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ClearDATA discusses how they maintained consistent software development productivity despite the pandemic's chaos and share their secrets behind delivering customer value. 

Adam Dahlgren, Allstacks' VP of Product, goes behind the scenes with Darrel Hyde, the VP of Product at ClearDATA, for a special Q&A session to share insights on what makes ClearData's product and engineering functions successful. As part of our "People, Process, Outcomes: State of Software Engineering COVID-19 Report," we benchmarked software engineering performance across industries and can recognize ClearDATA as a standout organization.

We're excited to share their thoughts.

Allstacks: What is ClearDATA's engineering team currently focused on? 

Darrell: ClearDATA focuses on software development efforts to help healthcare customers drive digital transformation, and leveraging the cloud makes it possible. Our mission is to help our customers in healthcare that have a direct, front-line impact during the pandemic.

Allstacks: Has your organization always had a predominantly remote engineering workforce?

Darrell: That's an interesting question, as it's not something necessarily set out to do. It was at least in part a function of each of us reaching into our personal networks to bring people we've enjoyed working with in the past into ClearDATA. The product team has been distributed for as long as we've had a product team. At least 6 years or so. We've always had a mix of folks working from HQ (which in that time has moved from Phoenix to Austin), folks working from our development office in the Bay area, completely remote folks like myself in every U.S. timezone from Pennsylvania to Seattle.

Allstacks: Even remote workforces have faced unforeseen changes due to factors like schools being closed. How have you seen your employee's work patterns change? 

Darrell: Having schools closed, balancing work, life, and keeping kids' education going has definitely been a challenge. Not only are we all dealing with kids on our zoom calls, which admittedly has been kinda fun, but it's also meant parents have had to be increasingly creative when it comes to putting in a full day of work. Our customers are on the front lines of dealing with this pandemic; we owe it to them for our platform and people to be just as available to them as ever.

Allstacks: What processes, tools, etc., have made the most significant impact on your team's success?

Darrell: What's interesting is that realistically we haven't introduced any new tools as part of going remote across the board. So all the familiar names still apply—Zoom, Slack, Confluence, Allstacks, Jira, Gitlab—these platforms keep us moving and collaborating. Reliability and business continuity with tools and services are more critical than ever.

What's really impressed me is how, especially in platforms like Zoom and Slack that have to be experiencing surges in use that I can't imagine, they've maintained the excellent quality of service. I have maybe 8 or 10 Zoom meetings a day and a dozen informal Slack calls to check in with our team. The consistency of service has been really impressive, and as someone who has spent a lot of time helping organizations build and scale infrastructure reliably, I know it's not easy.

Allstacks: Based on the data we analyzed from your organization as part of the "State of Software Report: COVID-19 Report," your product and engineering teams were able to maintain steady productivity and continued to meet our roadmap targets despite this crisis. Did your organization make any changes to your operations? 

Darrell: Honestly, we've made very little change to day-to-day operations. Our typical agile ceremonies—planning, standups, retros, and demos—have always incorporated remote participants. That much really hasn't changed at all. In fact, I'd argue that our quarterly roadmap planning sessions have actually gotten even more focused and productive than before. Those have been meetings that folks traditionally travel in for, which often meant folks being pulled out for various things because people could see them in the conference room. Switching to an all-remote format has definitely cut down on that.

You should assume that no process should rely on two people in the same room; you shouldn't build a strategy around those dependencies.

Read the State of Engineering Covid-19 Report

Allstacks: Given how work patterns and processes are changing to adapt to the new way of life, how are your key stakeholders staying aligned on your deliverables?

Darrell: More than ever, we're reliant on data to help us make decisions. Being sure that a given initiative is on track or prepared for the launch of a given feature—these are all things that Allstacks has helped us get and keep our hands around. We are a highly customer-driven organization—customer and market feedback drives everything that we do. A byproduct of that is that customers need us to meet the timelines we commit to on our roadmap as they often have downstream dependencies on those features. This makes predictable execution and delivery critical, and without a tool like Allstacks giving you that visibility, you're really flying blind.

Allstacks: How would you describe your company culture? Are there any specific best practices you can offer others who are cultivating the positive and productive company and engineering culture you've achieved? 

Darrell: As a company, I'd describe us as highly collaborative, mission-driven, and customer-focused. Healthcare is so personal and critical to so many people — especially now. Having a mission of making healthcare better every single day for our customers, for their members, for their patients, that's an easy mission to get excited about every day when you consider the role our customers play in people's lives.

A special thanks to Darrell for taking the time to review his business practices with us! Ready to kick start your own software development success story? Reach out to the Allstacks team to see how we can work together on improving your software outcomes. 

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