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Category: Other (10 posts) [RSS]

Aug 21 2019

15 Ways Remote Companies Can Build Strong Teams

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Working remotely is great for many reasons: a bigger talent pool, better work / life balance, more focus and productivity. But it also has its challenges, with a need to implement more tools, processes, documentation and also put more effort into building a culture of transparency. Over the past 15 years we've been embracing flexible work, with people having the liberty to work either fully or partly remotely. In this article we explore some of the things we've learned and tips companies can follow to build stronger remote teams.

1. Communicate your story and the company vision

Telling your story and having a clear vision for your company are not only good for business, but they're also essential to your team's cohesion. The company story reminds people how you got there, while the vision statement sets the direction for the future. Defining the impact that the company wants to make on the world will also help the team better understand why their work matters and how their objectives align with the bigger picture. The goals for the vision are to inspire and engage the team.

2. Define your values

Values are the unique principles that inform how the vision will be achieved. Values should be clearly articulated and written down in a handbook, so everyone can read them as they on-board the team. Decisions should then be through the lens of the values. Since every new employee will have an impact on your culture, it’s important that you also recruit having those values in mind. Leaders should set the example by defining and then living by these principles. Values are not set in stone though, so as your team grows, you may want to reexamine them.

3. Organize work

Building the infrastructure that allows people to collaborate efficiently is essential. Teams should have access to different collaboration tools such as Slack, Mattermost or Riot for chat, XWiki for collaboration and knowledge management, Trello, OpenProject or GitLab for project and task management. At XWiki we use Riot to keep in touch with the team and we love it. It's very easy to use and it's open source. Not surprisingly, most of our work is organized in XWiki, customized with apps to make it fit our exact needs.

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4. Build a culture of transparency and knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing and solid processes should be at the heart of all distributed companies. They make onboarding easier and help drive transparency. Knowledge sharing also increases efficiency and minimizes friction as information becomes readily available for employees across different time zones.

At XWiki we try to document knowledge as much as possible, through product and project documentation, knowledge bases, FAQs, onboarding guides etc. A good rule of thumb is that whenever someone asks a questions on a chat the answers should point as much as possible to documents. Of course it's easier to post a direct answer on the chat, but it's more useful on the long run to store that answer in a document for later reference.

5. Recruit for soft skills, not just technical skills

When evaluating a potential employee it’s important to assess technical skills, but you should also look at soft skills and culture fit. Excellent communication and writing abilities are essential to thrive in a remote role.

Many distributed teams also find it useful to have the candidate do a small paid assignment before making a job offer. This will help the candidate get a better understanding of the job and it will help the team in better assessing the fit.

6. Make video calls

With non-verbal cues missing from written communication, using video as much as possible can be a good idea. While it doesn’t replace in person interactions, it does help eliminate some of the loneliness and isolation that some remote workers eventually face. Tools such as Zoom and Google Hangouts are great options for organizing video calls. In the future we might even work in a VR office altogether.

7. Have regular meetings

All hands are great for introducing new team members, making announcements, recognizing accomplishments, providing company statuses, answering questions. Many remote companies also have regular team meetings, project kick-offs and retrospectives, as well as daily “stand-ups”.

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8. Organize company retreats

Chat is great, but nothing beats real face to face interactions. Regular company retreats are great opportunities for people to consolidate relationships that are mainly built virtually. You can find out more about how we organize our annual retreat by reading this article.

9. Strive for balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication

The balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication is hard to achieve. For long discussions, important feedback and brainstorming, face time can be better. Async however is equally important when you’re trying to get into a state of flow and do the deep work. Many remote workers will say async is how they manage to get their work done. There are many ways of doing async, from email to chats, forums and comments. You just have to pick the tools and the ratio that work best for you and your team.

10. Encourage company traditions

It’s easy to celebrate events and set up traditions when people see each other every day in the office, but there are things you can also do as a remote team. Some ideas include celebrating birthdays, organizing hackathons and other challenges, going on company and team offsite retreats.

