Acclimatising to COVID 19 restrictions
Head of Business
BJSS has become a complex business over the last few years. We operate across the UK, EU and USA via our twelve delivery centres and have grown to around 1,500 staff. It is testament to our organisational agility that we have been able to absorb change and adapt quickly, maintain delivery quality and continue working successfully with our broad range of clients.
So, how have the business and our people continued to operate so successfully?
Throughout March 2020 the situation changed regularly and rapidly, with new developments almost every day. BJSS’ response was guided by some clear intent: support our people, serve our clients with minimal disruption, put no one at personal risk. Supporting our people and clients was key – not only for the health of our business, but also because some of the systems that BJSS has built and continues to operate are critical national infrastructure – including those at the heart of the NHS.
This aim, of supporting clients without endangering staff, led to a decision to maintain a single location for all consultants – whether this was client site, or a BJSS office location. Stopping all travel between client offices and BJSS offices (and indeed between different BJSS locations) reduced the chance of cross-contamination, without undue impact on delivery.
As a result, by the time home working was all but enforced, virtual lines of communication were already established and working well.
Clear and regular communication
With a distributed workforce, communication is key. Regular and clear updates prevent a flow of misinformation and conjecture. Providing these updates over multiple channels is a twenty-first century necessity; as such, updates have been flowing over email, Slack, SMS message and Zoom meetings over recent weeks. BJSS TV, an internal initiative to keep our people engaged, has been broadcast live at least three times a week since before lockdown, with updates from Stuart and Glynn (our Managing Director and Chairman).
The Agile manifesto places great importance upon face-to-face communication – listing it above ‘working software’ in the list of principles. We have seen though, time and time again, that the strength of a team’s collaboration is more important than ‘face time’ in delivering great outcomes.
Just as important, however, is trust. If you can trust your team to care about client outcomes, they will find a way to deliver – even outside the office environment. BJSS has, for a long time, had a culture of trusting our consultants to manage their own time. This is now paying dividends.
Self-forming teams at BJSS have found numerous innovative ways to keep communicating – including dedicated ‘BJSS TV channels’, virtual ‘drop-in kitchens’ for socialising, discovering new multi-player whiteboard tools and more. None of this has been driven top-down, but through our innovative staff finding new ways of working, and then sharing these discoveries with the wider business.
We are fortunate that the tech industry is ready for remote working like never before. We have superfast broadband and mobile networks, video conferencing, and group messaging such as Slack, which supports genuine humour and individualism.
Whilst we cannot be sure how long the lockdown period will last, we are proud that we continue to deliver exceptional outcomes on existing engagements, while also being able to mobilise new teams and start new work.
We are rolling out knowledge-sharing on how to run fully remote user research, remote discovery phases, and remote Agile ceremony best practice. We have plans for virtual Town Halls, virtual community events, continued virtual socials and continued dialogue with our clients.
Thanks to the above initiatives, the impact of taking 1,500 delivery consultants out of a co-location environment into their own homes has been minimal. We’re confident that with our culture of continuous improvement, BJSS will emerge stronger at the end of this lockdown.