21 Jun 2022 Andrew Spicer
We’ve been working from anywhere for years - here are 5 key things we’ve learnt
It seems like every week I find myself talking with customers and other business owners about the new normal of remote or hybrid working.
This is actually the old normal for Realtech. Our team of around 25 SAP consultants and support staff has been location agnostic for years now. We’ve worked on major SAP projects for iconic companies across New Zealand and Australia, including Briscoes, Griffin’s, Gallagher Group, Australian Paper and Opal.
Realtech staff is scattered between our Auckland office, their home offices in New Zealand and around the world. So we don’t feel the trepidation other businesses might have about adapting to more flexible ways of working. We long ago embraced it and found it served us incredibly well.
Here are 5 ways we built a remote-friendly workforce that may offer some valuable insights for other small and medium-sized organisations bedding in a permanent flexible working culture for the post-pandemic world.
Build trust and maintain it: No one likes having someone looking over their shoulder while they work. So we’ve never done that. We make sure that everyone is clear on their place in the business and their responsibilities. Then we let them get on with their work, with a large degree of autonomy.
When it comes to where and when people do their work, we let our team members choose. Some start early and finish late, very much in WFH mode throughout. Some pop out during the day to pick up the kids from school and log on to do some work later. Our office remains an optional work location as working from home doesn’t suit everyone. We have consultants working in countries from Australia to Argentina, and naturally enough, they work in different timezones.
We are completely comfortable with this. Sometimes I’m asked how we keep tabs on productivity and performance. Well, the key measure for me is customer satisfaction. I’m constantly talking to our customers and getting feedback from them about our performance. If there’s an issue that needs addressing, I’ll hear about it. When you truly trust in your team, they will pull out all the stops to serve their customers. That’s what matters the most.
Recruit the right people: Not everyone is ready to deal with the level of autonomy and independence that comes with working at Realtech. There are a lot of good SAP consultants in New Zealand and elsewhere. But experience tells us that only a subset of them are suitable for Realtech.
Someone once said that when it comes to recruitment, you should focus on finding the right people, not the right nowpeople. Yes, we are operating in a tight labour market. But at Realtech, we are willing to take our time to find the right person to join the team. Right now, we are actively helping some of our consultants secure visas to relocate to New Zealand. We are willing to look around the world for the best talent, because when you have the right team in place, that’s 90% of the problem solved.
Foster a positive culture: There’s no real hierarchy at Realtech, we have a very flat structure. There’s no finger-pointing if something goes wrong. Everyone talks to everyone else to get the work done and to resolve issues. We have very few closed-door meetings.
We have a very culturally diverse team and some people had less scope to take responsibility and make decisions in their previous roles. We help them to embrace that freer way of thinking and working at Realtech and watch them build their confidence in the process.
A key part of our company culture is to encourage continuous professional development. Whether it is completing certification through the SAP Learning Hub, or pursuing other forms of upskilling, we want our people to be constantly learning and bettering themselves.
Like most organisations, we carved out more time during the pandemic to socialise as a team, both virtually and in person, whether it be happy hour drinks over a Teams call, or a day spent go-karting together. We don’t have a rigid set of company values as such. We’ve just fostered a culture of mutual respect, openness and inclusiveness that has served us well.
Make the tech work seamlessly: We are a tech company, so if we don’t get this right, something is very wrong. We are obviously big users of digital tools to help us collaborate with each other and with our customers. It felt like an effortless transition when the pandemic hit because we were so at home working in the online environment prior to Covid’s arrival.
Some might consider our use of technology a bit quirky. If we have a problem to solve, we’ll often open a Teams call and leave it running. People will drop in and out and give their input and the call stays open until the issue is resolved. We long ago got over the stigma of using Teams for the equivalent of tapping a colleague on the shoulder in the office to ask for help.
We support customers 24-7 and often work long days and need to be available to oversee weekend go-live events. Technology helps us do this remotely while maintaining the right work-life balance.
Have security underpin everything: It goes without saying that security is our number one priority. We have direct access to our customers' SAP systems in order to support them and make sure we have the ability to prevent, detect, and remediate security threats.
From keeping hardware and software maintained and updated, to the use of encryption, multi-factor authentication, virtual private networks, and adhering to security policies, we’ve embedded secure work at the heart of what we do. That’s particularly important given that we have consultants working in a number of different countries. By having good security hygiene, you take most of the tension out of having people working remotely and give yourself the peace of mind to let your team get on with its work.
For over 25 years, Realtech has been helping New Zealand organisations get the most from SAP. Talk to our experts to find out how we can assist with your business transformation.