Finding opportunity in adversity – remotely

Virtual meeting from home
Date Published


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4 mins read


James Scoon

Perhaps surprisingly, a huge number of companies have adapted to the changes necessitated by the threat of Covid-19 and have recognised some of the benefits of a flexible workforce.

In many cases, mindset and operational changes that would have taken 5 years to materialise organically, have emerged within a matter of months. But how do we embrace the mindset change and make it work for the longer term?

Distributed, a strategic partner of Capita’s, have built their business around flexible working and an outcome-led approach, positioning themselves to thrive in a working environment that seems foreign to most. In the absence of a one-size-fits-all model for the myriad shapes and sizes a workforce can take, Distributed is proving that companies can make their customer happy by (i) focussing on outcomes, and (ii) engaging their people in the decision-making process.

Reimagine how you deliver outcomes

Businesses will have recognised some of the benefits of a remote workforce over the past few months but perhaps the more tangible benefits have yet to crystallise: reduced property costs, geographical constraints lifted both in terms of hiring talent and accessing new customers. Arguably for the first time ever, execs can stray from the industry-standard operating models, without fear of shareholder upheaval. However, for most industries the purpose has not changed and there are still the same inherent challenges – so how does one proceed when the slate has been swept clean? By focussing on the desired outcomes and avoiding preconceived ideas of how work needs to get done.

Software development is a sector with seemingly few inherent constraints. Theoretically, anyone with a laptop and access to the internet can write code for a client. How this is best achieved has become a semireligious debate with two common schools of thought: build the strongest in-house team you can, or outsource the delivery to a trusted supplier, often located offshore. Both of which share a fundamental flaw: they rely on the best developers being located within a 20-mile radius of a fixed location, be it the company’s office or that of the outsourcer. Distributed recognised that, even for an SME, it is impossible to find a single location with the necessary resources for the breadth of skills required and the fluctuating demands in capacity. Their solution? A fixed team of project managers situated near their customers that can draw upon the skills of a global elastic team as required. This model allows their customers to be involved with the development to the extent they wish, whilst not compromising on the quality of the developers performing the work. A unique approach that is centred around achieving the best outcome for the customer.

Ask, don’t assume, how your people want to work

Those working remotely will likely have experienced countless Zoom meetings, virtual whiteboard brainstorms, and perhaps even Friday night ‘team quarantinis’. These don’t come without their fair share of challenges. Limited Wi-Fi connection may be the most noticeable but potentially more damaging are the personal impacts – less social interaction, less distinction between work and home time. The pros and cons of remote working were once only discussed for hypothetic scenarios, but as the reality becomes increasingly likely, many businesses are embracing the new dialogue with their employees about how and where they wish to work. Taking advantage of this dialogue is paramount in achieving the best from an organisation’s workforce, and ultimately delivering better solutions to customers – happy employees means higher productivity and better outcomes. Accessing the best talent and engaging them in the way they want to be engaged with is going to be central to sustainable growth.

Attracting the highest calibre talent is often critical to an organisation’s success, and this is especially true of software development. Doing so required Distributed to listen to the pain points of developers and design their operations around these. This may sound time consuming but in fact the asks were simple:

  1. Give me a predictable stream of work that I can opt in/out of
  2. Pay me (quickly)
  3. Let me work with a team of similarly experienced professionals
  4. Let me focus on the code and not customer management

These issues may not be surprising, but their order proves a point: the simple things can sometimes have the greatest impact. Companies with mature operating models can take this opportunity to similarly re-evaluate their priorities and the best models for delivering them. Distributed’s outcomes speak for themselves:

  • CSAT score of 5 out of 5
  • Elastic Team NPS is 93%
  • Elastic Team retention rate is 100%

The Covid-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to the enormous potential of flexible working. Operating models that once seemed elusive are now very achievable. If businesses focus on outcomes and approach future ways of working without preconceptions of what their workforce desire, they will emerge from 2020 far better off than how they entered it.

Written by


James Scoon

Analyst, Capita Scaling Partner

James is an Analyst in Capita Scaling Partner (CSP), the corporate venturing unit of Capita. CSP partners with start-up businesses and supports their growth by providing strategic access to resources, clients and business expertise. In 2020 CSP secured a minority stake in Distributed, a remote solution for software development.

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