Unlocking Growth: The Impact of Live Events at #IWBS23

The International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans isn’t just another event in the maritime industry’s calendar; it’s a melting pot of ideas, innovation, and invaluable networking. This year, we had the pleasure of attending this esteemed gathering, and the experience was nothing short of transformative for the team.

The primary motivation for attending the IWBS was to immerse ourselves in the heartbeat of the maritime industry. The event promised a unique platform to connect with both current and prospective clients, delve into the latest trends, and explore the challenges and opportunities shaping our sector.

Live events provide a real, tactile way to engage with the pulse of an industry. There’s an undeniable magic in live events. From brainstorming strategies to dissecting marketing campaigns, the face-to-face interactions at WorkBoat facilitated a level of depth and understanding seldom achieved in the virtual world.

A standout moment for me was engaging in lively discussions with some of our current clients. We dove into the nuances of targeting different demographic segments within the maritime industry, from ship owners to blue-collar workers, and the unique approaches required for each. Moreover, sharing a meal with people we normally only see on Zoom, including a memorable dinner- featuring some of the best oysters I’ve ever had, added a personal touch to our professional relationships.

The show was not without its challenges, including navigating a packed schedule, but thanks to the exceptional organizational skills of the Selland team, we managed to balance meetings, impromptu discussions, and valuable networking opportunities seamlessly. The show provided an excellent opportunity for our marketing team to collaborate in person and the face-to-face meetings with clients proved invaluable. These interactions led to new perspectives on applying marketing strategies to address their unique business challenges, some of which they hadn’t previously considered solvable.

Encouraged by our success at WorkBoat, we plan to continue our presence at industry events throughout the year. Our sights are set on the Inland Marine Expo in Nashville, with anticipation already building for next year’s IBWS24

The International WorkBoat Show wasn’t just an event; it was a catalyst for growth, learning, and forging stronger connections. For anyone considering attending, whether it’s WorkBoat or any other trade show, my advice is simple: embrace every opportunity to connect, learn, and be open to new approaches. The experiences you’ll gain are invaluable, both professionally and personally.

The Importance of a Clean Development Board

Ben is Founder & CEO of Selland Technologies; a pro at utilizing strategy to maintain processes, his company has been named a leader in the marketing & digital advertising industry for good reason.

A clean development board is often an excellent proxy for the quality of work a team produces. In fact, I would argue that it is not just a trailing indicator, but can be used to increase team productivity. If a team is struggling or under a lot of stress, one of the highest-value activities in my experience is tidying the board and the backlog. 

The same concept is true on a macro level. A well-defined set of milestones is a good indicator of team productivity and a good remedial measure when attempting to dig a project out of a hole. It is important to remember that these tools (Kanban Boards, Milestones, etc.) are intended to create team cohesion, not obedience. By ensuring the team is aligned on micro and macro objectives, the team is more likely to deliver quality work on time.

How Kanban Boards Work

Kanban boards are one of the most popular project management tools used by agile development teams today. A Kanban board visually represents the tasks involved in a project and their status (e.g. To Do, In Progress, Done). This tool helps teams track progress and identify bottlenecks so they can optimize their workflow.

There are three main parts to a Kanban board:

The Backlog: This is where all of the tasks for a project are stored. Tasks can be added or removed from the backlog at any time.

The Kanban Board: This is where tasks from the backlog are moved as they are worked on. Tasks typically move from left to right across the board (e.g. To Do -> In Progress -> Done).

The Workflow: This is the process that tasks go through as they are worked on. Each task must go through all of the steps in the workflow before it can be considered “done.”

Kanban boards help us measure progress against a project in day-by-day increments. Tasks should move through the board over the course of a couple of days, and if they don’t, they may need to be broken up differently. Kanban boards are most useful when they closely reflect The Workflow of the team using them. For that reason, many project boards will look different, but they all work on the same principle: Start a task on the left and finish it on the right.

Using Milestones to Measure Progress

While a Kanban board measures progress and tracks objectives on a day-to-day (or sprint) level, milestones can be used to track the more significant portions of a project. Milestones should be larger features or collections of features that, together, make up the project’s scope. Typically, there will be one to three milestones scoped per week, depending on the size of the team and the scope of the milestones.

Milestones should be used in conjunction with other tools, such as Kanban boards and Scrum boards, so everyone has visibility into what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. This transparency ensures that everyone is working towards the same goal and makes it easy to identify when something falls behind schedule.

How Does a Clean Development Board Help?

A clean development board (and well-defined milestones) allows you to see what needs to be done next. This ensures that the team is focused on the same objectives. Additionally, by having all objectives laid out in front of you, it becomes much easier to identify problems and potential roadblocks. 

What Are Some Ways to Keep My Development Board Clean? 

There are many ways you can keep your development board clean. Here are just a few: 

  • Use epics and tags to designate different types of tasks 
  • Avoid sub-tasks for actual work but instead use them for repetitive tasks that need to be done for every piece of work, like QA
  • Break down large tasks into smaller ones. Typically, a unit of work should be between 30 minutes and one day of effort
  • Conduct daily standups with the team to discuss progress and identify blockers
  • Groom the current sprint as well as the backlog at least once per week. Grooming the current sprint involves reviewing current tasks for out-of-date statuses, unneeded work and stalled tickets. Grooming the backlog should include reviewing the priority of tasks as well as identifying missing work or work that is no longer needed.

