Ammeon’s Cloud Journey Towards Remote Working

Moving To The Cloud

During the summer of 2018, Ammeon Operations began our journey to the cloud. Many of our back-office functions and ways of working simply did not match the state of the art processes used by our technology teams and our customers. The main issue was we had, over time accrued a technical debt in our back-office technology stack. Our HR and recruitment systems and processes were antiquated and there was no single source of truth on employee data. A number of different systems held together by spreadsheets, the IP in people/s heads and a lot of luck ensured that our dedicated HR team kept the show on the road. Our finance department was also suffering as they were also using out of date software and excel magic. Ensuring payroll and other critical finance functions were delved came with increasing issues.  
 
More broadly, enterprise-level communication was becoming a challenge. With employees on different sites and with an ambition to set up an office in a remote location meant that scaling would be difficult with pockets of employees using different tools. Moreover, the employment market was also adding pressure on our recruitment efforts as the FANG companies all allow remote working and offsite collaboration.  We needed to ensure we could have positive communication at a distance. 

Failure to update these systems could lead to potential issues with audits or employee dissatisfaction. 

At best the issues seemed challenging, at worst overwhelming. So what was our approach to such a big issue? 

Create A Big Picture Plan 

In small organisations, you don’t always have the luxury of employing technology consultants to determine what internal technology stack you need. However, pulling together the experience from team members in small agile work teams, we quickly worked out a sketch of what we wanted to achieve 

  1. Single source of truth of our data across our different functions 
  2. Access to the data remotely and preferably via mobile 
  3. Scalability for team sizes 
  4. Hosted offsite for business continuity 
  5. Keep an eye on security issues 

Then create a box diagram of how all the pieces will fit together and ensure it makes sense. It’s important to have an overall view of what the tools could be. 

Decide Where You Want To Start – And Start Small 

The challenge of moving to the cloud was big, but we made some calls on which systems would have the greatest value to us and decided to focus on a couple of tools immediately. Don’t try and do it all at once. It’s easy to underestimate how long it can take to roll out even the simplest tools. It’s also easier to start somewhere and get that done rather than having multiple open-ended projects with none working. We decided that we would complete each piece first before moving on to the next component of the system.  

Use Tools That Integrate Together 

We decided earlier on that the best approach for us would be to choose our new toolsets from the constellation of exciting new SaaS tools which have a per head subscription model. Clearly functionality and cost are important but being able to bolt the different tools together afterwards is also important. 

Work closely on the project with IT and other stakeholders. Excite them about the possibility of having systems that they don’t have to install or maintain and simply use.  

Get Buy-In From Senior Management

Once you have developed a plan, you need support from senior stakeholders to build out the proposed plan. You may be selling to people who either don’t understand the technology or the reason why it’s important. Often collaborative tools like Slack seem like a gimmick at first; it’s only through usage that everyone sees the true value of these collaborative tools. So what’s the best way to get this through 

  1. Understand what the goals of the business are
    It’s important that you know what senior management is trying to achieve. Tailor your message to show how senior management can achieve the company goals through the implementation of the tools. 
  2. Show the real business value
    You need to demonstrate to the senior management the value of the tools. Part of it will be about showing it is affordable, but you genuinely need to be able to demonstrate that the ideas will work 
  3. Get a demo of the system and get them to try it out
    The great thing about modern systems is they are usually demoed online, so you can either get a remote demo or there are free systems to play with.
  4. Ensure that management can see that the project is achievable
    and in the first instance affordable. Once the value of one of these tools has been seen through usage the next parts will be easier.

Research, Trial and Test 

Research thoroughly and get different team members to try the tools that you select to see if they work for them in terms of usability. It’s good to have a range of tools that you can trial and weigh up benefits. Ensure that you have a clear idea of the functionality you need. And ensure that the spec is dictated by the department ( e.g HR, Resourcing, Recruitment, Finance) rather than someone from a different team. They might help in putting together a spec but will fail to understand the nuances of the day to day. 

Roadtest different products and then evaluate across functionality, usability, cost and modularity. IT have lots to fear from security issues so make sure they are happy with the supplier and the security specs before going any further.

Ensure that the team who will be using the new system are excited and bought into using it. If they aren’t, rinse and repeat.

Dedicate time to installation, rollout and training 

The great thing about SaaS systems is it’s easy to get started. Like any system, there will be challenges ensuring data integrity and accuracy, but all the backend issues are handled by others.

Once you have the system ready, ensure that you invest the time and effort across the team to get it rolled out. There is nothing as sad as seeing the decaying remains of a system that had huge potential but no one used it. Ensure that everyone has the training needed to use the system.

