For me personally, there were no visible changes in the work – I was sitting at the computer in the office, so I sit – only at home and with the cat. But recently there was a webinar where colleagues talked about which tools support team life support and how these tools helped EPAM transfer 95% of employees to a remote location in 3 days. I realized that a real iceberg is hidden behind all this, and I really wanted to share it.
For details and a demonstration, see webinar. I’ll tell you “briefly about the main thing” – what the remote (and not only remote) work in EPAM is based on.
Life before isolation
A year and a half ago, EPAM began to develop a concept called Anywhere, which would allow talented professionals from any country to join EPAM remotely and gain access to long-term projects, educational programs and all the opportunities that the company shares with its employees. Colleagues worked out the nuances of security, obtaining equipment, access to programs, etc.
And even earlier, a system or, rather, a platform – TelescopeAI was born. This is a digital space that combines many subsystems, the main tool that supports the management of distributed teams. She is constantly changing, developing.
So she looks now:
These initiatives helped to quickly transfer everyone to remote work.
Tools & Systems
The TelescopeAI platform accompanies an employee on the entire development path, starting from the moment when the recruiter read his CV.
Before isolation, colleagues had been conducting interviews with candidates online for a long time – on our Interview Portal platform, as technical interviewers are often located in different cities and even countries. In addition to group video calls, here you can perform test tasks – write code, solve problems. In the same system, detailed feedback on the candidate based on the results of the interview is affixed.
It takes a lot of time and energy for a beginner to get acquainted with such a volume of new information about a company like ours and not get lost (oh, these first two weeks!). Portal Adaptation configured so that the employee independently studies all the adaptation materials about the company, internal systems, corporate rules, immerses himself in the corporate culture. At the same time, the employee has a resource manager, to whom he can turn for help at any time and who monitors the progress of the adaptation training.
We periodically return to this portal when it becomes necessary to undergo annual training on labor protection, information security, corporate ethics or other regular trainings.
Bad is the June who does not dream of becoming a lord (or lead, architect, etc.). Three tools will help the employee plan his career and professional development – Feedback, Grow and Assessment.
Feedback service needed to collect feedback – everyone can give feedback to any employee of the company on their own initiative or on request (feedbacks are needed for assessment). But there is also a mandatory session – every six months we have a campaign to collect feedback. Last year, I first tested it on myself. The lesson is not the easiest, in addition to the feedback about the team you need to write a review about yourself. Extremely useful thing – I recommend practicing once every six months or a year.
On the Grow portal you can see the possible development paths in the company, set goals for yourself, and the system will tell you which set of skills and knowledge is needed, what skills you need to pump, what experience you need to get in order to achieve improvement. In addition to the list of skills and knowledge, the system provides links to educational materials, recommended literature, and trainings. By the way portal open to external users – you can see how it works.
After completing all the steps, you can sign up for Assessment, where already a commission of experts will check the level and give a conclusion whether the specialist is ready to move to a new level or not ready.
We have several services that help in training – Courses, Learn. Video. EPAM produces and buys a huge number of trainings in different languages, in different disciplines – from engineering to scientific and soft-skills. All are hosted on Learn. At Courses, you can sign up for face-to-face trainings that have now moved online – to Zoom or GoTo Meeting Training. Trainings, meetings, demonstrations – everything is recorded and published on the video portal – our corporate YouTube.
Recently, the Learning & Development team made some courses available to external users in the beta version of the portal. Learn.
By the way, the EPAM training center also went online. Today, 700+ students study with us throughout Russia and 270+ trainers and mentors work with them.
We are already somehow toldwho are the resource managers and what are their functions. So, to make it easier for the manager to cope with this additional load, Talks was developed for them and HR managers. Here HR or a resource manager brings in tête-à-tête details of conversations, notes all sorts of subtle points, whether it’s a bad mood, any signs of burnout or problems in a team, on a project and more, to keep under control and come to the aid at the right time.
Mikhail Tolmachev, head of the center of competencies in computer vision and a resource manager for Data Practice at the EPAM Nizhny Novgorod office, described how his team copes with the new conditions:
When it all started, the first thing I had was a townhall with the whole team, shared a vision, talked about the new organizational structure. After once a week, regular meetings began to take place, since the Data Practice team in Nizhny Novgorod is relatively young and has grown dramatically in recent months, I want people to not lose touch, support each other.
