By Trina Morrow, Director of Support & Integrations, SKUR
How do you take a smart, fast moving, productive team and help them be more productive without adding too much overhead? Enter Just-In-Time Infrastructure.
When I joined SKUR Inc. a year ago, it was a thriving bunch of individuals dedicated to making our very cool product number one in the industry. Something was missing to help this already tight team communicate and collaborate and keep things on schedule. Although there wasn’t a problem yet, we were on the brink of growing out of our current infrastructure. Ideas and decisions were buried in the ever growing number of JIRA issues; communication that would benefit the whole was sent in private emails and stored in mailbox folders; as our customer base grew, questions and feature requests grew making it harder for the small team to handle.
With our remote-first tenet, we had to come up with ways to solve all of these not-yet-problems in a way that would be as easy to use and beneficial whether you were 4000 miles away, or sitting in the corporate headquarters. Here is the approach I took.
- Evaluate Honestly: Look at current tools/policies/procedures to evaluate whether they are still valid. Don’t be afraid to evolve what you are currently doing even, if that means throwing it away. Nothing is permanent; there are no sacred cows.
- Don’t Over-architect: Do not over-architect your solution. In a fast-growing startup, if you try to cover all your bases and do long term analysis in your tool selection, it is likely the problem you are trying to solve has migrated into another problem. Identify the problems you are trying to head off, project a little further and pick a solution. Don’t be in a rush to automate everything and anything. It is okay to do a process manually until you understand what is really needed.
- Get Buy-in: Introduce your new tool/policy/procedure, and help the group adopt it – in other words, change management. This is a very important step in any size company, but in a small group where we are staying as lightweight as possible, it is imperative for all to embrace the same practices. How do you increase adoption?
- Make sure people understand why the new tool is being introduced, what pain point, or problem it is solving. Remember in step #2 where it says it’s okay to do a process manually? Now you now why.
- Have clear instructions as to how to set up, when to use, and give tips as to how it may work best in their workflow and environment.
- Follow up in a timely manner to make sure people are comfortable with the new tool.
- Consistent reminders and references to the tool will help keep it front of mind until the adoption is complete.
- Rinse and Repeat: Keep an eye out. Detect when the current tools/policies/procedures start bulging at the seams. Rinse and Repeat, see Evaluate Honestly.
Today, we’ve introduced, and configured to our needs:
- Confluence – for design documentation, test plans and internal knowledge base
- Slack – a great collaboration tool that has all but replaced email for our internal communication whether it be written, voice, or screen sharing
- JIRA – optimized the configuration to include only meaningful data that we utilize
- Mailing lists – even though our daily communication is through Slack, when we do use email, we utilize mailing lists for more efficient communication
- Service Desk – introduced a way to handle customer requests – includes email entry, a web portal and an external knowledge base
- Pipedrive – gives us a way to collect and handle our potential customer inquiries and allows us to follow-up and answer any questions in a timely manner
The beauty of working in different size companies is, I have seen what has worked, and what has failed at different stages, and sizes of groups. This allows me to stay one step ahead and effectively introduce or alter the infrastructure as we evolve.