Russians Stretch the Work Day for 24 Hours
- May. 26 2016 00:00
Guys from the NUST MISiS student design bureau divided work between Moscow and a Thai resort. As a result, a video that would have taken four and a half months to make in Russia was made in three months.
Like the Europeans and Americans, Russians are mastering distributed technology.
Last year, the National University of Science and Technology MISiS Student Design Bureau (SDB) involved specialists from Novokuznetsk and Novosibirsk in work on the creation of ten MISiS courses for the National Open Education Platform. Working in different time zones, the SDB plans to accelerate work on the project, recreating its successful experience working transcontinentally a year and a half ago that halved delivery times.
Working from a tourist destination
SDB projects curator Anton Sazhin recalls that the idea of a continuous work cycle using the time difference between the continents was born spontaneously. In 2014, SDB received an order from Rocket Space Technologies (LLC KosmoKurs) to create animated 3D advertising for a space tourism flight orbiting the Earth. According to Sazhin, there were tight deadlines: a completed three-minute video simulating the entire flight cycle from takeoff to landing had to be delivered in three months. Preliminary coordination took two months alone. "If we worked in normal mode, execution of the contract would take four or four and a half months," Sazhin said. To expedite the process, they had to be clever. Through old friends, they hired two graphic designers in Thailand. The Thais took some of the work of the Muscovites when it was night in Moscow and, in the morning, sent the part of the project they had finished to Russia via the cloud.
"The biggest challenge was the coordinating the work — explaining the specifics of the job and overseeing its precise execution," Sazhin said. According to him, a single mistake in uploading a fragment of the project cost half a day of work. Therefore, two SKB specialists (one manager/coordinator and one designer) were sent to give the Thais a hand. The Russians rented a house there. "In total, it cost about $50 per person per day. The work of highly qualified Thais cost less than that of Muscovites," Sazhin said. As a result, they did not win monetarily but, as planned, they won time. Rocket Space Technology project consultant Dmitry Zeitlin confirms that the guys got the order in on schedule and with good quality. Zeitlin regrets that the space tourism project ended this year.
The experience in Austria
Founder of the Viennese advertising company Express Visuals Patrick Lamb is skeptical about the experience of Russians. He told Vedomosti that, in 2005, he created a workshop that produced newspaper and magazine illustrations and television commercials for BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, Grey Worldwide, TBWA, Publicis, Lowe, FCB, Leo Burnett, McCann Erickson and others. Since excellent artists are unique, Lamb decided to rely on international cooperation. He found the people he needed in Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Canada and the United States. Because he had no shortage of contracts, Lamb said, he could afford to pay his people a lot more than they would receive from employers in their own countries.
Lamb explained that he had created a continuous production cycle, allowing work to go on around the clock. When the Europeans slept, their colleagues on the West Coast of the United States were at work, and vice versa. He coordinated the work from Austria. And everything was good, until the system broke down. Without warning, specialists on one continent were suddenly unable to do their part of the work. Some just disappeared. Since the contracts had strict deadlines, these emergencies cost the company dearly. After nine years, the company was forced to close. "Part of the reason for it was the downturn in the advertising market, part of it was problems with coordinating the work," Lamb said. He believes that the company would have been viable if it had been possible to implement common standards and impose strict oversight.
"Follow the sun" technology
Englishman Patrick Lamb finished his studies of animation at the Joe Kubert School (New Jersey, USA) and moved to Vienna, where he founded Express Visuals, a multinational company producing visual advertising, in 2005. After the 2008 global financial crisis, the company was forced to close. Lamb has been involved in language services, consulting and stand-up comedy.
"The advantages of the so-called 'follow the sun ̕ technological process, which is also called 'round the clock,̕ are now obvious and attractive," Kamel Mellahi, Professor of Strategic Management Warwick Business School in England told Vedomosti. "This practice makes it possible to effectively reduce production time, and so increase the attractiveness of the services to customers." According to Mellahi, this model is being used today by companies in Silicon Valley. At the end of every day, thousands of European, Asian and American programmers communicate by passing work from hand to hand across the continents. And not just programmers.
