Understanding the team dynamics & time management to improve the performance: new insight from our Agile series
Would it be possible to combine productivity, bureaucracy, and financial optimization with one of the biggest vices, laziness? Sure! As a matter of fact, in the Onebip team we went a step further and we made it a virtue!
In teams such as Onebip and companies like Neomobile, where we develop high-quality software, and where the operational aspects are very strong at the same time, it is important to trace how people with technical skills spend their time. People who create new tools for mobile payments today, tomorrow might be involved in customer service; those who spend an entire morning in a conference call with a vendor, in the afternoon might work on reducing the complexity of the architecture of our payment platform.
But not all the time spent has the same value on the economic level. First of all, a company’s value is based not only on its revenues and profits, but also on its assets, for example the value of its patrimony. In addition, a software platform that can meet the needs of a huge number of users in 70 countries around the world, connected with nearly 400 operators in each hemisphere, is indeed very valuable! And since the value of a software platform is related to the nerd brain hours used in its development – the more hours spent, the more brains employed, the greater the financial value of the platform, we can establish a relationship between how Onebip developers spend their time and the value of the company. Easy, right?
And this is where the CapEx / OpEx reports enter the game.
CapEx is an English acronym that stands for ‘Capital Expenditure’, while OpEx refers to ‘Operating Expenditure’. The first are those that create an asset value in the company, while the second are needed to run the company on a daily basis. To make it a bit clearer: if Neomobile was a rental car service, CapEx would be every euro spent to buy a limousine and OpEx would be the money spent on fuel to make it run.
It is clear now why it is important to note whether the time spent by the tech team was to create value in the company, developing and fine-tuning the platform, or to help the company’s daily work, monitor its proper functioning and curating the relationship with partners, suppliers and customers. As a matter of fact, all the hours proved have been spent on generating capital expenditure will increase the company’s market value. The word “prove” is not here by chance: of course, like every other aspect of financial life of a company, this is also subject to a thousand rules, required by tax audit institutions to minimize the risk of fraud.
Until a few months ago the reporting operation was quite expensive and required the intervention of a person who classified each hour for each employee in detail, if the activity is related to CapEx or OpEx. It’s easy – or maybe not – to imagine what the cost is in terms of time of this activity: analysing monthly activities retrospectively with the single resolution would be difficult for everyone. But doing it for fifteen developers working to add new features to a system, guaranteeing the continuity of service 24/7 for tens of thousands of daily payment transactions, is truly a great effort, as well as an annoyance for the developers themselves: you know how we nerds are, we do not like to be interrupted while we are in our work flow. And it’s very boring doing this summary every 4 weeks, right?
In Onebip we’ve united the lean thinking, the school of thought that, starting from 2 fundamental pillars – respect for people and continuous improvement, strictly defines the meaning of value and aggressively differentiates it from the waste of time and resources.
Use the precious minds of our technical team to make “the summary of the previous episodes” seemed like the ultimate waste! We needed a more economical solution, both in terms of time and emotions. Therefore our laziness demanded vengeance! Do less to do more where it is really necessary, is an undeniable fact.
After the thorough analysis of the situation, we decided to reject all the solutions based on complex individual time tracking systems and, we rather accepted a fundamental fact: the mere existence of digital tools that manage complicated procedures should never stop us from trying to simplify the procedures themselves. And so the foundations have been laid.
First of all, we agreed that from a fiscal point of view, an activity’s value related to CapEx / OpEx should be at least half of a developer’s workday and not related to a single man-hour, which was esaggerated.
Furthermore, we have disposed of all the tools offered by famous software producers to adopt a trivial Google Form with unauthenticated access. If 15 people sitting in the same room need to authenticate with an encryption key of 512 bits, as if they had to push the button that will launch nuclear missiles, only to indicate somewhere what they did yesterday morning or this afternoon, this would have serious consequences for the team, intended as a synergistic and compact group of people.
Last but not least, the fact that a Google Form gathers data in a generic Google Spreadsheet allows data processing as desired, aggregating the monthly reports automatically, that can be easily reviewed and exportable to formats used by our colleagues in the finance team.
The result was that within a few days the CapEx / OpEx information gathering has become a daily activity for all members of the team, with no need for a dedicated person who would do everyone’s work, adjustable to suit individual time needs without information loss, with automatic back-up in the cloud and automatic creation of monthly reports, strictly compliant with the rules imposed by the regulations. A win-win solution that allows everyone to continue creating the maximum value where it is really needed, without compromises. The story of laziness that became a virtue!
*Editor’s note: the author was a Neomobile emloyee until 2015