Globally Distributed Development during COVID-19

Clodagh NicCanna, Mohammad Abdur Razzak, John Noll, Sarah Beecham

Due to the global pandemic, in March 2020 we in academia and industry were abruptly forced into working from home. Yet teaching never stopped, and neither did developing software, fixing software, and expanding into new markets. Demands for flexible ways of working, responding to new requirements, have never been so high. How did we manage to continue working, when we had to suddenly switch all communication to online and virtual forms of contact? In this short paper we describe how Ocuco Ltd., a medium-sized organization headquartered in Ireland, managed our software development teams--distributed throughout Ireland, Europe, Asia and America during the COVID-19 pandemic. We describe how we expanded, kept our customers happy, and our teams motivated. We made changes, some large, such as providing emergency financial support; others small, like implementing regular online social pizza evenings. Technology and process changes were minor, an advantage of working in globally distributed teams since 2016, when development activities were coordinated according to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). The results of implementing the changes were satisfying; productivity went up, we gained new customers, and preliminary results from our wellness survey indicate that everyone feels extremely well-supported by management to achieve their goals. However, the anonymised survey responses did show some developers' anxiety levels were slightly raised, and many are working longer hours. Administering this survey is very beneficial, as now we know, so we can act.

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