Nick

Product Development Through a Pandemic

March 19, 2021
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It’s safe to say that we’ve all dealt with a lot of changes over the past year or so since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Newly decentralised teams have had to adapt their processes and service offerings to continue producing high-quality results despite the challenges posed by remote team working.

Product development in particular is a process that many businesses have had to approach differently as a result of the global pandemic.

In this article, our team discusses the unique challenges faced by product development teams throughout the pandemic, the impact of remote working, how we can adapt to these changes and what we feel has remained the same.

What challenges are organisations facing in product development as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Kashan, an Android Developer at Coderus first identifies the challenges of remote team work: 

Homeworking can save commuting time and flexibility is conducive to productivity, however, there are a number of benefits that come with face-to-face working, particularly the creation of social ties and reciprocal trust – which are essential to innovation. New technology can help to fill this gap but it all depends on the willingness of organisations to implement it.

So, as COVID impacts everyone everywhere, companies need to ensure the safety of their employees, develop contingency plans for critical roles, split team arrangements, flexible working arrangements and effective communication.

Our CEO, Mark added:

Another challenge facing remote product development teams is the difficulty of getting a second opinion or technical advice when working on physical devices, especially when the level of skill varies from team member to team member.

Ali, our business operations assistant highlighted the effects of remote working on the wellbeing of individuals working in product development teams:

Wellbeing is especially challenging in the pandemic due to remote team working and a lack of physical human interaction between colleagues and teams. For employees who live alone especially, it has never been more important for employers to ensure that promoting good mental health is a key item on the agenda.

Per Garen Staglin, Co-founder and Chairman of One Mind at Work, in his Forbes article, the biggest mental health risks of remote working are:

  • Isolation
  • Burnout
  • Adaption

If you’re an employer, there are many ways that you could help mitigate these risks and challenges by utilising this resource published in the Integrated Care Journal.

How has remote working impacted the product development process?

Shaun, a senior Android developer discusses how everyday teamwork activities have been disrupted since the pandemic began:

Since we’re not in the office anymore, I can’t just turn to the person next to me and discuss something. Because of this, we have started having a second daily standup to catch up with the rest of the team in a more informal way than the main one. Having the dedicated checkout point has been a nice way to share knowledge, talk through any issues and make sure we’re all on the same page.

One of our junior developers, Chris, agreed:

The additional informal standup meetings have been great for catching up with the rest of the team, especially when other developers are working on separate projects and we wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to chat with each other.

Mark, CEO of Coderus stresses the importance of efficient organisation and stringent process management:

Physical product development has been challenging due to limitations on samples made available due to their high initial run costs, therefore, planning, documentation and processes are key to making sure samples can be used unsupervised.

Coderus is an ISO certified company and we have stringent processes covering every service line to ensure high quality on-time on-budget delivery.

How can business leaders adapt to these changes?

Our Founder CEO, Mark, offers two key tips for business leaders who are challenged with making changes to retain their pre-pandemic levels of productivity. 

The first advice Mark gave was to invest in the team, both from an equipment perspective as well as a training perspective. It’s also important to ensure that the entire team is working together as a cohesive, collaborative team.

Alongside this, Mark highlighted the importance of being able to “adapt and roll with the changes”.

This year has made it increasingly clear that the most successful teams are the ones that are agile, flexible and easily adaptable.

Ali adds:

It’s important that employees listen to employees and understand their concerns with sensitivity, understanding and respect.

What elements of product development have stayed the same despite the pandemic? 

A lot of our software and business tools have stayed the same for us at Coderus. Mark said,

We were already pretty invested in cloud SaaS solutions so working on them anywhere hasn’t changed and it’s been easy for our team to collaborate on these platforms.

What are some positives that have emerged from the changes brought about by the pandemic?

Mark said:

The pandemic has brought about a lot of changes in people’s lifestyles, and we’ve been able to grow the team in a positive way with new team members now able to join the company who may not have been able to if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

Personally, for me, I’ve been able to spend more time with my immediate family. It’s been great to spend time with my boys over this time, my eldest will be leaving home to go to university soon so it’s great to have this time.

Ali looks at the positives that have emerged from the changes caused by the pandemic from an environmental perspective:

The positive environmental impacts of reduced commuting, combined with more people now being able to work remotely, has created an industrial revolution in which everyone’s priorities in their everyday lives have changed.

What do you think the future of product development will look like?

Offering insight into the expected permanent changes to product development caused by the pandemic, Mark said:

I see a hybrid approach working as we already do with our clients based overseas, so to have your product development team physically distanced is just an evolution of this approach. We already work with clients that are a thousand miles away so how should 15 miles make a difference for us?

Do you have any other advice for business leaders facing challenges as a result of the pandemic?

Shaun highlights the importance of easy communication and establishing a culture where asking questions is encouraged:

Tools like Slack are invaluable. Having channels dedicated to specific projects and platforms helps to ensure there are dedicated areas where we can go if we need exercise in a certain area.

Having a culture where questions are asked in a public forum instead of in private messages significantly increases knowledge sharing.

Mark adds:

Building your business processes with how your management system works in mind works really well in this new climate. Whilst it is impossible to consider every possibility, you should work through the basics to help get all of the team on board with new processes.

It’s also important to remember that we are all human. This time has pushed all of us in many different ways and we need to be mindful of the fact that others may be struggling even if they are not showing it.

On a final note, Ali offers this insightful advice:

Try and take time to look after yourself and make sure you do something you love. Focus on the things that are working well for you and celebrate your success. Remember that these are both extraordinary and challenging times and you are doing the best you can!

Are you interested in working with a team that has a deep understanding of effective product development – even during a pandemic?

Our team at Coderus have over 20 years of combined experience in creating high-quality app and software solutions for a range of clients, from MVP to blue-chip. Get in touch with us today to discuss your next project.

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