Increase innovation, productivity and synergy.
During a recent conversation, my boss said, “Innovation is a contact sport.” While we romanticize the image of a solitary, brilliant programmer toiling away in front of a glowing screen achieving a breakthrough moment, real innovation happens when people interact. We need interaction to share knowledge, challenge each other, and introduce new perspectives. I am a true believer in the cliché that, “none of us are as smart as all of us.”
The problem, in a modern enterprise, is how to maintain that contact and information exchange when the team spans the globe. Many organizations attempt to address the challenge by regionalizing sets of work. A component or function is owned by a team that is relatively close, usually in terms of geography, but minimally in terms of time zones (UK owns the API layer, India owns analytics) or by function (engineering in US, Ops in the Philippines ). While this division of labor allows clear lines, it silos communication and interaction. By doing so, it does not allow our enterprise to leverage global talent and perspectives across all areas of our engineering endeavor.
At Qumu, we operate a globally distributed engineering organization spanning seven countries and three states. We have no offices. We work from wherever, forever. We leverage video to help us overcome the challenges of being a truly global engineering team. Our uses break down in three areas:
Training and Onboarding
Engineers do not like taking time out of their day to train the new person or refresh a long-time employee on something they were shown before. Video allows us to make these interactions asynchronous, archivable, and reusable.
- Walk-throughs and How-tos: Material to orient employees is available asynchronously for bringing new team members up to speed or for reference by engineers that may be going into an area of the product that they are unfamiliar with. Along with having material to refer to, the asynchronous nature speeds onboarding by eliminating the need to find people with the knowledge and coordinate face-to-face time.
- Knowledge Repository: Engineers provide detailed reviews of product components, designs and functionality. Creating a library of classes that team members can review when needed.
If innovation is a contact sport, how do we make contact when our team members are thousands of miles and hours apart? It turns out that nearly anything you might make a PowerPoint or a diagram for can be done asynchronously with video.
- Asynchronous Design Reviews: We gain the benefit of doing our design walkthroughs of new features in video. The team can watch at their leisure and provide feedback often, itself a video. These videos then form the basis of the knowledge repository that can be referenced through the development and into the maintenance of a feature’s lifecycle.
- Enhancing Defect Reporting: Instead of trying to describe an incorrect behavior in text, potentially missing key information, capture the behavior as video and include it in the ticket. It is now unambiguously described avoiding the back and forth of asking for clarifying information.
Video Communication with Stakeholders
Engineering has many stakeholders within Qumu, sales, marketing, business development among others. These teams too are spread around the world. It is difficult to gather at one time for updates and information. Emails are not read or lost; information retention is often
minimal. According to research by ChartBeat and Farhad Manjoo from Slate, few people will scroll more than a few lines into an email or article. Scheduling difficulty means that only a small number of key people get information directly. Using video helps us run a transparent organization, cutting down on report outs, status updates and ad hoc inquirie
- Roadmap Updates and Reviews: We have eliminated the need to bring a large group of people together to review and plan our roadmaps. Video allows richer information to be reviewed at the viewers convenience, but it also allows us to disseminate consistently to a broader audience. Videos cover everything from status to the presentation of business cases for new features.
- Sprint Demos: Here we bring a few key stake holders together for a face-to-face conversation, but this discussion is not secret. We use video so that the rest of the company can see what the engineering team is working on and the progress we are making. This transparency fosters a culture of trust and has the benefit of allowing a wide range of people provide feedback.
Qumu engineering leverages video to maintain a robust idea exchange with our team members around the world. We share knowledge easily and reduce the burden of teaching others though archiving our knowledge. We improve the clarity of our engineering ideation, and we increase the transparency to our stakeholders. Use of video has allowed us to run globally while maintaining the feel of a local team.
Steve Klugherz is VP, Engineering, Qumu