We also conduct internal technical talks: we share news about projects, who has what happens, analyze details, difficult moments – this is always interesting, since we all work on different projects. Sometimes we also discuss interesting reports, articles.
For informal communication, we made a chat in Discord, there are voice chat rooms: anyone can come in and chat with colleagues anytime. We have created rooms corresponding to locations in the office: “meeting rooms”, “kitchen”, “game room”, etc. This service is more for gamers, of course, but it seemed to us very convenient.
We use a system to track working time. Time. Only its essence is not to fix what time a person came and went, how much he spent on a smoke break. No matter how many people were sitting on the chair, it is important how many hours he spent on this or that task. This, first of all, helps to consciously look at a person’s most valuable resource – time, and to learn how to better evaluate which tasks are more complicated and require more time.
Two other systems help to obtain qualitative and quantitative indicators of the project. So, in Health, project managers enter information on the status of the project, note what problems arise, and quantitative indicators of “health” are recorded in Performance. It is connected to Jira, Confluence, CI / CD, Git. Performance has a library of over 150 custom metrics.
EPAM Customer Relations Director Sergei Davydov on Analytics at TelescopeAI:
Our TelescopeAI platform has a rich set of smart analytics. For example, in my department, I see the situation regarding the current and future workload of my team, that is, in real time I monitor the risk of underloading or overloading employees and I can quickly respond to this.
There are many more important “smart” analytical indicators that help to manage the team, motivate it and select the most comfortable working conditions that allow employees to reach their potential.
For example, the system can prompt about the need for rotation (replacement of the project) of employees, and may highlight the increased risk of an employee leaving the company. This is done using both obvious and understandable indicators, and indicators calculated using machine learning technologies based on collected data from past periods.
When forming a new project team, the system itself selects the most suitable candidates from among the employees according to various criteria (availability, workload, competencies, location, etc.), which removes a lot of routine and speeds up team building several times.
For the project manager, production indicators are useful, which the platform can calculate and conveniently display – these are Burn-down charts, graphs of defect convergence, history and aggregation of indicators of monitoring systems, calculated SLA indicators, and much more. What the manager used to do in Excel himself, the platform now does.
And for heads of business units, a dashboard with indicators of the “health” of projects in various sections is extremely convenient and informative – by personnel, by finance, by production, and by customer satisfaction.
Personally, I start every working morning by looking at such general, aggregated indicators, and then pay attention to those that are not in the “green” zone.
By the way, “smart” analytics can’t do that either. For example, the system shows the most suitable positions for the employee’s skills on other projects, where he can try to move.
In conditions of remote work (and not only remote), the organization of self service is important, that is, everything that an employee can do himself, he must do himself. According to this principle, we have Help Desk. It is an automated system with a whole range of services: here you can order a certificate from work, and request access, equipment. Thanks to contact center automation through RPA (Robotic process automation), 20% of incoming requests are processed and routed without human intervention.
To deploy servers for projects, the company has an EPAM Cloud service – a single entry point to various cloud services, whether it be Amazon, Azure, Google, internal servers. An employee just needs to go to the console, specify the parameters of the server that he needs, and after the application is confirmed by the manager, who immediately sees the cost of such a server, the infrastructure literally rises within a few minutes. Moreover, it can be not just some bare server, it can be a ready-made platform – a monitoring server, a database or a server with a configured CI / CD Pipeline.
Thus, when we switched to the new regime, essentially nothing changed in our work on projects. And if for some customers at the time of the transition the infrastructure was not ready for the remote mode, we quickly deployed the necessary capacities with the development and testing environments at home and provided customers with access so that the joint work on the project would not stop.
To ensure security, we use:
• Two-factor authentication with DUO MFA.
• Opswat + Luminate to automatically check the device for compliance with company security policies. If the device does not match, it will not work.
• SentinelOne + Cisco Umbrella for protection against malware.
• Endpoint Encryption BitLocker for disk encryption, in case the computer is stolen or lost.
• Symantec DLP for analyzing files by content. If the file being copied or sent contains some confidential information, the system will not allow it to be copied.
This is what digitalization looks like in EPAM. Of course, the company did not come to such a form of existence in two months of being removed, it was all created over the years. But despite the technical equipment and remote work experience, even for EPAM the current situation is a huge challenge and at the same time new opportunities for the development of this digital space.