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All over the world people are adjusting to the new reality of remote working. Businesses are thinking carefully about how to adapt to the current situation. Simulating standard working practices across a distributed workforce to maintain normal operations is hard enough, but imagine having to apply this new paradigm to activity that’s heavily reliant on a physical environment. That facilitates human interaction, cooperation and collaboration. Given the situation, it would be perfectly acceptable to suspend such an activity. 

Red Hat Open Innovation Labs residencies are designed to be conducted in person, and to take advantage of the high bandwidth communication that takes place face to face. Normally, we wouldn't attempt a residency online, but a number of residencies were already in progress and those customers decided that, due to the strong team bond that had developed, they wanted to continue these, even if this meant moving to a virtual residency. 

Labs residencies are a highly immersive experience. They expose teams to the culture of open source so that they begin to understand the value of digital communities, how to collaborate, explore new ideas and put them to good use. Residents can learn new techniques, understand new concepts or immerse themselves in emergent technologies such as AI and automation. 

So how do you capture all the ideas, excitement and energy generated during a residency and convert it into a virtual model that can be shared remotely? 

The answer lay in the principles of open source itself. By virtue of design, open source communities are made up of distributed communities. In many open source projects, the developers may never meet each other in person. The most successful open source projects embrace characteristics of collaboration, community, inclusivity, adaptation and transparency. 

In Labs, we lay these foundations using cultural practices we've defined in our Open Practice Library. These laid the foundations of the virtual model and informed the team how to go about simulating the creative and vibrant atmosphere of a residency. We do these in both residencies and virtual residencies but, arguably, when we're distributed we invest even more energy on establishing these practices and principles.

Teams will still "walk the walls" together to ensure informational transparency and collaborate face-to-face individually and as a group, all through the best-in-class video conferencing tools, interactive whiteboards and virtual canvases.  Sprint planning, daily standups, reviews, retrospectives, and many more virtual sessions can be recorded and replayed to wider audiences to increase learning and adoption of practices.  In switching from in-person to remote some elements are bound to be lost, but it’s vital the levels of trust and understanding synonymous with the live residencies are maintained.

It’s very much a trial and error situation. The Labs team and the residents are learning together on the fly, making observations and figuring out what tools and practices work best. It’s a constantly evolving process that’s informed by the same open and collaborative culture that drives successful open source projects.

The residencies may have been repackaged to suit remote working, but they haven’t lost the human touch. Driving collaboration, a shared sense of alignment, and an immersive experience can build a virtually connected community focused on delivering increments as a team. 

Many customers still have compelling events and milestones approaching, application development and operations must continue. There is increased focus on business resiliency and need for continuity. Some customers now see the need to establish capability to run development in a virtual setting and establish remote team culture.The virtual model is designed to help customers meet these needs and produce similar outcomes as the live experience. 

Ultimately, even at times like this, businesses cannot afford to put everything on hold. The virtual residencies are an example of how people can continue to work together and achieve a set of common goals enabling business resilience and continuity. As some customers continue to innovate and deliver new software and applications, others are putting the brakes on innovation and focusing on maintaining and enhancing productivity, the Labs team have shown that by adopting the principles of open source it’s possible to find new ways to communicate and collaborate.

Whether you’re focusing on business continuity and resilience, looking to increase developer productivity, or innovate faster, Red Hat Open Innovation Labs virtual residency is one way we continue to help organisations come together. Learn more about how open source principles allow us to remain effective and innovate across distributed teams at red.ht/labs

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About the author

Tim Beattie is Global Head of Product and a Senior Principal Engagement Lead for Red Hat Open Innovation Labs. His career in product delivery spans 20 years as an agile and lean transformation coach - a continuous delivery & design thinking advocate who brings people together to build meaningful products and services whilst transitioning large corporates towards business agility. 

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