11. Have a virtual water cooler

When you’re working in a virtual environment, you may end up talking only about work. It’s also easy to forget taking breaks. However, informal chats that go beyond work are essential for building rapport, keeping healthy, energized and productive. Don’t be afraid to use emoticons and gifs to convey emotion.

Donut is a great Slack extension that randomly pairs people from different teams. They’re then encouraged to chat about their lives and get to know each other better.

12. Provide and collect regular feedback

Critical feedback should be delivered face to face as much as possible. This way you can also see all the non-verbal cues, which are not visible via chat or email. A good rule of thumb is that if a chat escalates or is taking too long, it might be worth doing a video call instead. Trusting the team and assuming miscommunication (not bad intentions) are good principles to live by.

Collecting anonymous feedback is a great way to measure team happiness and also to see what may be improved across the board.

13. Do one on ones

Leading your team in a remote culture requires a lot of pro-activity. Since impromptu conversations are less likely to happen, it’s important to schedule regular one on ones with the team. You should try not to turn one on ones into status updates though. Having a shared online agenda can help with keeping the conversations on track. Creating a list of actionable items at the end can help follow through with the points discussed.

14. Measure employee performance

In a remote setting, employees may spend much of their time wondering whether they’re actually doing a good job, particularly if they worked in a traditional setting before. Productivity can’t be measured in the number of hours spent in the office, so it’s important to focus on setting objectives and measuring output. Metrics, coupled with the team’s feedback and one on ones should provide the context for measuring and improving performance.

15. Invest in the mental well-being of your team

Without an office to go to every day, people may end up feeling disconnected. On top of that, Impostor Syndrome might start creeping in. It's the feeling that we don’t deserve what we’ve earned and that others will expose us as frauds. It’s particularly an issue with remote work, were people don’t get to see you at your desk everyday.

Keeping a record of accomplishments and providing/receiving timely feedback can help. Coworking spaces or professional networks can be great places to meet like minded people and have more face to face interactions. Many companies offer a coworking stipend.

Most remote employees have the liberty to organize their time according to their needs, which is one of the main perks. But that can also easily backfire if the team stay connected 24/7. Companies should encourage breaks and discourage overtime.

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If you’re interested in learning more about remote work, we also recommend:

As technology evolves, the way we think about work is being transformed and we’re bound to have more companies challenging the status quo and adopting a remote-first culture. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Silvia Macovei, Head of Cloud Business at XWiki

Aug 01 2016

Customisation & Personalisation: Similar, but different.

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Image by Geralt

Personalised consumerism as we know it today is the result of years and years of economic and technological changes and discoveries. The first concept of a personalised product has its roots just before the Industrial Revolution, when in the absence of mass production technology, people were, basically handcrafting everything, so the chances of something not being personalised were almost none. Soon after, technological advances have enabled big manufacturers to produce identical products, using a pattern, on cheaper prices so everybody migrated to this option. This phenomenon is known as mass-consumerism. The years between 1950’s and 1960’s have been crucial for the economy of scale and the mass manufacturing concept. The globalisation trend has enabled manufacturers to expand their activities on foreign markets, which had a direct impact on the amount of goods being produced. In the 1980’s, the consumer got bored of having the same looking product as everyone else and the concept of personalisation has been introduced.

From standard to custom
On a study conducted by Deloitte UK in 2015, 1 in 5 respondents affirmed that they would pay 20% more for a personalised item compared to a standard one. On the other hand, the same survey shows that only 42% of the consumers are keen on letting the brands propose the personalised options. The findings suggest that people are likely to offer more for a personalised product or service, but also expect to be tailored to their needs.

Customisation vs Personalisation
The software market has experienced the same change in buying behaviour, even more dynamically once with the introduction of custom made apps. It has become a norm for companies to develop custom build solutions for clients willing to pay the price. As an extension of the personalisation concept, the customisation idea has been created. Although, the vast majority of people don’t quite know the difference between customisation and personalisation, both concepts are looked for by customers from all sectors. In the customisation process, the user is expected to share his needs and expectations, while for personalisation, the company will adjust its offering based on the segment the client is part of, by predicting his interest.

