The impact that COVID-19 is having on people’s lives and safety cannot be understated. Life as we know it changed dramatically in only a few short weeks. But amidst all these changes, the pandemic has also emerged as a major player in the age of digital disruption. Companies have found themselves relying on technology never seen before at this scale in order to weather the storm. Entire industries have converted their workforces to working from home. Dr. Carlota Perez, the author of Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital, speaks of a Turning Point triggered by this sort of turmoil: A paradigm shift in which the ways governments and organizations serve society is radically altered out of necessity. 

The changes we are seeing in the workplace, such as mandated remote work and travel restrictions, are borne of compassion and humanity, and a desire to act in the interest of the community. Even so, they bring with them a host of interesting new challenges — especially for organizations that provide onsite consultative services and training to support customers.

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With all travel paused, many companies like mine need to find virtual alternatives to on-site services so we can continue to support customers’ businesses. A week after being grounded, my team and I had to think fast to create a helpful and meaningful experience during a “Flow” workshop set up for a customer. Hopefully, our experience can help other companies during this time.

Finding new means to find value
The risks of conducting such a large, interactive and collaborative remote workshop were high. Technical challenges alone included:

  • Identifying the correct technology platforms to support the workshop.
  • Learning how to use the technology as facilitators.
  • Understanding each platform’s performance requirements.
  • Enabling participants to utilize the tools as well.

While we had these technical challenges to contend with, we also had to make sure we achieved the original goal of the workshop in helping our customers continuously improve the flow of business value across their software organization.

Quickly, the team zeroed in on Mural and Zoom as the platforms that were best able to serve our needs. Mural allows for anonymous virtual collaboration, providing the psychological safety needed for participants to maximize their contributions. Zoom enabled breaking the large group into smaller working teams so that we could optimize each activity’s output. Having never conducted a remote workshop at scale, we brainstormed daily in the week prior to the workshop, and colleagues from other departments even pitched in and sat through dry runs to test our transitions and use of the tools.

On the day of the workshop, we initiated the Zoom call and more than 50 participants immediately entered the video conference. The team helped participants work through some minor glitches, but no sooner had we corrected the audio issues and gotten everyone to turn off their cameras when the next problem presented itself: Not all users entered the video conference with an ID tied to their name. Without this information, we did not know how to appropriately assign participants into the breakout rooms to conduct the day’s activities. Keeping our cool, we quickly identified a means of connecting the ID to their names and walked the participants through the corrective steps. As a reminder, no matter how prepared you are and how many dry runs you initiate, you must always anticipate surprises and be confident your team can work together to overcome any obstacle that is thrown at you — it is the nature of the digital beast. 

Participant engagement and collaboration during the session were astonishing. In the breakout rooms, groups accessed their Mural digital workspaces to complete the exercises while utilizing the insights from our technology, such as turnkey business-level metrics that enable them to measure the value delivery of their software portfolio. Our flow advisors facilitated effective conversations between participants, the output of which will assist this customer in meeting its business objective of improving time to market. Participants connected with our cloud-based products to learn how they can leverage the business-level visibility to alleviate bottlenecks and pain points that impede their acceleration efforts. The feedback was immediate and positive, with one participant telling his team that the lessons from the workshop will enable them to find smarter ways of completing their work and delivering business value.

At the workshop’s end, our team had a sense of excitement and satisfaction through successfully conducting our first remote workshop. We helped participants find hidden insights that would help them today by providing actionable takeaways. Borne out of the needs of the moment, we uncovered new means of providing value to our customers and found a reprieve from the chaos and a return to the normalcy of working and delivering as a team. The impact on the way we work will remain long after the virus has receded. We have shown that we can engage with and enable our customers remotely and in the most extreme circumstances. Continuing to do so and helping them surface data in digital tools will allow them, and us, to continue to survive and thrive.