Ultimately, the primary goal of most software development management tools is to ensure that the various members of the team remain aligned. While a wide variety of methodologies and tools are available, the above guidelines will apply almost universally to all teams, projects, tools, and processes.

If you feel like your project is starting to lag or needs a shot in the arm, try reviewing your board and milestones with these guidelines and see if it starts to bring the team back into alignment.

How to Leverage Slack for Remote Team Success

Remote teams, like all teams, need tools and processes for how they communicate and work together. However, for a remote team, these processes are even more critical since it is so easy for team members to become disconnected from their teammates.

Similarly, when teams work together in a single location, a lot of information is passed between team members through passive communication. A person might hear about a project or initiative through overhearing a conversation, or during a staff meeting. These types of communication can be translated to a remote team, but require careful planning and consideration.

Channels as the Primary Communication Venue

When people are new to a communication tool like Slack they will often find direct messages (DMs) to be the most natural communication flow. This is likely because it feels very similar to text messaging and other communication mediums that they are used to.

One of the most important lessons for a remote team (and generally any team using Slack) is that channels should be the primary venue for all communication. Channels allow for passive participation from other teammates and allow people to jump into the conversation as it is relevant to them.

The number one challenge most remote teams face is the dissemination of communication and setting up channels as the primary venue for all communications will go a long way toward resolving that.

Create Structure for your Channels

With channels set up as the primary communication tool for your team, it is important that you also set up some structure for how you manage channels. If the team creates new channels for every conversation or allows conversations to occur in the wrong channel this can undo all of the hard work to ensure communication transparency.

At Selland Technologies we have created a few different guidelines for our channels to help create organization from all of this communication:

Use Channel Prefixes to Structure Channels

We use a variety of channel prefixes to ensure that every channel is categorized into a few different buckets. For example, we use the proj- prefix for channels dedicated to a specific project while we will use the team- prefix for a channel intended to support a team. We also use the temp- prefix for any channel that we create for a short-term conversation.

Use Threads to Compartmentalize Conversation

Often someone will know that their message will be the start of a much longer conversation. Suggesting that the ensuing conversation happens as a thread on that comment not only makes it easier for other people to follow the overall channel conversation but also helps people locate a deeper conversation when necessary.

Post Meeting Notes to Channels

While slack is often going to be the primary communication channel for much of the team, there is no replacement for in-person meetings, phone calls and virtual meetings. Additionally, quite often the most important decisions for a team will be made in these meetings and phone calls. Our team makes a practice of posting the meeting notes and assets (presentations, reports, etc.) into the relevant channel in order to ensure all team members can follow along regardless of if they were able to attend the meeting.

Communication is Always Evolving

The only constant in life is change, and while these may be a good starting point for your team, every team will find their own set of processes and tools that work best for them. We constantly change the techniques we use to manage communication, and we even get them wrong from time to time. That being said, by committing to a long-term evolutionary approach, we have been able to consistently improve communication, and by extension, team productivity over the past several years. Try out a couple of the guidelines above with your team and see if they work for you, or see if you can use them as inspiration to come up with something that works even better for your team.

8 Tips for Building a Remote Team

Remote teams are not a new concept, but they have become more popular than ever in recent years. With improved internet connections, video chat software, and other communication tools, there’s never been an easier time for businesses to implement a remote team. Many companies are evolving away from the traditional office model, but often without a plan for how to build a remote team effectively.

If you set up a remote team properly, it not only allows you to hire people based on their character and skill set rather than their location; but it can also enable a more productive and happier team. However, implementing a remote team isn’t as simple as sending everyone home and assigning them work. Remote teams need to be managed and organized with unique processes and tools to ensure that they feel valued, connected, and productive. Here are 8 best practices that we have identified at Selland Technologies as we have set up our fully remote team.

Hire based on character, not location

When hiring for an office team, the first thing most employers do is look at each candidate’s skills and experience. However, when working as a remote team, character and culture fit are even more important than when working together in person. Communication style, honesty, and transparency are key indicators of success in fully remote roles and are often more indicative of success than the technical skills and experience a team member has.

Schedule recurring catch-up meetings

Remote team members need to feel like they are a part of something larger than themselves, just like people working together in one location. Remote workers often report feeling isolated and left out of the company culture. You can address this through recurring one-on-one and team meetings that are designed to foster human connections. We have a variety of team meetings daily, weekly, and monthly that help the team (and individual practices) stay connected and foster personal connections.

Set guidelines for communication methods

Remote work requires clear guidelines for communication processes and tools. At Selland Technologies, we have adopted a policy of extreme transparency where we encourage all communications to happen in public forums, even when only between two people. While team members may feel like they are “spamming” the channel at first, over time the consistent communication creates connected teams that are able to follow along with projects even when they are not actively involved.

