Many people think that the remote work concept can only be applicable to engineers. My name is Cyril, Kyiv City General Manager at Crossover (recruiting platform, part of ESW Capital venture fund), and I am going break this myth today with our special guest, who is Global Management Consultant Yoav Harel.
Here we will speak about the productivity increase, about the metrics and KPIs, about the remote working process in general. His role has nothing in common with engineering so let me ask him how does he get to this way of life!

C.: You are not an engineer, tell me about your trade?

Yoav: My Background is in business. I started off my career as a management consultant at Accenture after undergraduate business degree. After MBA (Oxford), back to consulting, also small venture capital firm. Then several years at the law firm in Japan (Nishimura & Asahi). After law degree, I joined online gaming company instead of becoming a lawyer as originally planned. So I moved to a beautiful small place called the Isle of Man where I was in a senior management team of a company called Pokerstars. And then I worked for a telecoms regulator of The Isle of Man developing regulations for the internet and for space. And then I joined online gaming company here in sunny Malta.

So, business and law background – not an engineer.

It’s after I was here in Malta, I started a family and started thinking about changing nature of work. This is a way to work from home.

I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years, but that’s when I really got serious about it.  I can spend more time with my family and also be able to be located anywhere in the world and that’s how I joined Crossover.

home office

Hey, look, this is Malta outside the window!  🙂

C.: How did learn about Crossover?

Yoav: In my case, I started looking around the internet for remote knowledge work. Best companies for remote work.
A lot of remote work is engineering work but obviously not all of them. And that’s how I came across Crossover and in contrast with some remote working companies, they seem more serious, more developed.
Once I started talking to people from Crossover and going through interview process I knew that this was gonna be a great opportunity. So, I’ve been with Crossover now for 10 months. I joined in June 2017.

C.: What is the mission of the company? How about the working processes?

Yoav: The company is part of the ESW Capital group of companies. And Crossover is a remote working platform and together with the WorkSmart Pro methodology that we use it’s also a means of helping teams increase their business value and productivity, reduce their costs.
Crossover remote working platform enables you to work and get managed remotely. It also includes analytic tools to see how is your focus: are your tasks switching too often or not, how intensely are you working. It lets you track your teams’ key metrics and goals and gives visibility on that. It automates some aspects of checking in and communicating with the team. And that goes hand in hand with what my team focuses on. I’m part of the coaching team at Crossover and we use something called the Worksmart Pro methodology.
What’s that?

It basically takes a look at best practices from manufacturing and other disciplines and applies that to engineering work and to knowledge work in general.

You’ve probably heard of LEAN management and methodologies like that. There is a book called “The Phoenix Project” that actually describes a lot of the concepts that we use. A key thing is about what the simple metric does – it captures what your team does and how to track and improve your teams’ productivity.
And a good metric, let’s say for example for the support team, it does not just support tickets closed. Because what about the quality? You could close live tickets without having a good quality. Hypothetically: tickets are closed when a customer gives 5 out of 5 quality rating. But then it can also be a timeliness component.

So, for example, a good metric could be a number of tickets closed with 5/5 rating from the customer and they are closed within 24 hours.

So things like that, that we apply across all the companies and all the teams within the ESW group. And not just engineering teams but also marketing teams, recruiting teams, sales teams. We figure out: what`s the key metric that we can use week by week to track and improve the teams` productivity. And that`s another thing to keep in mind, that we are talking about week by week, so it`s very immediate and all the teams are always pushing to continue improving.

C.: So what you are talking about are more so-called “smart KPIs” not just abstract simple goals. What is your KPI then?

Yoav: Just to clarify one thing. Simple is good. The simpler the metric is – the simpler the way a team works – the better. But at the same time, it has to hit the key elements. And in my team, our metric is how many teams are we helping improve.

The teams that we coach – their target by default is 25% quarter on quarter cost reduction.

Anything above 15% quarter on quarter is good, but our target is 25%. And we judge ourselves based on: this is how many teams we are working with and how many of those teams are achieving the goal of the quarter on quarter significant cost reductions. And most of the teams that we coach are achieving that target.

C.: When there is cost reduction, shouldn’t it be the same level of income? So is it also a part of KPI? Revenue has to be growing and costs should be reducing?

Yoav: When we say cost reduction – it could mean that you figure out how to have the same level of the output but with fewer people. So each person on the team could create more. At the same time, it could be, that you keep the same number of people in the team but the teams’ output is just way higher. And it could be a combination. You could reduce the number of people that are needed but also the output of the team is gonna go way up.

