been fun this week but you still can’t upload your own as you can with Zoom. ↩
Good reminder of the need to do this sort of stuff for your personal IT kit and data. If you can’t recover from your backup then you have no backup. What do you use for your personal email? What would happen if there was a problem and you were cut-off for a few days. ↩