Friday, November 28, 2014

Experience on a virtual "window to the office" solution

For some time we played around with an idea to have a virtual window to the office and through that connect all the teammembers working in different offices, cities and countries into one virtual room. The idea is that everyone would have an "always on" video meeting connecting everybody together onto one screen.

The virtual window actually did not start off very well and I think this is something interesting to learn from. The main reasons as I see it were two:
- Quite fast it felt like the window was not for me to see others, but for others (and the boss) to see me. And that is not a nice feeling.
- Technically the cameras of videoconferencing and laptops usually do not cover the whole room where they are in. So you get a creepy feeling as someone can watch you on the other end while himself being outside of his camera angle.

However I still think an always on virtual window to the office is useful for some situations. For example in a situation where a multi-location team is doing a change to a critical system where all the specialists are intensively and tightly working together for an hour or two.

Friday, July 18, 2014

For IT consultants and specialists who want to work with projects based in Estonia

I started a LinkedIN group to exchange the contacts between companies who need doers for their ICT projects and specialists/consultants who can do. You are most welcome to Join, post jobs, post projects, advertise your skills or just discuss.

To make the world a bit flatter and help ICT specialists to start working in Estonia I updated the post on my blog about "How to move to Estonia..." Please read and comment with any information that I have missed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A virtual "Window to the office"

This is another post where I explore the ideas and benefits around video- and teleconferencing....

We are soon starting a test in our team where we install "a Window to the office". The idea is to have a virtual video room where everybody in the team can connect with almost any device from anywhere and there will be a central computer showing video from the main office room all the time. This could potentially be a huge change on how we look at office work today. Our preliminary tests show that the technology is almost there. It needs some tuning and testing though and probably some components (like the Chrome Beta browsers Webrtc client on tablet) need some iterations to get stable, but we are almost there.

This way we can make the teamwork in geographically split teams much better. Why one should do that? Here are the benefits that an employer could get from such an arrangement:

1. You no longer need to hire only from the same city your office is in.
2. Companies who provide immaterial services (software development, designers, project management, even musicians and architects) can work (much more effectively) for customers that are not in their city. This means that you have a small task of getting your customers also to use the project teams videoroom, but that is doable.
3. You can put an end to the endless moving of people from one office space to another. Moving seems to be a constant in many companies because people change their roles, the organisation structure changes, projects change etc. By substituting real presence with video presence everyone can just leave one set of virtual video rooms and join others. As a major benefit compared to physical office can specialists suddenly be present in many teams, sometimes even at the same time!
4. Last but not least - you can cut the time people spend on travelling between offices and meeting rooms.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Making work geographically independent in the Cloud Services Factory

For a year now I have worked as a manager in a team called The Cloud Services Factory in the TeliaSonera group. We are a team of project managers and ICT specialists and our responsibility are innovation and product development projects on different TeliaSonera markets. Most of our team is in Tallinn, I work in Stockholm and the projects are aimed towards the Swedish, Finnish, Danish and other markets. This all creates a very interesting geographical challenge! How to manage for example a project that is aimed for the Nordic markets and that is managed by specialists from Estonia, Nordics and other countries?

In this and a the next posts I would like to share some of the experience that we have in organizing our work to be geographically independent. I would like to push this even forward. I am quite sure that for ordinary office work the technology is almost there to end the need for being in the same physical location all together. This will create a shift in the whole society as concentrating jobs into growth cities like for example Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn will no longer be necessary. Imagine earning the Helsinki salary and paying for Võru or Sundsvall real-estate.

The first thing I would bring forward is the biggest benefit you gain when all work is organised geographically independent. This is a benefit for both the company and the employees. And it is quite simple: If all meetings are organised as video- or online meetings then it is you as the participant who decides where you will have the meeting...not the meeting organizer.

I have worked this way for over two years now and after a while walking even to the next building for a meeting sounds...a waste of time. Why not just call-in or talk over a video.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why should starting a startup mean 60-80 hour workweeks?