Migrating data from legacy systems to new systems can be time-consuming and sometimes soulless work. Ensure there is plenty of motivation along the way and celebrate once the team (and all the users are up to speed). Remember that one of the biggest challenges can be the changes in ways of working. Have a clear plan for how you want this to work but be open to changes as the team gets used to working in new ways. Listen to the team, get their feedback and update the processes. 

Review – Ask How People Find Using The System 

Learn from the process. Meet on an ongoing basis throughout the rollout and work out what you could do better next time. Document your learnings or at least share them as a presentation to enhance organisational learning about these systems. Before moving on to the next system, check in to ensure that the front line users are happy with the system and enforce compliance with the tools through management.

Look out for shadow IT projects where people use different software because they think the tool you installed sucks. Be transparent and work with those people to find out what the difficulties are and help them resolve the issues. Do a survey after 6 months and see how people are finding the system and again address issues. 

Rinse And Repeat 

Armed with the learnings that you have and a process for building and rolling out new systems, use the process to build out all the components on your plan. 

Moving to SaaS systems has revolutionised how we work in Ammeon and now, during the time of the Covid 19 Crisis, this investment in systems has prepared us to move seamlessly into home working.  


Author
James Ryan,
Ammeon COO


Learn More About Ammeon’s Cloud Solutions

From College Intern to Full-Time Engineer

Hi, my name is Daniel and I would like to share my experience of working in Ammeon as both an Intern IT Support Engineer and then as a full-time employee. I hope to provide anyone who may be interested in joining Ammeon with a sense of the company ethos and to give you an idea of what working life at Ammeon is like. 

Studying at DIT

I am an early school leaver who returned to education at 26. I had previously worked in several jobs with no real prospect for future growth and I wanted to try and improve my prospects for the future. I always had an interest in technology and I studied Networking Technologies at DIT, Kevin Street in Dublin. 

In second year, we had a six-month period where each student would work at a company in the IT industry to gain valuable experience in the sector. I applied for several roles with different companies, however, Ammeon was one of the only companies to show a genuine interest. I was invited for a face-to-face interview with the IT manager and the senior system administrator.  The interview itself was very casual and I was put at ease by the relaxed nature of both interviewers. I then had a follow-up phone interview with a member of the HR team, which was also managed in a very relaxed style, minimising the stress that everyone experiences in these situations and it enabled me to put my best foot forward on the day. 

The Ammeon Internship

During the six-month internship, I was given training in several different technologies and systems. I worked with technologies that I had not worked with before, and it helped me to gain an insight into what was required to work in a fast-paced, technologically-challenging environment. The team members that I worked with on a daily basis were very generous with their time and enabled me to learn and develop at my own pace, while also giving me a push, when required, to broaden my understanding of new technologies that I would not have worked with previously. 

I gained extremely valuable experience during my internship. The most valuable lesson I learned is to never give up on a task or project. There will always be pitfalls and challenges in working life but the most important thing to do when faced with these challenges is to keep working on the problem and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Luckily, given the open-door nature at Ammeon, this is never a problem and staff are more than happy to lend a helping hand when required, whether that be a team member or a member of another team or department, the same sentiment holds true. 

Nearing the end of my internship, I had a meeting with HR and the IT manager to discuss taking up full-time employment with Ammeon after I finished college. I was delighted and accepted straight away. However, there was one issue. I had booked a six-week holiday to South East Asia and would not be available to start until August! I feared that this would be a stumbling block, given that there was a lack of staff at that time working in the IT department. Those fears were totally unfounded. Ammeon was more than generous by allowing me to take the six weeks’ travel time to unwind after three years in college. I signed a contract before the end of my internship, which allowed me to travel for six weeks and then return to work after the holiday. On returning to college, I had signed a full-time contract and did not have to alter my plans for the summer. This demonstrated to me that Ammeon was not only open and flexible but also had a genuine interest in employing me as an individual and was willing to wait for me to take a well-needed break.  

I have now returned to Ammeon and am employed in a full-time capacity as an IT support engineer and I love every minute of it! The six-month internship provided me with a solid understanding of how Ammeon operates and what technologies are in use here. This allowed me to seamlessly return to the company as if I had never been away! 

By Daniel Carroll
IT Support Engineer | Ammeon


Start Your Career At Ammeon

MOVING 3975.08 KMS WITH AMMEON’S HELP

New country, even new continent, 3975.08 Km’s of distance between Cairo and Dublin. This is the distance I had to take to move from my home country and join Ammeon.