Create a shared workspace

Similar to our communication guidelines, encouraging work and communication to happen in shared work spaces creates a virtual community for the team. We have adopted tools like Slack, Notion, and FigJam to provide collaborative work spaces for the team that facilitate communication synchronously and asynchronously.

Diversify your hiring pool

One of the primary benefits of building a remote team is that it opens up a much wider talent pool compared to hiring within a specific city, state, or country. However, it is also true that in our experience, the best hires are often referrals from current high-performing team members. Taking that into consideration, it is often wise to be intentional with adding additional diversity to your team to expose your team to new communities, cultures, and demographics. We have found that having a diverse group of team members not only improves the product we are able to provide to our customers but also improves our ability to scale our team rapidly when necessary.

Establish office hours

When surveying the Selland Technologies team, a consistent favorite “feature” of our remote model is the flexibility it provides around working hours. If you have a doctor’s appointment, a hair-cut, or just want to grab an early dinner, you have the flexibility to do that. However, we have also found it beneficial to try to establish some consistent overlapping hours when people are generally on Slack together. These hours often vary by team and are not intended to be a work schedule, but if I know I can consistently chat with a teammate from 9:00 – 11:00 each morning, I am less likely to bother them when they are eating dinner with their family.

Track productivity by deliverables, not time

Many businesses track their employees by the number of hours they work. This is especially common in fields like construction and law, where working from 9 to 5 is a given. However, with our remote team, we have found deliverables to be a more effective way of assessing performance. In our line of business as a digital agency and consultancy, hour tracking will always be a necessity, but from a management perspective, we now treat that as purely part of the billing cycle and not a key performance indicator for our team members.

Create remote team-building activities

Every team, remote or otherwise, requires periodic investments into the team culture. Office-based teams can often get away with doing this less frequently since team members may take lunch together or go out after work. We have found that hosting regular (daily, weekly or bi-weekly) virtual events is key to helping our teams operate at a high level. Work can be stressful, and teammates need to see each other in different contexts to remember that they are all working toward the same goal.

At Selland Technologies, we believe that remote teams can be even more effective than in-office teams.. They provide your company with access to a much larger talent pool as well as substantially more diversity. However, if you attempt to operate with the same principals, tools, and processes that work for an office-based team, most companies will find managing a remote team both challenging and inefficient. By taking a fresh look at your processes, tools, and communication guidelines and perhaps adopting a few of the ideas shared above, you can improve the productivity of your remote team much like we have with ours.

Who is Selland Technologies?

Selland Technologies is a new take on the modern technology, digital and marketing agency that solves the problems that you have had when trying to work with other providers. Most of our customers come to us after working with someone else and having a bad (or poor) experience. We bring a unique approach to building and managing teams that allows us to provide personal service and first-class technology, while being flexible enough to work with a wide variety of companies. 

Have you worked with a freelancer and not been able to get a hold of them when you need help? We can help you with a dedicated point of contact for every project.

Have you worked with an off-shore team who struggled to build what you had in mind? Our delivery management team works 1:1 with you to understand, document and plan your project before our engineering team builds it.

Have you priced out a project and been shocked by the final price? Our fully distributed team provides first-class products in a highly efficient model, saving our clients time and money. We are often able to complete a project faster and at a substantially lower cost than other “boutique” digital and technology agencies.

Have you developed a marketing campaign with another company and been confused by opaque numbers and confusing reporting? We work with you to understand your goals and develop unique marketing strategies that achieve your goals with clear and frequent reporting and touchpoints.

Selland Technologies is not just another boutique web development shop or marketing firm. We pride ourselves on our ability to attract top talent from all over the world to tackle problems at every phase of a business journey.  We ensure the success of our clients by leading with 3 core principles to guide our company: 

  • Be Smart
  • Be Kind 
  • Be Ethical

Being smart doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a PhD. We look for employees who not only look good on paper but have the attitude and gumption to approach their work with passion and refuse to let setbacks or failure stop them from doing their best. We encourage big ideas and practical solutions. Our teams are passionate about their work and being masters of their craft. We firmly believe that there is always more to learn and room to grow, especially in the exponentially growing technology sector. 

Being kind is an integral part of how we are so successful while being a fully remote team. We prioritize communication and teamwork, always looking for ways to help each other out and ensure our clients are satisfied and kept up to date. We promote team bonding and always look at any project as a group effort. Whatever problem you have in your business, Selland Technologies has a tight-knit team ready to provide a solution with a smile and a kind word. 

Being ethical is a non-negotiable quality. In a sector where some companies specialize in churning out quick and poor-quality work to make a quick buck, and other service providers confuse customers with fancy jargon to overcharge, we take pride in our ability to provide quality work and simple solutions at affordable prices. This allows small businesses and start-ups to have access to the same quality of work as our biggest clients. Honesty and transparency is important to how we function and we always keep our clients up to date at every step of the process. 

If you need a digital service for your business and want an agency you can trust, check out our website to request a free website audit or product strategy session. 

We don’t acquire clients, we build partnerships. Come be a part of our family.