Work must go on

Work must go on

These unprecedented times have dramatically changed our daily lives. We replaced offices with homes but have remained committed to our clients and are making sure they are not affected by the transition. 

I was really interested to understand how this works and decided to speak with our Project Managers from Belgrade, Ivana Veličković and Branko Šurjančev. Because who can explain this better than the two persons that are in the middle of it all and whose Teams (the collaboration tool our teams are using) status is always BUSY. They shared their experience on how to be successful and consistent in these unstable and unpredictable circumstances. Both work for Hungarian clients on Business Analysis projects and each of them is leading a team of 12 people.

In this COVID-19 situation, how do you handle the most important project risks (resource allocation, scope, quality and cost management)?

: The projects we do are usually related to major IT and business changes at our clients - they involve business and IT people, they are usually quite demanding on effort and time, require a lot of decision and communication. All our people are working from home and so far, they are all healthy. If this changes, we have planned replacements on most important positions. So far, the scope is not affected but we have more frequent status checks with our clients and if required we will change scope together with them. Quality is on a good level and we do not expect that to change and costs will remain the same.

IV: Due to our strong commitment, our client has great confidence so there was no change in scope. Regarding the quality, I do not expect that there will be an impact on quality, nevertheless, the quality will be monitored constantly and, if necessary, measures will be taken. The same applies to cost management.

How are clients dealing with the new situation and how much do they make it easier or more difficult for you?

: Fortunately, our clients are following this situation very well and together with them we are going through this period easier than we expected.

IV: They are in the same position as we are. A completely new perspective of work. Since we have to start completely online, there is a dose of uncertainty if it will go well, due to many problems that might occur. What I have realized is that ‘’confidence’’ can be felt over the wire as well!

How do you maintain a continuous commitment to the client and how do you deliver what was agreed upon?

: We have set our milestones and deadlines long ago and we have not changed them, on the other hand, our clients are also committed to the project and they are pushing us from their side. For example, we are not cancelling agreed trainings, but organize them online.

Portrait photo of Ivana Veličković

IV: The same as in Office mode. Commitment to the client as well to our work is essential especially if we want to go through these difficult days without any impact on our projects. It is necessary for me to have ‘’my own place and my own time’’ in the home where I can focus completely on the work. 

The client comes first with their requirements and expectations and I plan and organize my work, so their needs and expectations are met.

What are the biggest difficulties regarding this?

: It is a challenge is to organize all communication on one channel – online one, as much as it sounds strange live collaboration is still most effective.

IV: The biggest difficulty is the absence of presence since the ‘’body language’’ is 93% of the communication! So, not only that I am listening to the words, but I am learning to listen to the tone and the color of the voice as well. Sometimes I have a feeling that I am talking to myself since everybody in the call mute their microphones and there is no familiar sight of nodding, or hearing ‘’yes’’ and ‘’I agree’’ from time to time. I have trained myself to frequently ask questions and to check if everything is clear and to elicit thefeedback from ‘’the audience’’. When we have a mutual understanding than commitment and delivery continue in the usual way.

Is it difficult to lead a team remotely and to ensure continuity in work?

: On the one hand, we are an IT company and developers are used to working in remote teams or from home, but on the other hand, we are creating large enterprise software and tight collaboration between people is necessary for successful implementation. Most important is to create a good team from the start, to build a good atmosphere between team members and then they will drive each other towards success. I tried to set the initial pace and to track milestones afterwards and to intervene if necessary (if we stumble upon some issues, boost up team spirit…)

IV: Projects that I am working on are different in the sense of leading the team. For one client we have remote project management no matter what (the colleagues are from different countries), so there is not much difference. The only difference here is where I am, in the office or at home. So, dealing with project management from home is a bit more challenging, because I have to keep an eye on a schoolboy. So, these times require a completely new organization in my life, and I am sure this is the same for all moms working from home. For the second project, I must say out loud that I miss my team - the atmosphere, team spirit and face to face interaction. For sure, we continue in the same tune over the headphones.

Tell us about motivating your team members

: Make sure people don't feel forgotten, small chats, online team games...

IV: I think the biggest motivation is to be there for their support. I am there for any problems, questions, even for the comments outside our project, from everyday life. When we hear from each other, I like to hear first how they are, only then we can continue with the work. That is quite similar to the normal way of managing the team, but it can now require a bit of more attention.

Are there some benefits of working from home when it comes to customer relationships and efficiency?

Portrait photo of Branko Šurjančev: There are some unexpected benefits, for example, I have heard from my team members whose children grow up, that they are able to organize their working day more efficiently - instead of travelling they can spend more time working.

Now, we can more easily engage people to participate, to quickly join and give their inputs/expertise and in this way, we can save time in communication after.

IV: It seems to me that we approach each other with a more personal touch in comparison to regular work mode from the office. We can see each other in a home atmosphere dressed casually with kids' voice in the background and pets around them.

In the end, what is your advice to colleagues who are in a similar situation?

: Increase communication with the team in order to boost up motivation if needed and delegate responsibility more. Motivate people to communicate outside work-related tasks, for example, to play some online games together, etc.

IV: The same problems, difficulties and worries we have our clients have as well. It brings us closer to them. So, organize your time, this will help a lot, ask your clients more often for the feedback, and start with simple but powerful: ‘’How are you today?’’

Živka Cvejić
HR Specialist Adacta Belgrade

Živka Cvejić is an experienced HR Specialist, interested in business processes and trends in the insurance industry, especially in telematics.

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