The Economist put together recently a report on startups, incubators and how they are changing the world economy. Very good piece of reading! But there is one part in the startup scene that I don't quite understand.
 As the report points out it is very common that founding a startup means very intensive work. Both the startups and accelerators acknowledge that it means months if not years of 12+ workdays, no family, no holidays, no relations outside the company not to mention any hobbies. I would hereby argue a it against it. I mean it is important to focus and get things done, but one should fit into the 40 hour workweek. Here are some questions to argue for that:

- Do you make sound and good decisions if you have worked for 12+ hours seven days in a row or are you tired?
- Do you get the best deal with the best partner if you are hurrying and do not take the time (sometimes months) for negotiations or do you take the one that you can close in two weeks?
- If you only work and don't have life outside your startup will you get so emotionally attached to the service, colleagues and the idea that it becomes impossible to make rational "quit" decisions?
- Do you get healthy co-operation between the co-founders and the team if everyone is pulling 60 hour workweeks .... or will the emotions boil over and create un-necessary fights?

I would also argue that running a (successful) business should be something you do for years. It is like a hike through a continent. Does anyone see any sense in starting the hike with lets say a week long 168 hour sprint...and then drop?

So why do startups need this "no-family, 60-80 hour workweeks" workstyle? Are the investors pushing for this? Are the investors themselves doing 80 hour weeks or are they just expecting the founders to do that? Is there any benefit in it, except for failing 3 months earlier and more probably? Or are the savings from the co-founders private life so big that they make up for the bigger risks?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The powers in an organization

This post is about the powers in an organization. It might sound a little "Machiavellish", but I hope the innovators can take it as a practical guide on how to make things happen in an organization. One might also think that powers, diplomacy and politics are things that do not belong to innovative organizations, but it is not so. Politics and diplomacy are normal parts of any organization that consists of human beings. For example did you hold trading negotiations with your brother/sister about candy, cleaning, money etc? If even brothers/sisters negotiate and argue about who makes decisions then it is only natural that organizations consisting of hundreds of people have similar processes. It is the transparency and the objectiveness of decision making that is important.

But now lets discuss the power that an Innovator needs to consider when trying to improve things. Firstly lets look at the formal and visible powers. There are three types of things that someone with a power can rule:
- The money
- The people
- The right to accept a solution, decision, process etc.
For example an Innovator might want to stop paying for Exchange licenses and change the E-mail platform then he needs acceptance for the following:
- A budget for changing the servers, systems
- Acceptance for getting help from the IT department - the time of the E-mail systems administrator
- General acceptance from the high-level management because they need to agree with all the employees about the change
- Depending on the organization also acceptance from IT security, IT architecture etc.

Besides formal powers there are also informal powers and leaders in an organization. Mostly the informal leaders are the same as the formal ones but in many cases you can notice that some of the formal leaders can influence more and some less. Sometimes there are specialists that are informal thought leaders in their areas and whose opinions are influental. There are also concrete ways on how to become an informal or a thought leader. I could suggest from my experience that learn a lot, work a lot, have success and most importantly be friends with as many people as possible work. Vice versa - if one tries to be smart and get to be influencial through intrigues and manipulation then the success can only be limited in time or one even loses all the trust built up with hard work.

What I want to say with all this is that the power structure is a part of any organization and one should not be afraid of "politics" - it is always there. However - good top managers build the structures so that decision making is transparent, honest and objective. Priorities are given to projects that show the best results not those that are the favoured by someone in the "inner circle".

For Innovators it is important not to get de-motivated by the power structure, the first/second/tenth "NO" and keep on going. It is important to gradually build up trust by doing great things and learning how the organization works. I would also recommend avoiding smart relationship tactics as much as possible and substitute that with learning to understand what others need and trying to help them in their quest forward.

Friday, October 11, 2013

IT and telecommunications product development project manager needed!

We are looking for a project manager in our product development team called The Cloud Services Factory. Here is the official announcement: http://ts.easycruit.com/intranet/elion/vacancy/1063875/66841?iso=ee Let me know if you are interested!