ScribbleLive is bringing media companies and brands software that allows them to publish, curate, and syndicate content in real-time in the era of era of always-on social media and news. They're solving a problem that's been a huge trending issue in media. In fact, ScribbleLive powered Boston.com’s liveblog coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and even served as their homepage when the traffic surge caused Boston.com to go down. Matt McCausland, software development manager at ScribbleLive, talked with us about how the Toronto-based company manages hyper growth while staying true to its values.
Open communication at work
Internal communication is extremely important to the ScribbleLive team because their product is a communication tool. They have a company-wide liveblog, ScribbleLive Daily, which serves as a fun watercooler-type communication channel. Employees publish posts on side projects and Hack Days, share interesting links and photos, and celebrate good news such as positive feedback about their customers’ liveblogs.
Matt explains, “It’s an ‘eat your own dog food’ kind of thing. You’re supposed to post one interesting thing a day related to your job or not. So people will share cool things that our clients have done or an article about development or whatever their job is. You get a wide range of stuff. It’s like an internal social network.”
With the bulk of the ScribbleLive team is in Toronto and a small sales team in the UK, the Daily liveblog helps people stay in touch and build camaraderie, on top of Skype and email. “We get to know them better than we would otherwise,” Matt explains.
In addition to having a social watercooler communication channel, it's vital that the company has open communication on the work that's getting done. iDoneThis solves this problem for Matt and team.
We like it because it’s so simple — just reply to an email with what you did.
“It’s good to keep track and have a log of things we worked on,” says Matt. “We like it because it’s so simple — just reply to an email with what you did. If a project gets out of control, we can go back in iDoneThis” and figure out what happened. iDoneThis becomes a record of of their projects, including the tech research they conduct as part of a Canadian research and development tax credit program.
Asynchronous communication for flextime work schedules
That people love their work and are engaged with what they do is an important value to the ScribbleLive team. That's why flexible work arrangements are a big part of the culture at ScribbleLive. About 60% of employees at ScribbleLive work flexibly, which means that they are empowered to design their work schedule.
The problem that arises when everyone is not in the office at the same time, from 9 to 5, is that it's difficult to get the team together in a room to sync up. If this isn't addressed, teamwork and communication can decline.
That's why, as a team manager at a workplace with flexible hours, Matt loves that iDoneThis works asynchronously. iDoneThis empowers flexible working by making it easy for people to update the team on progress on their own time, not in a scheduled meeting.
Within two minutes you can quickly read what everybody was working on yesterday.
“Sometimes I leave at 4 and other people are here until 6, so I can just see what everybody worked on all day. And Jonathan [the CTO] likes [the digest] because he’s not as hands-on as I am. Within two minutes you can quickly read what everybody was working on yesterday.”
Streamlining your standup and keeping focused on priorities as you grow
As the dev team grows rapidly — doubling every year — Matt is reconsidering how sheer size may change his management style. “We’re a startup, so we just try to get things done quickly that’ll push the business in whatever direction we need to be going in at the time. We don’t really have a project manager, we don’t have charts, it’s all pretty loose. We don’t have any software. We schedule out one project and work through it when things come up.”
To manage priorities, Matt told us: “We have a master list. We meet regularly with the exec team to discuss the importance of the top ten things on the list to make sure what we’re going to be working on in the next few weeks are the most important — not necessarily the most urgent, but the most important.”
The dev team does hold standup meetings in the morning, but they began to find that standups were taking longer and longer as the team scaled up. Also, the developers on the team felt like they were just reciting status, not conveying or discussing useful information.
After beginning to iDoneThis Matt told us that it helped kick off the standups with a shared knowledge of what people are working on, and that empowered the team to do away with reports on what you did in their standups and jump right into problems and issues.
It's about focusing on what's important. Matt and the ScribbleLive dev team understand that a regular review of priorities is key to how the company moves forward and that's based on a fundamental shared and focused understanding of what's getting done in the company and what the challenges are.