They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but for 2020 at RPCuk, it became the mother ushering her child out into the world. Towards the end of 2019, we had identified the potential to deliver work remotely and were refining our plans to make it possible when the COVID-19 Lockdown pushed us to actually make it happen. At RPCuk we pride ourselves on being agile and fleet enough of foot to respond to customer requirements, often with new ways of working or innovative solutions to particular problems. This universal new problem of closed offices and staff working from home, both within RPCuk and our clients, demanded a radical new approach to enable work to continue.
Training by Wire
We started with Training. Widespread adoption of Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other collaboration platforms has made online meetings and screensharing amongst groups readily accessible without the need to download special mobile apps or software applications. Our trainers were already well versed in setting up training environments for web-based access in client offices, so setting one up for access remotely proved little different. Internal tests with RPCuk staff in the delegate roles put the Microsoft Teams platform and environment through their paces and ironed out some of the practical issues of managing a group working at different paces in different places. The Teams environment makes it easy to offer instructor support to individual delegates and to facilitate delegate interaction and break-out groups within the class. The recent update, enabling users to separate their screen view from their video call window is a real improvement, too.
Our technical team drew up a list of requirements for delegates to ensure that they were equipped to join the training, but these included nothing that was not already likely to be standard on home or work PCs. Attending a class remotely requires a minimum bandwidth speed of only 256kbps – that’s less than what you’ll need to watch your favourite show from a streaming service.
In the week before each course, our production team will contact all delegates to confirm their set-up, make sure that they can interact with the instructor and both access and login to the Oracle Primavera P6 environment set up for the training. This pre-course check is vital to pre-empting any issues that would delay the start of the training and impact on all delegates on the course.
Thanks to this advance preparation, our first remote training course – a 3-day Oracle Primavera P6 Fundamentals course delivered to 10 delegates by our RPCuk trainer – started on time and without a hitch. One of the delegates, based in a rural part of Cork, was suffering from intermittent internet connection problems, but with the on-hand technical support and advice he was able to be self-sufficient in terms of rebooting, logging back in to the cloud environment and rejoining the course. Another delegate briefly lost his microphone and speaker, but again support was on hand in the wings to solve the problem. Coffee-break catch-up sessions were able to fill in the gaps and both trainer and delegates soon agreed that the course delivery felt much the same as an actual classroom event.
Home remote training is fine if your broadband is fast, but frustrating when it’s slow and with other family members also working from home in many cases, this is the most common technical hitch – along with family interruptions, dogs barking at the postman and other domestic intrusions. But our trainers and delegates have proved to be resourceful quickly finding the best ways to deal with any technical issues, if not the toddlers. To resolve a slow network, delegates restart their machine, making sure no other programs are running in the background. Turning off the video in Microsoft teams can also help a lot.
Remote Development and Deployment
It’s not only training that can be delivered remotely, though. Whether clients are using the Oracle cloud or the RPCuk cloud, via our RPCXtra service, we have developed solutions for remote software implementation, too. Having been approached by Glan Agua, an industry leader in providing project solutions for the water and waste industry, we needed to find a way to help them to meet an urgent requirement to implement Oracle Primavera EPPM in readiness for a new contract.
Time was of the essence, as the system had to be built and configured prior to the contract starting and could not wait until the pandemic was over. The usual approach to this type of implementation involves a series of on-site meetings, workshops and user training. Plainly, this would not be possible. RPCuk successfully worked with the client to carry out the implementation and training using remote access technology, successfully implementing Oracle Primavera Portal (for Administration and Identity Cloud Services) and Oracle Primavera P6 EPPM live on the client’s own production environment.
Twice-weekly four-hour meeting sessions via Teams were scheduled with all key personnel, allowing us to gather all the necessary information around user profiles and administrative tasks. Again, the Teams platform worked well, enabling instant screen sharing and offering collaborative features, such as the chatroom and the ability to share files and, rather than this new way of working being a hindrance, we were able to complete the implementation in fewer days than planned.
We approached this implementation – and several other remote deployments this year – using our Rapid Prototyping method. When designing and implementing a complex Project Controls solution, Rapid Prototyping offers an agile and efficient way of working to complete a successful implementation in the shortest possible time. Clients can be up and running in incremental stages from Discovery through to Closure, working towards full functionality built on the confidence that any operational issues have been identified and corrected in the early stages. It’s an approach that not only minimises risk, but also expedites ROI and allows clients to offer user training in manageable, phased stages.
Whether a client is working with an on-premise or on-cloud environment, using the RPCuk Rapid Application Development methodology, all the configuration work and testing is done on an RPC-hosted environment without any need to access the client’s own systems.
For RPCuk and the software implementation and training industry, the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic have invigorated innovation and accelerated the drive to explore the possibilities of existing technologies in new ways of working as geographically remote teams. This is not a sticking plaster approach but a real improvement that is set to become a permanent option in our working processes going forwards.
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