A new year has started. You are teeming with ideas about what should be improved during the coming year. Unfortunately, the amount of available work eclipses the amount you can feasibly work on. Where should you focus to get the biggest bang for your buck? Should you build new services or develop current ones? Do we improve the way we work? Finding the balance that keeps both our IT team members and all Futurice employees happy while making progress in the right places is challenging. Here is what we came up with by locking the IT team into a sea-view room for half a day.
Stick to our values
We have a few things that make us, in the eyes of our employees, one of the best IT teams out there. We trust our employees. They can rely on us to take care of them and their problems. We also fast, and flexible to new situations. This has resulted in us getting feedback like this:
We want to stick to these values in the future. As the company grows, scalability becomes a problem as we want to be able to keep up the good service level – and thus employee happiness – while not overworking our team. To be able to meet this challenge, we identified three areas we need to focus on improving during 2013.
- Automate repeating tasks – We need to look critically at our daily work and identify what tasks come up over and over again. When we find one, it is a good candidate for something we should look into automating. Not all tasks can be automated, but to allow us to automate as much as possible, our own applications should support automation. Having proper APIs in all our applications is a key part of this. Once we automate as many repetitive tasks as possible, we have more time to help our users and further improve our ways of working.
- Empower the users – We want to allow users to handle tasks themselves. Currently, we already allow users to create virtual machines at the push of a button. We recently launched a new version control hub (based on Gitlab) where employees can set up new repositories and handle access rights on their own. The goal for 2013 is to improve the administration of virtual machines and identify other areas in which we can bring a higher level of user control – to help both end users as well as our own time management. The more employees can handle project related tasks on their own, the faster projects can start. And, naturally, the more scalable are our operations.
- Organize ourselves – Being able to support an ever-growing amount of employees forces us to have a solid way of organizing our work. Be it Kanban, Scrum or something else, we need to work efficiently and know what to prioritize. 2013 will be the year we figure out the details of what the best way for us to organize our work is. Having properly prioritized backlogs is important, as well as avoiding too much work in progress. There is, of course, the risk that we get it all wrong. If that happens, we will need to figure out what is not working and improve it. Self-improvement should never stop.
Be available everywhere
As Futurice expands to new locations and employees are scattered across multiple sites, physical location can no longer be a limiting factor for our services. We should be able to achieve a situation where it does not matter where you are located; you should still have access to all services and get help in case of problems. At customer locations, even the customer knows that our projects can rely on proper IT services. Project work can be done at the location that allows the team to do the best work. And why limit our help to our own employees? We would love to teach all interested parties how to provide quality IT services.
- Bridging the gap between locations – We currently enable cross-office work with telepresence equipment at our offices. For 2013, we want to allow proper video chat wherever you are. Starting a video chat should be just as easy as calling someone. We are also going to start visiting our people at customer locations to see that they have everything that they need in order to get their work done. This is so obvious it feels stupid that we haven’t already been doing it. We regularly visit our other offices, so why not customer locations as well?
- Make setting up a workstation super simple – At the moment, we do not have dedicated IT people at all of our offices. Even though most of our tasks can be handled remotely, some of them are trickier. One challenge has been setting up or reinstalling workstations at remote locations. As this is quite a common task, we will work towards having hardware independent images that can be installed with minimum effort.
- Being seen outside the office – We wish to spread the word of good IT services outside Futurice. We want other companies to realize that IT services can be offered effectively and that employees do not have to hate their IT department. To help this, we have decided to start open sourcing all internal tools, to attend industry events and to write blog posts about what we do and how we work.
Technology consulting and hosting
Futurice is known for providing high quality software and being able to help customers through the whole software lifecycle. Until recently, we were missing one part of this lifecycle: hosting the customer's application. We are building a reliable hosting service to support our customers' needs alongside our lifecycle management services. By keeping hosting in the same house, we can cut down on communication overhead and provide customers with a true single point of contact.
In addition to providing great hosting, we can also help our customers improve their own application hosting. By using the expertise gained by setting up our own hosting service, we can help customers avoid the same mistakes that we make. 2013 is the year during which we launch hosting as a proper service, both inside the company and to our customers.
- Have hosting be a part of our work – Hosting-related work will be considered as important as our internal IT tasks. Our routines and ways of doing things need to be adjusted in order to prioritize both components effectively. Key components for success are to have proper knowledge sharing and use automation and configuration management to handle environments. The possibilities for learning and improving are huge, and we welcome the opportunity to expand our knowledge openly.
- Build up knowledge and market our service – Learning is an eternal process, but a lot of trial and error is needed in the beginning. We have to find out what works for us and what doesn’t. Tools, processes and people all have to be in the right place. And for our possible customers, don’t worry: you won’t notice this in your bills or quality of service at all. In addition, we have plenty of marketing ahead of us in order to make our organization aware about the cool new service we can provide for our customers. A brochure is already in the printing press.