One step remote, insured for quality

One step remote, insured for quality

– by Richard Paterson

Recently an email arrived in my inbox with the subject ‘Conference in DC cancelled - Event goes Virtual’. This confirmed the inevitable cancelling of this year’s SAS Global forum due to the Corona virus. A few years ago, the email subject would have just read ‘Conference in DC cancelled, see you next year’. Remote working is now so common place within our world that it’s logical that SAS will now be replacing this year’s conference with a ‘virtual’ conference. The exact details are still to be announced but it does say a lot about the way we are increasingly doing more of our work remotely.

Taking Advantage of Remote Working
At OCS we are also taking advantage of the possibilities to optimize the way we can help our clients. We recently completed a project for a UK insurance company based out of our Den Bosch offices.
A London based insurance company specializing in serving the UK market reached out to OCS to help with a data warehouse migration/integration project. Due to a number of major acquisitions made by the company this year the IT division of the client are facing a challenging period. With each acquisition comes a number of integration projects; new systems need to be integrated into the existing IT landscape.
A typical acquisition integration project is often different to a regular internal system integration project - there is usually increased emphasis on speed. This need for speed will most likely reduce the chances of resourcing the project from your own pool of ready and reliable domestic-grown developers.
This being the situation at our client they invited OCS, or more specifically: our SAS Centre of Excellence based in the Netherlands, to help resource the project. Weighing up all the options we proposed to set-up a remote team based in the offices in Den Bosch to take part in the integration project.

One Team
The team comprising a senior developer acting as team leader and 5 DI developers quickly joined the in-house migration team. As to be expected, the initial learning curve was steep – learning the development standards, finding our way around the client’s IT environment and of course the small matter of learning exactly how the insurance world collects and uses data. Communication took place mainly via Skype and a daily ‘stand-up’ telephone call. Any issues were quickly tackled by sharing screens with a subject matter expert back in the UK. Within two weeks the team were up and running and contributing fully to the migration project. The team were tasked with the following responsibilities:
  • Writing functional and technical specifications
  • Detailing Data mapping specifications
  • Developing Data integration processes in DI Studio
  • Producing and executing test plans
  • Creating development packages for promotion
Of course the possibility to quickly go onsite when requested by the client is important too and we did visit the UK offices in person to meet the in-house team. The effectiveness of remote working meant that this was only required two months after starting the project!

Important Aspects to Setting up a Remote Project
The way we chose to set up this remote project at OCS can be characterized as follows - 
  • We placed great emphasis on not working alone but in close cooperation with the client. Each stage of the development was closely monitored by both parties, ensuring that the client retained a lot of control over the project – something that is often lost in more traditional outsourcing models.
  • We build the team to match the custom requirements, with full transparency so everybody knows exactly who is working on which parts of the project at any given time.
  • And very importantly the ‘remote factor’ allowed us to be as cost-efficient as possible - upscaling and downscaling the team to match the clients’, utilizing the available resource (seniors, juniors) as efficiently as possible with the client consuming only the actual services provided and of course no valuable office space needed.
For OCS there were multiple secondary benefits, as mentioned above we were able to introduce talented junior developers into the team. A senior developer remains responsible for leading the team and taking ultimate responsibility for the quality provided; a perfect environment for junior developers to flourish; a win-win situation for both OCS and the client.

What can OCS offer?  
  • A team of SAS consultants, experienced in remote project execution
  • The ability to upscale or downscale the team to the projects’ needs
  • Quality, transparency and flexibility
  • A virtual extension to the client organisation