The software innovation impact of coronavirus

Managing software innovation

Restricting the use of shared spaces is one aspect of the guidance that could have a direct impact on the way companies try to encourage innovation. Agile software development project updates, standup meetings and brainstorming sessions often take place in less formal, breakout areas in offices. Software developers who are used to collaborating closely with colleagues during the development of a line-of-business application will need to rethink how this can be done remotely.

Discussing the challenges of engineering an innovation culture in a team of software developers who work remotely, CCS Insight research director Bola Rotibi said: “I think if there is a culture that values innovation, then remote working won’t be a hamper. There is nothing to stop developers from getting on a Zoom or some other videoconferencing line to collaborate.

“More to the point, as we have seen from Microsoft Build 2020 and the numerous announcements made that promoted collaboration on the go or remotely through features such as Microsoft Live Share and its new audio and text messaging feature, developers can be brought together in a pair-programming experience. The anywhere development capabilities of Visual Studio Codespace furthers this remote working perspective.” 

Rotibi believes that agile working practices are not mutually exclusive to remote working as long as there are means for collaboration, either in real time or by conducting code reviews where everyone can see the information. “Agile standups can done through any number of videoconferencing tools where desktops can be shared,” she said.

“If we look at the concept of agile methodology practices, there is nothing that cannot be achieved through modern communication infrastructure in the home. The sophistication of tools that include sandbox environments in the cloud allows developers and other IT roles to both learn and try out different configurations of supporting platforms, infrastructure and tooling collections. Low-code and no-code tooling, which are often delivered as cloud services, can allow a remote working development team to innovate and interact at multiple levels.”

Read more about agile teams

Rotibi recommended that IT leaders assess whether the software development tools used by their developer teams enable the collaboration required by agile methodologies. “The challenge, as always, is whether developers are provided with the right set-up environments,” she said. “This can come down to investment and commitment from the technical leadership teams in providing the necessary tools and support services.”

There is plenty of research that shows IT people feel more valued when they are considered an integral part of the business, rather than a voice on the end of the tech support line. Agile has gone a long way to bridge the gap between business and IT, enabling cross-functional teams to collaborate in an effective way to deliver a software-powered business outcome.

The face-to-face meetings that are associated with this approach and the ability for software developers to sit side by side with end-users to understand the pain points in the applications they use and the business processes these applications underpin, has ultimately led to better user experience and improvements in business processes.

Remote working will reinstate the physical gap that has slowly been shrinking between IT workers and the business. Beyond the challenges in maintaining innovation, there is a very real risk that individuals in software teams who have thrived in an environment of close collaboration, may now feel isolated.

In its draft guidelines, the  BSI urges organisations to ensure additional support measures are implemented to protect the psychological health and wellbeing of people who are working from home. Employers should consider whether it is possible to enable a safe return to the physical workplace for individual workers when home working has a significant negative impact on their psychological health and wellbeing.