And the way that you do that – you look at the people on the team and always make sure that you got the best possible people, good metrics to measure performance, you look at the processes of the team and you are always trying to optimize those, and you are also looking to automate everything that can be automated.

So you want the guys on the team to focus on value-added activities, helping the customer when it comes to entering your result, tracking your time.

C.: How does your typical day look like?

Yoav: I wake up as early as possible, take a walk outside with my wife and daughter. Around 8:30 – 9:00 AM I start working. Today, for example, I’ve got this call with you and a call with recruiting team that needs to find the best talents, and engineering team, whose goal is to take existing software products from all kinds of different companies and make them perform faster, and another team that makes all the products more user-friendly. And tomorrow I’ll have meetings with a whole bunch of other teams. So that is my day: meeting with different teams and helping them to use WorkSmart Pro methodologies, looking at things like how is the team performing this week, what experiments are they doing next week to make the process better, to automate even more things. I’ve been working on these things in other companies as well, like process improvement, working on adding value to customers.

What’s different here is that we do more. It’s really a part of the culture.

And it’s OK if an experiment doesn’t work: either way, you’re gonna learn from that and decide if you’re gonna change the process or not.

The same for my team: in an addition to those meetings that I’ve mentioned I’m gonna be working on an experiments that my team is running right now, where we are trying to automate a bunch of different things that we track for different teams so that we know if they are doing it or not automatically. And that is in the beginning stages.

C.: Are the methodologies used by the team self-invented? Or is it based on something that was discovered already?

Yoav: It`s a combination of looking at things we saw were working for us within the group. Taking that and making it more formalized, developing a methodology based on what we saw was working. Like having a good metric, tracking weekly productivity and pushing for improvements with experiments, making sure that teams have a good schedule of team meetings, that managers are always in close touch with their teams. So that`s one input to the methodology.

Another input is taking the best from other disciplines. So for example from manufacturing – for example, the way that Toyota reinvented manufacturing. So when you look at the process what’s the bottleneck? If you are gonna improve the process, you have to improve the bottleneck, cause if you improve other elements of the process, the overall productivity is still gonna be constrained by the bottleneck.

Also, my team and other teams develop it as we go. In finance or accounting, you`ve got the concept – 0-based budgeting. That means: instead of taking the previous quarter or previous year budget, instead of just modifying that you start at 0 and build up the budget based on what you actually need to do and how much it`s really gonna cost.

For WorkSmart Pro we said: okay, let`s take this concept of 0-based (but instead of 0-based budgeting we take 0-based process design or 0-based target). So instead of just modifying your process, think about what is your teams real objective, what are they really trying to do and how can you improve that by 10 orders of magnitude, how can you completely reinvent that starting from scratch?
So there are 3 streams:

  • stuff that was already working – taking that, making it more formalized;
  • taking the best from other disciplines;
  • and also developing methods as we go.

So what we are doing right now – is an example of the 0-based target. We didn’t just say: “Hey, how can we rent buildings for cheaper?” or “How can we save cost here and there?”. We said: “What are the real objectives of knowledge work? What is really necessary? Do you even need buildings? Do we even need to be in the same place?”.

Now we have the cloud.
Like now: I’m in Malta, you are in Kyiv and we are cooperating. Later on, I’ll meet teams that are located in Egypt, Argentina, Russia, Philippines. All working together. 0 commuting time, 0 facilities cost, and just doing stuff faster and better than other software companies. 

C.: It sounds impressive. So what you are doing is managing operations? What is the name of your position?

Yoav: My official title is Global Management Consultant. Because I advise a bunch of teams around the globe. Informally I`m known as a Productivity coach. And I`m a member of a coaching team. There are 6 of us with engineering or business background.

C.: Is there anything else about Crossover you want to share with us?

Yoav: We are pushing increased business and customer value, productivity increases, cost reduction, better and better results.
Sure there is some pressure there but it’s also very transparent because it’s metric-based. You see your metrics and constantly trying to improve that.
It’s not only about being efficient. It’s also about changing the definition of a software company. It’s about making things more scalable, faster, better.

So now we can see, that the remote work concept does really work in non-technical positions. Companies are trying to acquire best of the best talents all over the world no matter where they are located.
There are so many wonderful places and things in the world, like family, beautiful islands, mind-blowing nature, and other things. Why skip it all being tied to any kind of location?

 Just open your mind to new opportunities!