Lessons to Learn Working in Wartime by Software Development Hub
Lessons to Learn Working in Wartime by Software Development Hub
Author: Vic Bukhantsov, CEO at Software Development Hub
Today, many Ukrainian companies talk about organizing work in the new reality with the circumstance “during the war” Software Development Hubwould also like to share its story.
Software Development Hub (SDH for short) is a team of 100 engineers united by the mission to help tech product companies and startups achieve their goals through IT outsourcing. Founded in 2014, SDH provides custom software, web and mobile development services for partners worldwide. SDH is ranked among the best Ukrainian software development providers for healthcare products.
Digital health, education, e-accounting, home automation, and security are only a few domains the SDH team has strong expertise in. Over 9 million people use software products developed by the SDH team daily.
The war has significantly changed our plans for the future.
Until recently, our headquarters was located in Kharkiv. More than half of the entire team was there. Kharkiv is a big eastern Ukrainian city that has been suffering from shelling since the first days of the war.
For the SDH team, the day on February 24th started at 5 a.m. with the horror of distant explosions and flashes of light. When the company’s employees got accustomed to the sounds of roaring villain aircraft, missiles, and other deadly weapons over the roofs of their dwellings, most of them had already been evacuated to safer cities in the western regions.
Some of our colleagues’ houses were damaged or even destroyed. The company head office is no longer available to work in.
How did SDH overcome the wartime challenges? Vic Bukhantsov, CEO at Software Development Hub, told us.
A month before the Russian invasion
Before the war, the C-level staff began to work out possible scenarios for the company’s actions: assessing the risks and fixing budgets. SDH was already well adapted to remote work due COVID-19, so the organizational processes in this situation did not scare us.
SDH conducted an in-team survey within the company to find out each team member’s exact location and relocation capabilities. We had a big picture and a general plan. However, some things could have been improved: for example, we should have considered the emotional shock and the problems associated with it. Not all employees were able to make decisions quickly.
It was essential to ensure non-stopping work processes. The management suite has developed business continuity plans (BCP) for clients to give them confidence in the continuity of their processes.
● BCP is a prevention and recovery system for potential threats like war.
● BCP is designed to protect personnel and assets and ensure they can function quickly during the war.
And these BCPs were tested and improved in real conditions.
Today, our BCP includes information:
1) Direction and Control:
● Business Continuity Policy
● Emergency Management Group
● Incident Commander
● Team Processes and Procedures
● Incident Commander Workflow
● Emergency Operations Center
● Emergency Communications
● Notification and Warning
● Confidentiality Requirements
● Organizational Chart
● Customer Lists
● Utility Provider Information
● Suppliers and Equipment Providers
3) Life Safety:
● Evacuation Planning
● Assembly and Accountability
● Family Preparedness
4) Property Protection
● Protection Systems
● Facility Shutdown
● Records Preservation
● Building Information
5) Community Outreach:
● Mutual Aid Agreements
● Public Information
● Media Response
● Local Emergency Information
● Recovery and Restoration
6) Procurement, Logistics and Distribution
● Service Development
● Marketing, Sales and Customer Accounts
● General Management and Firm Infrastructure
● Human Resource Management
● Technology and Process Development.
What problems do we solve first?
Our BPC plan was not as perfect as it is today. Creating the plan was a beneficial exercise as it allowed us to gather business and safety resources in one place. Companies that are prepared to face all types of incidents — small or large — are more likely to stay in business.
In the first days, many Ukrainian cities appeared under attack, but the situation with Kharkiv was the most difficult. It was a rather shocking situation for all of us.
Despite it, we focused on solving the three main issues:
● finding out whether employees were safe and whether their families needed help;
● uniting employees who were able to work in order to reduce risks for the most critical areas, primarily for DevOps work;
● helping with the evacuation of employees.
The project managers were tasked to identify what resources were available and who could work.
This allowed us to continue to deliver services with minimal-term delay. For example, some releases that were supposed to take place in the current sprint were released in the next sprint. Thus, the delay on projects was up to two weeks. At the same time, our partners expressed support and understood the delays, so we greatly thank them.
However, SDH has not stopped working for a single day since February 24th.
“The main thing for us today is people and their safety. We are used to looking for opportunities in every threat,” — Vasyl Kuchma, Managing Partner at SDH, says.
Lessons to learn
1. Have a plan
Businesses with solid BCP are more resilient in the face of emergencies.
If implemented and maintained, the resulting plan can be the difference between recovering from a business interruption and going out of business.
Thankful to BCP, SDH was able to prevent stopping its operations during hostilities. The plan is a playbook for continuing your day-to-day business during a disaster scenario or otherwise abnormal conditions.
2. People are the most valuable resource.
In such extreme conditions, the team’s cohesion played a huge role. The team spirit, no matter how pathetic it may sound, helped to mobilize all efforts and work productively.
Today in Ukraine, unemployment is growing, according to Djinni, with a ratio of 1 to 7. While many companies in the IT sector ceased to exist, we retained 95% of the jobs, providing employees’ families with confidence in the future.
In March 2022, the SDH’s employees were successfully relocated to safe regions and countries. It secured risks and became a keystone to new prospects for the company. Several employees have gone to serve in the armed forces, and many are volunteering. We keep in mind the
3. Every threat is an opportunity.
Nowadays, SDH is transforming from a Ukrainian company into a multinational one and has opened a headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. With employees in 20 countries, the company is keeping the course with diverse international teams and new markets.
The sustainable approaches and a remote-first office format were chosen. Working on strengthening ties with foreign counterparts was set as a major war-driven goal set by SDH leaders.
Thanks to events such as Impact Festival, IFA, WebSummit, and Medica that took place in 2022, we made steps to become known to the European community.
4. Diversification is the first
Diversifying employees by country and location was the right strategy in our case. SDH still sees Ukraine as a hub of high-skilled IT professionals, but we also recruit people from other regions.
The second diversification strategy is customer diversity. Given the geographical fragmentation (USA, Europe, MENA) and the vertical of industries, the company could keep almost all of its current contracts.
6. Don’t be silent
As it turned out, many of our overseas stakeholders could not believe what was really happening in Ukraine. Constant communication helped us convey that this was not just a picture from the screen but a new reality in which our Ukrainian employees were living.
At SDH, we have also focused on internal communication. It’s very important to take care of your people and to express support for them. In addition to frequent calls from company leaders and dialogues, we have introduced rallies with a psychologist to help people get through this difficult time.
We believe that sharing our experiences will help business make better decisions, and we also strive to keep a chronicle of events to capture this period of history.
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