Tailor-fit solutions, better results.
Here, at XWiki, we like to think about ourselves as a flexible company that produces custom based solutions, starting from a standard software, in order to tailor-fit each feature to the client’s exact purpose. Starting with understanding the specific needs of each particular organisation, we are able to adjust the highly customisable wiki, to meet even the most exigent expectations. During the past projects we have received favorable feedback as all our clients have experienced better performances. The most common are considered to be a higher level of efficiency and collaboration compared to the organisations implementing the generic software. Moreover, the same project was able to reduce the operating costs caused by bad data and weak communication within the organisation.

Our solutions
We are proud to underline two projects which required complex custom features that have been implemented on top of the XWiki’s default software:

The L’Union Sociale Pour L’Habitat resource centre is a customised knowledge database developed for a French government related confederation dedicated to supporting low income families. The design and UI are part of the customisation process, but the complex part consists in creating a special document structure on which using a customized workflow, juridic specialists are able to create and edit content. On top of that, the organization asked for a custom metadata filter which is able to sort documents based on some special characteristics.

The second example consists in a corporate intranet, developed for one of the top suppliers of electric energy in Brazil. Being used by more than 5000 users located in several cities, the solution has received a custom SSO login as well as a statistics tracking feature.

Customising a complex software in such a manner to meet the exact expectations is a challenge for both the technical and the design departments. Furthermore, getting custom features to function on a standard wiki solution requires communication between the client and the company, strong interdepartmental collaboration and lastly, but by no means least highly knowledgeable specialists, all this being able to be found at XWiki.

If you want to know more about our projects, check the References page or discover the USH business case.

George Nikolic
Marketing Specialist @ XWiki

Oct 09 2015

Safe Harbor is dead! What's next?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided to strike down the "Safe Harbor", a key legal principle that had enabled U.S. web giants (Google, Facebook and Apple) who operate in the European Union to store and manipulate the personal data of people living there.

The "Safe Harbor" was the result of an agreement from the July 26, 2000 in which the European Commission considered that the countries who signed the agreement, agreed to a level of protection in accordance with the European standards of personal data for the EU citizens.

But the Snowden case has changed everything. The massive NSA spying of the European citizen's data is a violation of the agreement, causing its end in the ruling of the CJEU. ...

Sep 30 2015

Could Open Source have prevented the Volkswagen scandal?

Since last week, no one could have missed the Volkswagen scandal in the headlines of the media.

Indeed, it seems clear that the German manufacturer has embedded in its vehicles a system to detect particle emissions controls and changed the results in order to comply with the law and the standards required by the EU and the United States.

This scandal raises the debate on the lack of transparency of the proprietary software used in the automobile sector and in the Internet of Things (IoT). ...

Sep 22 2015

How to implement a successful competitive intelligence strategy in 5 steps

In a global economy which is highly competitive and in a constant evolution, the competitive intelligence is a must have for any organization wanting to ensure its sustainability.

Investing time and money in a competitive intelligence strategy allows to:

  • Anticipate changes
  • Spot opportunities
  • Detect threats ...

Sep 06 2015

6 pieces of advice to encourage collaboration inside your company!

Teamwork is crucial within any organization. A good collaboration means to know how to share important information and knowledge within your company with all the team in order to improve your productivity. 

Your data being the core of your business, your teams, your customers and partners you work with, it should be available and easily accessible by everyone.

In order to foster collaboration in your company, you must reconsider your way of working:

1) Encourage freedom of expression

Creativity is stimulated in environments where people can freely express their opinions, without being afraid to be wrong, even if they are in a lower hierarchical position.

2) Appreciate the collective performance

The valuation and performance recognition systems often focus on individual performance. Although individuals want to be recognized for their personal contribution, a balance taking into account the collective performance should exist as well.

3) Facilitate the collaborative work

Sharing attachments in emails, as well as searching for documents throughout the desktop, cloud and enterprise servers can undermine collaboration between employees. Fostering collaboration in your company entails giving the right tools to your employees. Technology has evolved existing specialized tools nowadays that enable us to structure, centralize and share information more easily.

