At Novoda, we are really proud of how well we integrate remote working into the normal day-to-day life of app development. It makes syncing with clients easier, and allows us to collaborate with any colleague in any of our offices. So how do we achieve such remote working nirvana?

For planning... JIRA

JIRA is a well-known project management tool that is also frequently used for sprint planning. Whilst some of us still pine for the day of physical boards, it is pretty clear that physical boards aren't useful when you're working in multiple locations. However, the visibility and knowledge of a physical board is important and this is what we try and bring across into JIRA. JIRA has the ease of access across all our offices and, given most people are familiar with it, it means it's really easy to integrate into all our teams.

When using JIRA, we found that making it as flexible as possible for its users has great advantages. Just as a physical board can easily be adapted and changed, we allowed the team to make the changes they want to the JIRA workflow. There’s nothing more annoying that realising you’re working around your planning software.

For pairing... Screenhero

Screenhero is an excellent tool we've been using at Novoda over the last year or so. It allows you to set up a virtual pairing (or tripling) session with another person, or people. Think of it as screen-sharing on steroids. The best part of Screenhero is that it allows everyone in the session to control the keyboard and have their own mouse pointer — meaning you can seamlessly take over from your pairing partner, without having to ask to borrow their mouse first. Screenhero is available for Windows and Mac right now. If you know of a similar program that’s compatible with Linux then please do let us know.

N.B. As Screenhero has been purchased by Slack, you can’t create new accounts at the moment. But you can get invited from anyone who currently has an account (such as all of us at Novoda). So if you’d like to give it a go, let any of us know.

For personal communication... Slack

Chat clients like Slack are really useful and make it far easier to have discussions cross-office. Our Slack is getting more and more exciting by the day, and here are some of the cool things our Slack is currently being used for:

  • a bot which scrapes our Slack for external news posted after standups (more below)
  • Github and CI integrations letting us know via Slack when someone has made a pull request, or when the build goes red

We're making our Slack a more vibrant and interesting place each day, and given how easy bots are to make, we'll be making even more awesome things in the future that make our remote working easier.

For team communication... Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts for Business is probably our most widely-used remote empowering tool at Novoda. We have chromeboxes installed in all our meeting rooms and offices, which means setting up remote meetings and chatting across offices is a breeze. With the integration into Google Calendar it means that any meeting can be given a virtual room with which to chat between offices. If you can't make it to one of our meeting rooms, no problem — just join the hangout remotely.

The wormhole

We have a special Hangouts room called the wormhole, which most of the offices are connected to all day. This is great because it allows you to see all the different offices as if you had a window into them. Also if you need to talk to someone in another office but don’t want to send a Slack message you can just chat to them through the wormhole. Having this constant connection to all the other offices is important and makes you feel like the offices aren't really that far away. Until you look at the sunny Barcelona office from the rainy London one, that is! We found that using big screens helps as well, to make people look as lifesize as possible.

The Novoda standup

A typical Novoda standup

Probably the best thing we do remotely at Novoda is our daily Novoda stand-up. This is where, for ten minutes a day, the entire company gets together to chat about what is happening in both Novoda projects and in the world outside. Having this daily time allows us to see our colleagues in other offices (I miss you too, London and Liverpool offices 😢) and fosters a great sense of connection with other people.
We have a standard format with our Novoda standup, and it doesn't revolve much around work. It's split into three key bits:

  • Novoda news: where anyone can talk about what's going on at Novoda or if there are any meet-ups like Londroid, GDG Liverpool, or MaterialUp happening
  • Project news: two people will volunteer (or be nominated) to talk about what they've been up to on their respective projects, anything interesting they've found, or any problems they've faced. This is great to share knowledge about different projects and any tools or processes they've developed.
  • External news: anything interesting that's been going on in the world (or, frequently, outside of it). The more random, the better! All the external news is compiled using a slack bot and then sent out in an email at the end of the week with all the links, in case you missed any of it.

At Novoda, remote working is at the heart of what we do and we’ve got really good at integrating it into all parts of our work lives — from design, to development, and even just chatting. Remote isn't totally perfect yet but it has allowed us to grow flexibly as a company, and allow people to work how they feel most comfortable. Do you have any great tools or processes for remote working? Or even some cool and remote-friendly Slackbots? Get in touch and let us know!

Thanks to Daniele B. for the photos, and to Paul B. and Seb. P for proof-reading