Railnova Services Continuation in times of COVID-19 (and our tips for home working)

Post by Christian Sprauer, Founder and CEO at Railnova
March 26, 2020

Dear customer, supplier, and partner

We want to inform you that the Railnova services are continuing as close to normal as possible in these challenging times.

1. Railnova Software services

Railfleet, Railgenius, and Railster data streaming and over-the-air software updates are planned to continue as normal while the entire software team works from home. We have also obtained assurances from our cloud providers Google GCP, Amazon Web Services and OVH, as well as from our telecom provider Pod System that services are continuing.

Response time for support tickets or during incidents may be a slightly longer than usual as many Railnovians are dealing with homeschooling while working from home.

2. Ongoing Hardware projects

Railster and cabling delivery are continuing in a degraded mode but nothing has stopped.
Thanks to dual sourcing introduced at Railnova in the last few years we are a bit more resilient to crisis than we used to be with single sourcing. Some of our larger electronic assemblers have closed their plants, but our smaller suppliers have managed to rearrange their operations to ensure the safety of their personnel and strict distancing. Hardware projects can therefore continue, albeit at a slower pace.

We are in contact with our customers to assess the delivery and installation situation of each project. If you have questions about your project with Railnova and the impact of the Corona virus on those projects, be sure to reach out to us!

3. Railnova office operations

Since Wednesday March 12th (before political measures were announced in Belgium and France), all of our employees are working from home by default. Up to 5 persons from the hardware team, train integration team and supply chain team are allowed in the office with strict distancing and strict health measures since March 12th.

We have repurposed many home offices into small electronic labs in order to reduce office presence to an absolute minimum.

Home office setup Railnova

Commercial meetings and live demos are all done by video call, as was already the case for many of our meetings before. If you’d like to schedule a call with our Sales team, or get a live demo of our products you can do so here: contact Railnova’s Sales team

4. Tips to enable home working in your organisation

We still see a lot of organisations around us that are used to top-down emails, regular update calls, and countless meetings to make decisions. They are going to have a hard time switching to remote working and staying productive, but it is possible to succeed!

Railnova has practised “work from home” extensively since the beginning (almost 10 years ago!). When founding the company, I wanted to avoid a “meeting culture” so that developers could have uninterrupted time to focus on doing their best creative work.

Here’s what works for us:

  • Management must blindly trust in people’s sense of responsibility. At Railnova we don’t call or check on people to see if they are working. We define outputs and behaviours to guide people and give them as much freedom as possible.
  • Don’t schedule a meeting for every decision that needs to be taken, but rather communicate all the elements of your proposal in writing and let people comment on it.
  • Communicate first, and explain what you will be doing, in writing, so that people don’t need to ask for updates.
  • Use asynchronous, written collaboration platforms, like Trello or Basecamp. We are fans of Basecamp and it has become our company’s entire communication backbone. It’s much more than a shared to-do list. We see it as an elevated way of working. Some of our suppliers and partners have even joined us on Basecamp, so we can optimise our communication with them. It enables us to follow up on our projects with them and to tackle potential issues more efficiently.
    Basecamp is Railnova's communication backbone
  • Written asynchronous culture has shown amazing results for us, and our customers and suppliers often don’t believe us about the following (already in place before the virus):
    • no planned internal (ZERO) meetings, as everything happens via shared updates and discussions on basecamp
    • no internal (ZERO) emails
    • A limited use of real-time chat. We do still use Slack (you may use Microsoft Teams) in combination with Basecamp, but every time we build something, make a decision, or communicate and update, it’s done in Basecamp. Slack is mainly to replace the corridor or coffee discussions. Beware that Group chat is like an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda.
  • Take a few hours every day to switch off from email, Basecamp, chat tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams to do some real work.
  • Complement the day with a few phone calls and video calls to keep human interactions

We’ve had a remote, “work-from-home” culture at Railnova since the company was founded, and therefore remote work is deeply rooted in how we operate. It requires a ton of discipline and a lot of trust. Ensuring business continuity of our services in any kind of condition is what we do, even now.

One last tip we can share is about homeschooling due to COVID-19, as this is really not an easy combination with home working. To cope with this situation, we have told working parents to do what they can, and we have set up a chat channel where Railnova parents can shamelessly share their daily “struggle”, to make people feel that it’s OK if they cannot work as they normally would. It resulted in a lot of fun too.

As we continue to ensure service delivery, we hope that sharing these tips will help your organisation transition into productive remote work. Feel free to reach out to us also to ask us any question about remote work !

We hope you, your colleagues and your families all stay safe and healthy during these challenging times!

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