If you are making such a transition you are asking yourself a lot of questions: there is always the usual risk of changing your work environment by accepting a new job, how will I get along with the new team, management and team leaders? But moving to a different country also adds other concerns: how much help would you get regarding the transition, will your team understand the amount of work you can do while organising a lot of things regarding accommodation and paperwork?
Usually, even small things can boost or dent your confidence when making such a big move.

There were two main stages here. Stage one was before coming to Dublin.
Even before the job offer, all the interviews that I participated in where done over Skype; no travelling by a long flight to have a 30 minutes interview (as some companies do) then you may get a rejection at the end. This wasn’t the case with Ammeon. When I received the job offer, a phone call from the HR department immediately made me more confident about the move. Of course, Ammeon informed me that the company will pay for the application, the flight and accommodation for a month while I look for a longer-term place to live.

But in the first stage, you are still thinking about the paperwork. The HR response was divided into clear stages with detailed documents needed for each. The first part of the process, acquiring the employment permit, was completely carried out by Ammeon. After this stage, the support concentrated on getting the visa. The help that I could rely on at any stage was really comforting, raising up my confidence in this decision.

Then it comes to the flight tickets; there were no direct flights from Cairo to Dublin. Ammeon didn’t pick a cheap option, or long flights with long transit, even when I suggested this (it was a good impression created by the company and this wasn’t the last time).

Then it was stage two; settling here in Dublin.
With a family of a wife and two kids, I was planning to get my family to the country as soon as possible. I expected that the HR team would rent a place for one person in the first month, but what happened instead is that they rented a house for me making sure that my family could join me anytime. Speaking of renting nightmares here in Dublin, Ammeon hired two separate relocation companies to help me find a long-term place to live.

One of the two companies helped me even before my family joined me to find a proper school to register my son. Even though we were picky, searching for an “Educate Together” school, we were successful in booking a place for our son there.

But besides all this, I had a lot of concerns regarding what will happen in the first few weeks in the office and the level of understanding that I will get from management and from my colleagues in the team.
During the first period of chasing rents, schools and the remaining paperwork, I was always able to take longer lunch breaks and leave earlier for viewing a property or acquiring legal documents. My team members and my managers understood, and I got a lot of help and support from them. The list was scary, and I couldn’t finish it without a huge amount of support. A small taste of this list would be viewing properties, legal paperwork for residency, arranging utilities for the new home, even shipping new furniture by companies that ship only during work hours, and the list goes on, and it couldn’t be managed without a good understanding at the office both from my team members and my managers.

The key points here is that such a transition can be really exhausting and full of risks and mistakes, and for sure the employee may find a problem here and there, or even make a mistake or misjudge certain steps, but the full support from the company and understanding from their staff will always be the key to successfully transitioning to a new life in Ireland.

Yassin
Software Engineer

“AMMEON CARES. I AM NOT JUST ANOTHER NUMBER.”

Ireland has always been on the cards for myself and my family for a few years, I just hadn’t gotten the courage to do the big 9000 km journey. I started applying for work from South Africa not expecting to find work easily. Straight away I noticed a trend that companies only saw that I was living in South Africa and completely skipped over me.

Ammeon wasn’t one of those companies and they were more personable, I didn’t feel like another number. They showed me around the office, they explained my actual position and the culture around the office. At that point, I knew I wouldn’t be put in an unsuitable position, and even though I was on the other side of the world I could judge what I might be facing. I was ready to come to Ireland, now I just needed to find a home and get my family ready to go.

Moving house down the road is expensive but moving across the world was almost impossible to plan for. Clearly Ammeon knew how difficult it would be for me so they offered to pay for my flight and temporary accommodation for a month. They also hired a relocation company to help me find a home, as Ireland is facing a housing crisis. Ammeon is great, they are constantly introducing me to new people in my situation, they showed me around the city and they found me a pet-friendly home which is notoriously difficult to do.

Leaving South Africa was difficult but nothing could prepare me for how uncomfortable an 18-hour flight would be and how serious flight attendants take nose bleeds. I landed in Dublin during the early hours of the morning and my South African cellphone provider did not switch on roaming and all the shops were closed. I had never been to Europe before and I had to find my way across Dublin without a GPS. But by far the most difficult thing out the whole process was to get an Irish bank account, even if you are equipped with an Irish passport they would block you at every turn. Ammeon stepped in to save me again, one phone call from them and the banks welcomed me with open arms. These were really the biggest things I had to worry about because Ammeon handled everything else for me.

I have been with Ammeon for almost a year now and I get to work with new and interesting things every day. Funnily enough, they made moving to Ireland so easy for me that it doesn’t even feel like I moved my entire family across the world. A brand new country, freedom and safety that I have never felt in my life. Our lives have only improved since emigrating to Ireland, no matter what people may say about the weather.