Research and development

Category: Research and development (14 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”.

team meetings

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

Jan 10 2019

XWiki's 2018 in review

2018 has been both challenging and rewarding at XWiki, but overall, a very productive year for us. We participated in various events, developed our products and services, received two awards for our hard work, and took great care of our team spirit.

Here is a quick revision of XWikiers` journey:

Team work makes the dream work

1. Breaking records 

In February we received the biggest reward we could have received from you, our users: an incredible increase in XWiki installs and instances activity.

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2. Amazon uses XWiki for over 1 year

The internal Wiki platform for documentation and collaboration is being used by nearly 20 000 active users, mostly in engineering and product teams, as a collaborative knowledge sharing and documentation platform. 

3. XWiki receives Best Open and Ethic Business Award 

In December we were recognized as providers of ethic software and services for over 10 years.

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4. CryptPad receives NGI startup award

Europe’s Next Generation Internet initiative (NGI.eu) awarded CryptPad the Next Generation Internet’s Privacy and trust-enhanced technologies startup award. The NGI Startup Awards recognize Europe’s most disruptive entrepreneurs who are advancing revolutionary products, solutions and services destined to have a major impact on the internet of the future.

What is new in XWiki?

1. XWiki 10.x

The 10.x cycle is defined by having an improved usability for on-boarding new users and administrators: from protection against refactoring operations, to editing inline macro content, to more auto-suggests, to a faster user interface. We managed to have over 750 issues closed: 415 bugs, 160 improvements, 31 new features and more!

2. ONLYOFFICE online editors added to XWiki`s ecosystem

Users can perform all their editing tasks directly in XWiki without having to switch between the editor and their collaboration software anymore. Furthermore, multiple users can collaborate in real time and push changes directly to XWiki.

3. XWiki Cloud free for Open Source Projects

Open source projects requesting a cloud wiki, can host their wikis with XWiki SAS at the bronze level and receive regular updates.

4. GDPR compliance with XWiki`s cookies consent application

In light of the latest European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), our team created a Cookies Consent application to help XWiki users ensure compliance. It can be installed for free and customized in such a way that it matches each brand`s identity.

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XWiki at conferences

We've been more active than ever in the international conferences and meetings scene. Whether in France, Belgium, Romania or the United States of America, our team made sure we are well represented.

1. FOSDEM 

We participated with presentations in six different tracks, tackling various hot subjects: new features, compatibility and integration with other tools and services, lessons learned from deployments, surveys, research and development, legal issues, and Artificial Intelligence.

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2. Salon Intranet

Ludovic, our CEO, had 4 talks about collaboration and wiki culture. 

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3. OW2 Meetup

At the beginning of June, we hosted a user meetup within the OW2 conference. It was a great occasion to see and meet people from the corporate and Open Source world interested in the use cases of XWiki.

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4. Libre Software Meeting

Our participating XWikiers, Clément Aubin, Ludovic Dubost and Anca Luca discussed about building a customized knowledge base in minutes, tips and tricks to finance free software, CryptPad - the Zero Knowledge editor, and Open Food Facts.

5. Hackathon in San Francisco

Ludovic, Anca, and Clement held a presentation about CryptPad, our end-to-end encrypted real-time collaboration tool. Also, they took part in a hackathon on CryptPad and XWiki.

6. Cloud Expo  Europe

We met plenty of you at our stand and discussed about digital transformation problems linked to cloud and encrypted collaboration solutions.

7. Day Click

Our HR Team met potential candidates and shared our job openings and internship opportunities with them.

8. B-Boost Convention

Ludovic took part in the round table discussion on Open Source and free models. It was a great opportunity to exchange on security topics and CryptPad, too.

9. Capitol du Libre 2018 

Ludovic brought to discussion the topic of financing free and open source software and described how collaboration with end-to-end encryption is possible using CryptPad.

10. Paris Open Source Summit 2018

We presented during the following tracks: Increasing ethics in Digital, End-user Solutions for the Workplace, Open Source Community Summit and European Open Source Law Event.

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Team life

1. XWiki Seminar 

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Both teams from France and Romania had a great time together in Brasov. The theme chosen for this year was about the topic of “bears”, considering the mountain location. 

2. Breakfast @XWiki on International Week of Happiness at Work

Armed with smiley badges, colorful balloons and inspired by the emblematic "Breakfast at Tiffany's" theme, we organized an early breakfast in Iasi and Paris, at the same time.

3. Women in Tech

PIN Magazine published an article about how in XWiki (Iasi) women proved that they can work in IT and even outnumber their male colleagues.   

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How was your 2018?

Oct 13 2016

XWiki Research Team and OW2 working on an improved Realtime Collaborative Editing extension

OW2 and XWiki are proud to announce that we are working together to deliver an improved Realtime Collaborative Editing extension in XWiki. While Google Docs with its realtime collaboration feature has become a significant part of the modern paperless office, Enterprises in Europe and around the globe are becoming increasingly wary of Google's off-shore data retention and privacy policies. ...

Apr 08 2016

A successful Learn PAd review for year 2

The Learn PAd project started over 2 years ago and early April was the occasion to do a status with the European Union institutions. This second year review was especially important since it was the last step before the final one. On this occasion the consortium decided to take a risk: a live demonstration of the distributed Learn PAd platform (4 servers and one router). ...

Dec 03 2015

Learn PAd meeting at Vilnius

On November 23 2015, all Learn PAd partners met in Vilnius, Lithuania. Two days of general and scientific discussions were followed by two days of technical meetings. The four days were especially important, as they were held just a few days after the first experiment of the Learn PAd platform with end-users from the Italian Public Administration.

The meeting was mainly focused on the results of this experimentation. The Learn PAd platform is still in its early stage, close to a prototype. However, we've already got a lot of feedback from end-users. The feedback helped us a lot in defining how we are going to proceed with the future development phases of the platform. ...

Oct 13 2015

Learn PAd Technical Meeting in Rome

Last week, The XWiki team was in Rome for the Learn PAd project. The goal of the project was to work with CNR in order to make a big step in the implementation of the Learn PAd platform. University of Aquila was also present for one day in order to help us with the model transformations and its help was very valuable. ...

Sep 22 2015

Learn PAd back to school meeting in Ancona, Italy

After the summer holidays, all the Learn PAd partners have met in the Regione Marche headquarters, in Ancona for the quarterly meeting.  ...

Aug 03 2015

Open PaaS Project

XWiki Labs is proud to announce our participation in OpenPaaS research project with the collaboration of our industrial partners Linagora and Nexedi, and the academic support of the Loria laboratory at INRIA and the LIX laboratory at École Polytechnique. ...

Jul 01 2015

EESC project final demonstration meeting

The final demonstration meeting for the EESC project was held on the 22nd of June 2015. The EESC project focuses on experimenting with social networks in school intranets. XWiki was responsible for implementing four different services. ...

Jun 29 2015

Technical workshop at XWiki SAS Paris Office

For three days between the 23rd and the 25th of June 2015, a few partners of the project met at the XWiki SAS headquarters in Paris for a technical workshop about the future development of the Learn PAd platform. ...