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Andrew Radcliffe: Keep calm & carry on with your software development projects during the coronavirus pandemic

Andrew Radcliffe

CEO Spyrosoft Ltd

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways and it's caused by a virus called coronavirus. 

Currently, where possible, everyone must stay at home and work remotely to help stop coronavirus spreading. This has caused some companies significant disruption to today's working patterns as everyone adjusts and experiences remote working, some through forced adoption and for the first time. 

The first question for businesses large and small is, how do companies continue with their technology development plans and IT "business as usual" activities when everyone is susceptible to coronavirus, working remotely and worried about our own wellbeing and for that of our families and friends? 

Well, before I offer my thoughts, please let me introduce myself. Throughout my career I've been hands-on and responsible for the successful software development and delivery of numerous technology projects, globally, across different industries including aerospace, legal, corporate real estate and telecoms. I have worked as a software developer, software development manager, project/programme manager and Chief Technology Officer. For the last four years I've been a digital advisor and mentor to UK based CTO's. Over the years I've tried lots of different technology delivery models and approaches myself so I have seen what works and what doesn't, in the good times and at times of crisis - like now! 

My thoughts turn back to the financial crisis of 2008 when the world experienced a severe global economic crisis and ensuing economic downturn. For those of us that didn't experience it first hand, it all started with the slump of the subprime mortgage market in the US which then developed into an international banking crisis and the subsequent collapse of Lehman Brothers and others. Parallels can be drawn from the experiences of that time which will help us cope economically today with Coronavirus whilst still continuing to enable innovation and digital transformation of today's businesses. 

After the global financial crisis economic downturn, I worked in the UK public sector for Ordnance Survey, the national mapping agency for Great Britain, as a part of the senior leadership team. At that time, I had a big challenge on my hands: I needed to increase technology team capacity (there were recruitment challenges), improve efficiency so the team can innovate and deliver more faster, all while lowering costs! I think you will agree - that was quite a challenge in the fall out of an economic downturn! 

So, what did I do I hear you ask? 

Well my first priority was to gain access to hard to find high-calibre technical resources, at a lower cost, and to blend them into my own software development teams. This would help to improve capability and capacity, enabling the team to meet business demand. 

From previous experience, I have huge respect for the technical capabilities, work ethic and cultural alignment to the UK from people based in Poland. A +1 hour time zone change from London, good international travel links and Polish people having great English language communication skills - make working with a Polish software development company an easy choice. Also, economically, Poland is among the fastest growing economies in the European Union. 

Currently, as an impact of Coronavirus, there are significant advantages to be had in the power of currency exchange rates where the GB Pound is stretching further to buy more Polish Zloty. This means access to expert level technical resources has recently become cheaper for UK based organisations. 

My plan from the beginning was to find a partner company that 'is' an Agile organisation who 'uses' great DevOps software engineering practices. These two key factors enabled working with the partner in a highly collaborative and transparent way, fueling a great long-lasting working relationship. Using a one-team approach, where everyone feels like they were working in one co-located place, together, unlocks productivity and efficiency gains with the combined team feeling fully engaged in their project work. 

Blending the Polish software development resources with the employed UK based resources resulted in the lowering of overall resource cost by approximately 20%. A fantastic success! All whilst still achieving significant productivity gains and delivery projects faster. As an additional benefit, the blended Polish resources we used were of a high skill level which helped to develop the internal team's capability whilst working on project. During onboarding we asked our Polish friends if they would help coach the internal team, which they were happy to do. 

Returning to my own story, when I left Ordnance Survey I realised that I could help other companies leverage the benefits of working in a remote delivery pattern for the success of their own technology projects. Indeed, with the benefit of my own personal experience and together with some great Polish friends, Spyrosoft was built from the ground up as an expert technology delivery partner where we practice the remote working patterns I discuss here as our normal mode of operation. Today Spyrosoft has some great customer partnerships all over the world! 

If I can be of any assistance, or if you just want to pick my brains at this time of crisis, please don't hesitate to message me. I'm happy to arrange a chat over a coffee on Teams! In the meantime, please take care and stay safe.