The COVID-19 pandemic came to India at an interesting time for a tightly-knit group working out of offices in Andheri, Mumbai. It came right at the end of the Indian financial year, as we were cementing our plans for the coming year, building for scale, and putting the cliched hockey stick growth on our existing programs.
There’s a line where cloud-based SaaS product meets on-ground execution, and at CashFlo, we walked that line every day. So naturally, we had our fair share of in-person interactions, both with the largest businesses in India as well as the spectrum of MSMEs who make up their supply chain.
Post lockdown, we actually had two problems to solve: How do we keep working and maintain our velocity of execution, and how do we help our customers and partner SMEs with their challenges at the same time?
Of the two, the latter was by far the more complex. A lot of our partner SMEs and corporates had dependencies on labour, had factories to manage, and had IT stacks which were not 100% cloud-based they way ours were. They could not “jst work from home”.
Our teams rapidly moved to remote operations, with Slack and Email becoming “the floor”. We also learned a quick lesson. When working remotely, and not sitting together, the “update cycle” slows down. Progress is now communicated in structured discussions, and not a “quick catch up on the way to lunch”. For managers and their teams, we seemed short a “finger on the pulse”. Until we realized that “the pulse” was, in marketing terms, a “front-end metric“.
Front-end metrics are important, but if there’s a glitch in the tracking mechanism, back-end metrics become all the more critical. Results, progress, moving the needle.
We focused on this. Not on when and how people were working, or what hours were being clocked, but on output. This helped us keep things moving, and let a natural “pulse” evolve out of the new normal.
We’ve evolved new ways of keeping up with how things are going. Team catchups mix the sublime and the trivial because the trivial is important too. Actively asking each other how we’re holding up in the lockdown is a normal thing now, because there are no body language cues to pick up on. Work is structured with more independent work, and independent brain-writing has by and large replaced collective brainstorming.
As we did these things, we focused on helping our clients and partners. From collating and disseminating the best ideas and practices on workplace safety as they evolved, and connecting executives across our clients to share notes and ideas on coping and recovery. A lot of this was done in our personal non-official capacity, because helping each other, within and without, was not something we saw as optional.
Four months on, we are a 100% remote organization, with new employees, interns and VPs alike, who have never met face to face.There’s little we collectively miss from the traditional office paradigm, except perhaps the opportunity to get a drink after work. But even for that, we have Saturday Happy Hours on Zoom.