Rapid Learning from a Rapid ResponseMar 20th 2020
Well, here we are.
This blog is being written from a home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Today, we’ve been on calls to people’s homes in Austin, Mumbai, Boulder, Los Angeles, Pune (India), Monterrey (Mexico), New York, San Antonio, and Amsterdam. At Surfboard Ventures (the parent company of both Raw Engineering and Contentstack), we’re good at managing a distributed team, but the majority of our employees still work in our offices. We have more than 300 employees in India, Europe and across three time zones in the U.S. We use video conferencing tools daily, utilize Slack for check-ins and updates, in addition to many other workflow and communication tools.
Now our offices in all those places have no one in them. All of our employees, worldwide, are now WFH. They are navigating the workday with a new set of coworkers and a renewed gratitude for the digital services that make this possible.
We’re proud to have pivoted to completely working-from-home very quickly with Raw Engineering and Contentstack able to operate at 100 percent productivity throughout the transition. We have started building what is proving to be a supportive and cohesive WFH or remote work culture. We’re especially proud to have feedback from our two most important constituents: Our customers have noticed that we have not lost a step during this transition, and our employees have let us know that we’re way ahead of other companies when comparing where we stand with friends or others in their network.
We want to share how we were able to take our existing business continuity plan (BCP) and quickly adjust it for this particular rapid response effort. Some information here may help you execute your own BCP. Some might not, and, of course, that’s fine, too. Take what you like. We offer it in the best spirit of generosity that we’re seeing emerge during these remarkable times.
When we created a BCP, we were not thinking of a global pandemic. But that’s why you create a BCP: You don’t know what’s coming. The plan itself turned out to be very useful. Having embraced the cloud from our founding, our systems, security and applications were designed to work from anywhere.
And, perhaps most importantly, just the fact that we knew there was a plan turned out to be an important part of the overall feeling of security that helped us get through this time of chaos.
Pivot, adapt and assemble a S.W.A.T. Team.
The executive teams of Surfboard, Raw Engineering and Contentstack don’t meet together on a daily basis. We changed that when we assembled our Covid-19 BCP Response Team in late February. Daily meetings, which included key individuals from all or our geographic regions, allowed us to learn from each other, iterate quickly and track each organization’s execution of the plan. It also felt solid to connect with peers in a time of uncertainty.
A number of things were considered in these meetings, including:
- The rapidly changing guidance from governmental and global health authorities (and if/how we could anticipate their next moves).
- The ability of our workforce to work remotely and efficiently, and how to enable that ability if it was nonexistent, regardless of where they were located on the planet.
- Potential impacts on our business, as well as our customers’ businesses.
- Maintaining our employees’ spirits and corporate culture in both the short and long-term.
Our S.W.A.T. Team continues to meet three times a week to monitor the situation and adapt as needed.
Communicate openly, early and often with both employees and customers.
Our first email about how we intended to handle the crisis went out to employees on March 5, and was quickly followed by an email to customers the next day. Our communications were focused on the fact that we were taking the Covid-19 situation seriously, and that a BCP was already in place and being implemented based on this unique set of circumstances.
Each company followed up with global, all-hands video conferences for face-to-150-faces meetings explaining how we were handling that situation, and what to expect...and that we should all expect change. Importantly, we gave everyone who wanted it the opportunity to ask questions and be heard.
We continue to communicate with our customers as well; we know their situations are evolving as rapidly as ours, and it is important for them to know that we are ready and willing to evolve with them.
Assess the current situation.
The biggest move internally was to get everyone working from home—and for an indefinite period of time. The first step was a global situational assessment. How many people had connectivity and where were the gaps? If they had connectivity, did they have enough bandwidth at home? We quickly surveyed employees, and assigned a person to help our employees without connectivity get set up quickly. We also acquired a number of company hotspot dongles that can be shipped to employees if we run into issues down the road.
We considered what employees would need to take with them from the office, and what we would need to order?
Help employees adapt to a new work environment.
We also had to consider what it would mean for people who did not typically work from home to make this substantial shift. Many of our U.S.-based employees had experience working from home, but that’s not true for all of our global employees. Our People Team prepared a Work From Home Manual that included everything from video-meeting best practices to self-care tips especially crafted for this crisis. (Please feel free to download it, and adapt it for your own needs.)
Our assessments were done with our employees’ best interests in mind, as well as the deep understanding that only comfortable and safe employees can do their best work for customers. As we’d planned our Covid-19 BCP, our goal was for zero drop in service, productivity or efficiency.
Change is the constant.
One of the great lessons of these times has been to get comfortable with uncertainty. We had a reliable BCP but we knew we had to be willing to let that go when necessary. One example: Our implementation schedule included a test day, but when it came right down to it, there wasn’t time for a dry run. Instead, we dropped the plan and pivoted right into WFH.
Keep it real.
The entire world is waiting to learn when offices will open again, and we’re no exception. We have to accept, even embrace, that Covid-19 will have lasting changes even when the health and financial emergencies have passed. The challenge now becomes not just maintaining productivity but how to keep a corporate culture cohesive.
The WFH manual is a start, as are regularly scheduled business meetings. We have also carved out time to continue the real human connections that might normally take place in a hallway or around the mythical water cooler. We have set up video coffee and chai breaks and happy hours. We have used this time to introduce new coworkers—yes, like the family dog—share recipes, and just get to know each other better than we probably allow for during normal circumstances.
We have extended this to our customers as well. We’ve always prided ourselves on our strong relationships with customers, but this spirit of sharing and a new willingness to connect even more personally has been further enriching. You get a very different understanding for why a customer does what they do, why their business is important to them and what it means in the larger scope of their life, when you’re actually meeting inside each other’s homes.
We're In this together.
While we're all figuring this out and there are changes coming by the hour, let's remember this. We're all in this together. We may not handle things perfectly, but we will always strive to do the right thing. Feel free to reach out with ideas or suggestions.
And stay safe out there,
The Surfboard Ventures Team
Neha Sampat, Founder & CEO, Contentstack
Nishant Patel, Founder
David Overmyer, CEO, Raw Engineering