Burkhard Müller
Executive Partner, Chief Digital Officer

We quickly adapted our workflow to the new situation. We are fully capable of getting things done and can be reached through the usual channels.

We are happy to share our tools, meeting tips, processes and rules that allow a clear allocation of tasks. Our digital boss Burkhard Müller has summarized everything worth knowing in an entertaining article:

At the beginning of last week, we at MUTABOR Technologies switched almost entirely to home office. The office is not a restricted area but is only used in exceptional cases. We have shifted customer appointments to digital channels, as well as internal decision-making meetings.

Despite all the unrest, I am trying to see the bright side of the crisis:
Now we will see which companies are ready for the future. The crisis is a stress test through which we can learn a lot.

I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the transition worked for us. Although everyone in my team was able to use home office and remote work at their own discretion beforehand (even though everyone is equipped with MacBooks), on average only 10-20% of employees were working from home at any given time. Now it’s 80-90%. So far, without any negative impact on projects, timing, or deadlines.

For us, there are 3 decisive factors for working successfully even during the corona crisis.

1. Tools

Wherever possible, we rely on tools that enable collaborative work.

Our most important tools for this are

  • Teams / Slack for communication
  • Miro for brainstorming
  • Figma / Sketch for prototyping and design
  • Confluence for documentation
  • Jira for project planning

Teams (and Slack)

Teams is Microsoft’s answer to Slack. For us, it has digitalized the »shouting across the room.« We have Teams for each client and for each project to share information at short notice and to coordinate daily without constant meetings.

Also, several people can work on the same PowerPoint presentations at the same time, which saves a lot of time, especially in everyday pitch work.

Advantages:

  • Fewer meetings
  • No e-mails
  • Decentralized and time-shifted communication
  • Everything remains traceably documented
  • Collaborative editing of presentations
  • Unlike Skype, video chatting actually works

Miro has digitized the whiteboard. The tool provides a canvas and enables decentralized brainstorming for the development of concepts. Everyone can see in real time what the other participants are doing. You can chat, edit and watch everyone think. We have only just started using the tool, but it is quite promising.

Advantages:

  • Thinking together
  • Decentralized and time-shifted working on the same document
  • Beautiful handwriting is not required
  • Thoughts are directly digitalized

Figma (and Sketch)

Figma and Sketch are our most essential tools for designing. Both tools are suitable for the visualization of concepts, the creation of click dummies all the way to high fidelity designs for transfer to developers. Their strength is that they are designed for developing design systems with recurring atoms, molecules, etc. and that they only provide design tools that a developer can realize in code. Everything that is created here can also be programmed that way.
In our team, we rely primarily on Figma. Just like Miro, we work together on a canvas and see in real-time what our colleagues are doing. This streamlines decision making saves time and avoids the very error-prone synchronization of updates. Sketch is more established than Figma but has only recently been offering the same features in Sketch for Teams.

Advantages:

  • Shared design
  • Working updates always synchronized
  • Decentralized and time-shifted work on the same project
  • Development of design systems
  • Creating and sharing click dummies
  • Simple handover to developer

In Confluence of Atlassian is our knowledge repository. The question often arises when something has to be stored in Teams or in Confluence. Teams is for regular daily communication. In Confluence, results are finalized and documented. Concepts are specified here, for example, to hand them over to a developer. We also use Confluence within Teams to record meeting rules, instructions for the plotter and other information that is important for each employee.

Important: Confluence is only as good as the maintenance. Think carefully about what is documented and think about a clear structure in advance.

Advantages:

  • Knowledge is stored centrally – »Single Point of Truth«
  • Decentralized and time-shifted work on the same project
  • Industry standard

In Jira we plan our projects according to Scrum, Kanban or even Scrumban. Projects are broken down to individual tasks, prioritized and distributed to the team – so everyone in the team knows which topics are most important and who is currently working on which tasks.
Important: Jira is only as good as it is maintained. Avoid tickets like «Design App.« Write a separate ticket for each task; otherwise, chaos is guaranteed.

Advantages:

  • Tasks are transparent for everyone
  • Each task is prioritized
  • Concrete tasks are assigned to specific persons
  • Decentralized and time-shifted working
  • Industry standard

2. Processes and workflows

The best tools are useless if you have inadequate processes and workflows. Agile working is especially challenging as a service provider with several parallel customers and projects – but it works: Our team has developed a playbook with rules for meetings, the workflow and scheduled meetings.

Meetings

  • Scheduling in Outlook
  • Prepare an agenda
  • Start on time
  • Finish on time
  • Write a protocol in Confluence

Mode of operation

  • Avoid disturbances
  • Remote work & home office are everyday life and not a reward
  • Using the best tools
  • Ensuring transparency to the customer

Scheduled Meetings

Daily – daily, 15 minutes

  • »What am I working on?«
  • »Are there blockers?«
This way, progress and challenges are clarified daily. Via teams, Skype, Hangout, Zoom, etc. this can easily be done from the home office.

Prio round – Weekly, 1 hour

  • Joint prioritization of tickets in Jira
  • Low = No hurry
  • Medium = To be done soon
  • High = Must be done
  • Blocker = cannot wait
We have created a multi-project board in Jira. This enables us to plan several projects at the same time in a transparent manner – so everyone knows what needs to be done. Only important topics are dealt with. Unimportant issues become important over time or take care of themselves.

This can also be easily organized from the home office: One person operates Jira and shares the screen via video chat.

Retro – 2 weeks, 1.5 hours

  • What is going well?
  • What is not working well?
  • What measures can we take?
Everyone in the team gives open feedback. We use Fun Retro (FunRetro.io) to discuss the most important tasks. Here, everyone collects their feedback, which is clustered and then prioritized by the entire team. Solutions are then proposed for the most critical points. This ensures continuous improvement.

As with the Prio Round, this can be organized entirely from the home office.

3. Responsibility & Trust

The entire collaboration only works through sharing responsibility and trust. Every single employee may, but must also take responsibility for themselves and their team.

Clear rules are needed:

  • Open feedback
  • Fixed and defined deadlines
  • Working with tickets
  • Team Rules

In the end, everyone benefits:

  • Continuous improvement
  • Transparent communication
  • Personal responsibility + trust
  • Efficiency
The coronavirus has turned our everyday life upside down in a very short time.

I am grateful to my team for having established workflows and processes over the last few months that have enabled us to react quickly without current projects suffering as a result.

This is now our New Work Bootcamp, where we put everything we have learned through a stress test. Despite all the chaos, I see a chance to learn a lot for the future.
I hope that my experience at MUTABOR will help you.

Stay healthy.