"The geographical location of the Boeing design centers in Moscow and Seattle with an 11-hour time difference makes it possible to work on engineering projects 24 hours a day," said Sergei Kravchenko, president of Boeing Russia/CIS. "We call this process a Global Engineering Moving Line (GEML)." According to Kravchenko, the first time GEML was tested was in 2007 with the design of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, and was then scaled to develop new versions of the aircraft — the Boeing 787-9 and 787-10. This process is already a standard part of the program to create the new Boeing 777X. "GEML makes it possible to reduce the time for engineering work by 15-20%, reduce the cost of that work and generally improve the quality engineering," Kravchenko said.
The Boeing Design Center in Moscow, opened in 1998, employs more than 1250 engineers, employees of leading Russian engineering and service companies.
Closer to the customers
Jonas Puck, head of the Institute for International Business in Vienna, says another advantage of the transcontinental production cycle is sustainable accessibility for customers and suppliers of products and services. He said the service industry picked up this technology after IT. "Any customer's questions can be taken at any time of the day, the inquiries can be handled and promptly responded to." Puck said that this applies to service, trade and finance companies.
Boris Yampolsky, head of a rotating group of Kaspersky Lab anti-virus analysts, said that the company has an antivirus laboratory (abbreviated virlab) that works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as its experts analyze malware. "Any user of Kaspersky Lab products can send us a new virus to test, and virlab analysts promptly investigate it and add it to the antivirus databases."
According to Yampolsky, the antivirus analysts used to work in two shifts — day and night — and this caused a number of inconveniences. "A shift lasted 10-14 hours and people were tired, especially during night work, when it was harder for the specialists to focus and work with large data streams," Yampolsky said. "That's why we introduced a new mode of operation two years ago — the round-the-world shift." Now Kaspersky Lab has three antivirus labs — in Russia, the United States and China. Each shift works eight hours a day for a standard working week, so a total of 24 hours is obtained. The analysts are constantly in touch, going through a handover procedure when they discuss the most important items from the last eight hours. In addition, there are a few people on duty in the Russian office who are ready to back up their foreign virlab colleagues at any time on any day in case of emergency.
The Institute for International Business' Puck warns that these technologies require companies to make considerable effort to manage the global processes, and they must always keep in mind the risk of losing control. In addition, it is essential to maintain not only common rules, but a common corporate culture, faithful to the brand. Particularly, he said, it is worth paying attention to motivating people to work even on weekends and national holidays.
Incidentally, Bodo Schlegelmilch, dean of Vienna University's Executive Academy, told Vedomosti last year about a large-scale experiment, in which Europeans, Americans and Chinese were assigned to work on the same project at the same time. One of the unpleasant surprises were the difficulties in communications during holidays that the other nationalities did not celebrate.
Let's go the other way
Warwick Business School's Mellahi believes that, overall, the benefits of round-the-clock global work override the objective risks. "If the company does not have the necessary human, operational and technological capabilities, the potential benefits may be offset by lack of practice," he warned. However, in any case, before testing such technologies, companies must carefully calculate all the pros and cons, especially since there are alternatives.
"Shortening the production cycle with teams working in different time zones can work in individual projects, if their managers see the need," said Vladislav Shershulsky, director of Microsoft technological cooperation in Russia. "But I would distribute development at Microsoft differently." According to Shershulsky, major groups working in different countries gradually developed their own specializations. This is especially true for regions in which Microsoft employees conduct research (and so there is a Microsoft Research branch). Often, the main contribution of the regional offices is to develop new technologies and interfaces that are gradually integrated into a variety of Microsoft products. Shershulsky added that, "although programmers usually write code on their laptops (and may do it in their offices, or in a park near the company headquarters or even at home), the intermediate versions are assembled centrally, in the Microsoft cloud."