Operation OrgTech: How this team empowered us to work remotely in 5 days
This week we’re 3 weeks into a fully remote office setup and we’re getting used to communicating and collaborating from our comfortable home offices. We realize that none of this would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for our team of superheroes otherwise known as the OrgTech team. We took some time to ask them a few questions about how they empowered 1200 talents to move to a fully remote setup within a few days!
When did you find out that we’ll be moving to a remote setup? What were the immediate implications?
“We had some meetings before the official announcement from Axel was sent out. So we had little lead time to prepare for what was coming towards us. As soon as it got serious, Andy, Florian and Patrick (OrgTech leads) met to discuss the most important topics and prioritize them accordingly. One of the decisions that we took was to halt all configuration changes or new implementations until everyone is settled in at home. We also discussed scaling issues. After all, this is the first time in the history of trivago that all of us are working remotely and therefore we needed to make sure that the systems – especially VPN – are up for that challenge. However, some previous decisions played into our hands. For example, long ago we switched to an all laptop setup and therefore our talents were already mobile and didn’t have to take bulky desktop computers home.”
Could you briefly take us through the process of going fully remote?
“As a first measure, we ensured that all teams that are relevant for keeping our systems up and running can work properly from remote. This included IT-Support, ITEA and DCO. As we had no previous experience with a full-remote setup, we decided to set up a daily crisis meeting with all involved parties – as working together very closely is definitely a large factor for success here. In those meetings we discussed issues that arose and quickly aligned on measures to mitigate those. For a while, a project team around Stephan Strack, one of our Technical Project Managers, has been working on a new videoconferencing solution and were in the final testing phase for hardware in our meeting rooms. As an immediate measure it was decided to rollout Zoom to all talents to enable a proper meeting experience for all.”
What are the biggest challenges you faced?
“The biggest challenge was actually the very short timeframe and the large amount of alignment needed to enable a full-remote setup. This included the question if we’re able to allow talents to take equipment home and if so, what do we need to do to be on the safe side regarding compliance. Considering that talents started moving equipment out of our offices roughly 30 minutes after our CEO Axel’s email, the pressure was very high to have a proper process and alignment here. Topics like how new talents will be onboarded and offboarded during the remote work phase needed to be clarified. Next to having the internal discussions within our IT teams, we liased with the business partners, employment services, office management, finance and many others in a very short time frame to make things happen. A major technical challenge was our VPN setup. Not every talent had VPN configured on the laptop and we also needed to ensure that our VPN service can take the load. Our DCO team scaled the service up in a very short time frame, enabling significantly more concurrent connections with added redundancy while IT-Support provisioned VPN for everyone.”
Which kind of equipment did trivago allow talents to take home with them? How many items did talents end up taking?
“As an exceptional case talents were allowed to take extra equipment home with them to make their home office as comfortable as possible. We initiated this action in all our office locations and in total, this is how much equipment was borrowed besides talents’ laptops:
It’s a priority for trivago that our talents have the proper equipment so that they can feel like their remote workplace is as comfortable as our lovely offices.”
We do allow occasional remote work and we’re used to collaborating remotely between various offices – but how is having everyone working remotely at the same time so different?
“Like outlined before, we were somewhat already prepared for remote working, as we equip all our talents with laptops. Also we’re using many cloud solutions like Slack, Dropbox and Office 365 that we did not really have to worry about moving to remote. Technically, the biggest challenge was to ensure that everyone is equipped with VPN access and that the service can take the load.
Next to the technical challenges, we also had some organizational ones. As our teams also move to a full remote setup, we needed to ensure that our team organization is suitable for remote work and we’re in a position to properly guide and support the company through this difficult phase. One of the major challenges is actually supporting our users. Our talents don’t have the option anymore to quickly pass by IT-Support to discuss any issue, which makes understanding and solving issues more difficult. While software or configuration issues can be easily resolved remotely, this doesn’t work for hardware issues. The time frame was also too short to set up a proper hardware replacement service using external partners like DHL. In addition, even our suppliers are currently unable to deliver spare parts due to broken supply chains from China. However, there’s a solution to every problem. trivago’s culture helps talents are used to traveling between offices and other remote locations to work in unfamiliar surroundings and this fosters an independent mindset to deal with these situations.”
Consider me impressed! I can’t believe how much you were able to get done in such a short period of time and I know my fellow talents are equally thankful for being able to settle into our home offices so quickly with your and trivago’s support. You rock!