Remote working meets remote production: Grabyo in lockdown
It’s been 15 weeks since all Grabyo staff began working remotely. The team has come together to stay safe, help Grabyo’s partners and support each other to help the business to grow through this challenging period.
As a cloud-based business, the team was well prepared to adapt to remote working. All Grabyo operations can be easily carried out remotely, as all internal business functions were moved to the cloud three years ago.
From Darts to Google Hangouts
The biggest challenge for the team has been a cultural one. Learning new processes, new ways to collaborate, and losing the valuable day to day interactions overnight was tough. The companionship that a great office environment can bring is difficult to replicate online. With such rapid change, the team has adapted well, particularly as the new Grabyo HQ in London was moved just 5 months before lockdown. It was hard to leave the new darts board behind.
There has been a Grabyo quiz and monthly full-company catch-ups to ensure that everyone has a touchpoint with the rest of the business. While this isn’t something new, the senior management team wanted to ensure that some form of the old routine was instilled across teams, ready for that moment everyone is reunited back in the office.
The team has been growing with hiring continuing throughout lockdown. This has created new challenges for onboarding employees who don’t have the chance to meet anyone from Team Grabyo in person. On-boarding has changed dramatically, but the effort of the team to make new joiners feel welcome has made this much easier and the feedback from the new joiners has been positive thus far. One thing which stands out is over-communicating when fully remote, particularly for new joiners, as the coffee machine disappears other communication channels are needed to take its place.
The need for more regular, more inclusive communications has driven the biggest changes internally. Video calls have replaced meetings, phone calls, WhatsApp and Slack have to step in where previously people could chat across the desk. It is not the same but it can achieve the same outcomes if the communication platforms are used in the right way.
This shift has been a benefit in many ways. The team has significantly improved how internal processes are documented, which has helped align the whole company. Using remote working practices that everyone can use from our London HQ across to LA, New York, Buenos Aires, Singapore and Sydney, international teams are feeling more connected than ever before.
Broadcast Industry Challenges
As soon as broadcasters were locked out of their TV studios, the demand for remote TV production went through the roof, requiring Grabyo’s engineering team to pedal hard to support their needs and make this change happen.
Rather than presenters and talent working from studios, they were now broadcasting from home using Grabyo, so they had to learn how to operate everything themselves without the usual army of production support staff. Whilst the Grabyo platform is designed to try to make everything as simple as possible, this still presents plenty of challenges, not least dealing with home broadband infrastructure creaking under the pressure of millions of Zoom calls, while Fortnite and Netflix are streaming on other screens around the house.
The hardest challenge has been the need for everything to happen so quickly. Grabyo’s first eSports event with EA took place within ten days of the first phone call, so there was not a lot of time for testing!
The other challenge was that this huge upsurge in activity came at the same time the Grabyo product and engineering team were transitioning to working from home. As the team moved from meetings in the boardroom to digital whiteboards and Slack there was a demand to accelerate the cadence of updates on the platform to meet customer’s demands. It has been an interesting few months and some of the product and engineering team were pleased when the immediate “Covid-rush” of inbound enquiries and questions calmed down a bit. Thankfully, this was all made possible by the collaborative relationships with our partners.
Fan engagement across sports
In the sports industry, there has been really positive collaboration to figure out how to engage fans at a time when no live sport was taking place. This ‘forced experiment’ resulted in more raw and sometimes more captivating content than ever before. With sports stars and athletes at home with more free time, we’ve been provided with unprecedented access.
From TikTok challenges to video diaries or live Q&A broadcasts with fans, sports stars have been able to connect to fans in a much more personal way. These types of content formats will not disappear any time soon and may have a lasting effect on how sports content is produced and consumed from now on.
The effects on the business will be long-lasting too. As customers have moved to work from home, the long-term roadmap has changed and as a result, there has been a roll-out of enhancements and updates to ensure minimal disruption to workflows, often improving them. The opportunity to use this experience to build new production models for the future, and create different content formats and experiences for the audience won’t go away with the end of Covid-19. This is just the beginning.
Team Grabyo has been forced to push the envelope – from broadcasting to linear TV for the first time with EA Sports, to releasing remote contribution features on web apps, to finding ways to increase the broadcast-quality of our video output to meet the needs of a different customer base. The Grabyo platform is powering productions that could only be imagined just a few weeks ago.
Broadcasters will go back to the galleries, and the talent will go back to the locker room or TV studio, but production won’t go back to how it was before. The cloud will play a crucial role in the future of video and those that adapt most rapidly will see the greatest return.
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