Markus Heiß, EXCON Head of IT: Decentralised software development in the digitization rush
Clear communication - effective processes - lean reports
As a result of the effects of the Corona pandemic, companies in all sectors are pushing ahead with their digitalisation projects at high speed. However, distance rules and the challenges posed by remote work also affect those who do their work in the engine room of digitisation. We spoke to Excon IT Director Markus Heiß about effective communication, leaner development processes and new features in the Excon software product range.
What challenges did the consequences of the Corona pandemic pose for work on the Excon Group's IT projects?
If we want to speak of a challenge at all from the project perspective, it was certainly maintaining agile communication. An essential factor for effectiveness and success in the project business is good, direct communication across the project team. This is especially incredibly important when using agile methods and - like Excon - pursuing a service-oriented software architecture in which one project team can re-use the work results of another team.
Methodologically (adapted SCRUM) and spatially (open space, workbench), we were already well positioned before Corona. By integrating our strategic partners into the projects, we have been pursuing the strategy "work everytime, everywhere" for several years. Therefore, at least technically, we did not have to take any preparatory measures for the lockdown. Nevertheless, adjustments to planning, organisation and methodology were necessary.
Picture: Markus Heiß | Head of IT | EXCON Services GmbH
What were the adjustments?
We first created a communication etiquette. Which channels such as telephone, chat, web meeting, mail and ticket system are used for which purpose? What response times does the team expect in each channel? For our web meetings, we have established fixed rules: no meeting without an agenda, there is always a moderator and clear procedures on who speaks when and how to speak.
So adapting communication to the situation was at the centre of the changes?
That was an important building block in any case. We introduced a daily, cross-team web meeting to maintain communication even between the different project groups. At the same time, we made our development process more small-scale and meaningful. This allowed us to manage the development process more precisely. In addition, we can do without unnecessary and time-consuming project reports, as we can now clearly read the progress in the project. Here, it was an advantage that we already use a digital tool to map the agile methodology. We only had to adjust a few details. One insight on the topic of chat: the protocols are also a great thing, they can usually be reused 1:1.
This new speed advantage can certainly be used beyond the immediate effects of the crisis.
The bottom line is that the crisis has not had a negative impact on the projects; it has even led to a number of small improvements. In addition, no partner or supplier was lost as a result of the crisis - this speaks very much for the strategy of being independent in software development and not depending on sub-suppliers or certain products.
Have there been other positive effects from the various changes?
New projects have even resulted from it. We have initiated a project with freed-up development capacity from our partner network, with which our clients will be able to digitally integrate their customers into the joint processes in the future. We also took the opportunity to invest in additional software development staff.
Due to contact restrictions, many companies have pushed ahead with digitalisation or even started it in the first place. Many processes that were previously handled by employees in direct contact with customers and partners now have to be done electronically. What effect has this had on development?
Especially our existing solutions in the area of self audit and remote audit were in massive demand in the first weeks after the lockdown. We set up and carried out the corresponding rollout projects together with our customers. In addition, we have also received enquiries for software solutions on our orchestration platform that revolve around precisely these requirements: digital and "contactless".
What Excon-IT developments can our clients look forward to?
The focus of further development is on the risk and audit platform. Users of the risk platform can look forward to an intuitive new user interface with many functional enhancements. Since May, we have also integrated the graphical planning tool, which has brought us a lot of positive feedback.
The audit platform is currently being extended by a new module, which will then also make it possible to carry out audits on the basis of questionnaires as well as hybrid audits in self-, remote and on-premise procedures.
Both platforms will receive a completely new generation of evaluation options. This means that we will develop both platforms more in the direction of network management in the future.
Independently of this, we are permanently working together with our partner network on new applications in the areas of AI and robotic automation, which characterise us as a process automator and provider of intelligent solutions.