As a new starter on Programme Nelson at the beginning of lockdown, Ben Harris reflects on what remote working has meant for the Agile team that’s transforming the Royal Navy’s use of data
Going into lockdown was an unsettling time for many – personally and also organisationally, with businesses and government departments rapidly having to transition into working remotely at scale. As Alex Crompton explains in his latest blog, this has driven exceptional levels of digital transformation, and perhaps the biggest invocation of business continuity planning in the last 80 or so years.
While all of this has seen many organisations switch to working in a ‘Plan B’ operating model, for the Programme Nelson team, remote working has been an opportunity to continue the development of one of the Royal Navy’s most exciting data transformation projects, within an Agile working framework.
Life as a new starter on Programme Nelson
I was lucky enough to join the team as a Data Scientist right at the beginning of lockdown. An unusual time to join, and as I write this blog I’m sat at home in my makeshift office, contemplating the past weeks of my new role and the effect COVID-19 has had on my experience as a new starter.
My new role is focused on working very closely with the Royal Navy to utilise advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities. Programme Nelson is a terrific seedbed of innovation powered by civilian and military experts, all centred on delivering the Navy of the Future.
You might think that this wasn’t the greatest timing for my next big opportunity. However, the reality is that on-boarding and team integration has been a fantastic experience – despite lockdown.
Remote but Agile
As the world scrabbled to sign up to team collaboration tools like Zoom, those of us working on Programme Nelson for BAE Systems carried on as normal. We were all, subconsciously or otherwise, ready to live the digital and Agile world we often talk about. We all jumped on our daily stand-ups like usual (albeit remotely), and we formulated new ways of working to make sure that everyone was in our journey together.
We implemented changes in our Agile methods, temporarily moving from a typical scrum set up to Kanban – this meant we could be flexible in our delivery, rather than sticking to the strict development rhythm often found in scrum. We set up daily surgery sessions which meant technical support was reliably available to everyone. We split our teams up into closer knit groups, and set extra breakout sessions. We made it clear that we can talk about our feelings if people were struggling in isolation at home, made plans for those who were juggling family commitments, and we even did an evening pub quiz.
But ultimately, everyone was there, responsive, and supporting one another completely.
Why join the team?
Since joining I have been able to go talk to everyone and anyone. As a result, I have been able to get on board with our tech stack quickly – perhaps quicker than I would have if we were all in the office. I have a brilliant pool of talent at my fingertips all day every day, and this, combined with the inspiring work we’re doing for the Royal Navy, is truly motivational.
My colleagues have made starting a new role at BAE Systems, while on lockdown, immeasurably easier. I am excited for the future, as I know that the support network and togetherness will not fade once we are all in the same office again.