4) Don't overuse emails and choose a more advanced solution

Those who think that email could foster collaboration have it wrong. Email does not rhyme with collaboration, it is just a tool for communication. Technologies are evolving and there are many tools that take into account this collaborative aspect. It is now possible to exchange information in a specific context and not to waste time in finding information related to specific points of the discussion.

5) Break the silos in order to allow the collaborative work

The use of the new collaborative and social tools can break the information silos, improve productivity and develop collective intelligence. Employees can create communities that are dedicated to their work and exchange around common issues while creating links with content produced by other entities.

6) Boost cohesion

It is very important to involve everyone in the team in decision making processes. Not only can they share their ideas, but they could also be more inclined and motivated to implement them afterwards. Furthermore, it nurtures communication regarding the workflow in order to avoid getting stuck in situations where efforts are duplicated.

Jan 01 2015

Happy New Year 2015!

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Apr 29 2013

XWiki Team in April 2013, Iasi

On April the XWiki Iasi team welcomed Vincent Massol at the office. Glad to have him for the second time in Iasi and for the first time at the new XWiki office, the team tried to take the most out of the time spent together. Networking, work and fun are just a few words that outline what happened during his stay in Iasi.

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Since sharing knowledge is a key aspect, the XWiki team members were happy to participate to several internal trainings and have technical discussions with Vincent on specific topics of interest. Moreover, Vincent joined local IT enthusiasts, having his first presentations in Romania at Codecampwhere he talked about how to improve the quality of a Java project  and at the JUG meeting, discussing about XWiki as a web development platform and how to develop the XWiki open source project.

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A nice XWiki dinner, inhouse trainings, code chats, ping-pong sessions and drinks also added value to this month. The local XWiki team is looking forward for the next similar opportunities!

Apr 05 2013

JobShadow Day 2013 at XWiki Iasi Office

The JobShadow Day could not have been missed this year as it has already become an unwritten tradition at XWiki Iasi Office! Thus, on Wednesday, 3rd of April, we welcomed 4 great highschool students willing to learn more about XWiki and certain job positions within our company.

The day started with an office tour, the visitors getting familiar to the environment where they were going to spend a couple of hours together and met some of the members of the XWiki team. Afterwards, we had the pleasant occasion of finding more about each one of them and about their future plans in terms of career development. We were impressed of their background up to now, their enthusiasm and motivation.

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The XWiki Iasi Team members offered an insight into their current positions, explaining their professional path and answered to any questions that the students had. Junior Web Developer, System Administrator (Platform Engineer), QA Engineer and Web Designer were the positions the highschool students were offered the opportunity to shadow.

The XWikiers were attentive enough to offer as many details as required and the students to take the most out of their presentations.

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Going through some of the photos taken with the XWiki team and a little bit of WII fun-time filled in the past hour of visit.

The XWiki Iasi Team enjoyed the enthusiasm of the four highschool students and we all hope that the time spent with us would have a positive impact in their careers!

Feb 18 2013

Why do start-ups fail?

Mashable's infographic gives several examples of Web startups, that have either failed or have been successful. The reasons why they failed can be generalized to different areas, even when (in our case), the product answered the companies needs.

Here are some reasons we identified:

  • No uniqueness: being the only one to offer a particular service is one of the key ways to be successful;
  • Bugs at launch: bugs make a bad impression. Sometimes, details make the difference. But if the product is unique and the users are addicted, the service/product can continue to evolve. For instance, Twitter. Do you remember the "Twitter whale"? (at XWiki SAS, we have "Skol") ? Today, Twitter is famous;
  • Lack of innovation: being a pioneer and a precursor (but not too much) is a good point; XWiki is the first second generation wiki! It is a wiki and a development platform at the same time.
  • Lack of evolution: the product / service must continually evolve to meet the needs / expectations of customers or to be closer to market trends. This is what we do every day, with the help of the Open Source community
  • Acquisition of the company by a larger one: the acquisition of a structure by another one may lead to several difficulties: re-allocation of employees to other features, no more support and/or development...

According to us, this last reason is particularly interesting, because it is unfair to users who believed in the product. On this topic I invite you to read the article written by Ludovic Dubost: Tech companies and their buyout.

Do you see other reasons?