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The Next Handbook

Table of Contents

Welcome

This is a company handbook to help you understand more about us, how we work and think. It can be daunting changing jobs, working with new partner companies or starting a career, so we think this will help you settle in quicker and answer quite a few questions that we may assume you already know.

Just like everything we create, this is a collaborative living doc that will keep growing. So feel free to add questions and suggestions.

Your First Day

Your Machine

When you arrive on your first day your machine will be waiting for you, with all the software you require installed and updated. You can Mac or PC or Linux. We don’t mind.

The Office

The first thing you’ll notice is the office is quiet. Then you’ll log into Slack and realise that the office is actually a very noisy place. Make yourself comfy. You can sit wherever, you can work 8 straight hours from the couch, or on the deck during summer.

Food. Beer. Coffee. Biscuits. The 4 elements.

The fridge is stocked with convenience meals, healthy food, unhealthy food. There’s awesome single origin coffee from Rosetta and beer. Help yourself.

Getting Setup

You should have invitations to all our cloud based software waiting for you in your inbox.

What We Do

We build online products that people love to use.

The best way to grow your business is to add value to people’s lives. Sometimes those people are staff, using shitty software every day to do their job. Sometimes those people are customers, trying to get something done so they can get on with their lives.

Whether we’re designing for an audience of 5 users or 40,000 unique users a month we have the same intent – make something that’s useful and elegant.

Happier, more productive happy staff or customers means more money for our clients. And they love money.

The bottom line is that at Next we want to solve problems through digital products, so that means we are Marketers, Designers and Software Engineers.

How We Think

No Titles

We’re not big on hierarchy. Everyone has a different and unique role to play in a project. Managing a team and this company is a role, not a position.

Some of us have titles in our email signatures, but that’s for the benefit of the client more than an indication of importance.

We. Not Me.

We care about what is right, not who is right. You’ll very quickly come to find that ideas, input, questions are welcome and encouraged here at every level.

We collectively make decisions, give input and share. So when we talk about an idea it comes from ’us’ and ’we’ – it’s not a thought or product from ’me’.

When we disagree we defer to people in teams who are better equipped than us. That’s where roles become useful. If we hired you to design, you’ll get the final word on design.

The client is part of the team

Remember that the client is also part of the team and their opinion is as valuable as ours. After all they work in their industry everyday and have a very different set of skills and experience.

We may joke from time to time about feedback or briefs, but that’s because we live in a different world and sometimes we use different language and think differently, but don’t confuse that with us not respecting their opinions and expecting the same from them.

Debate. Challenge. Ask.

If you have a question – ask.

If you’re confused – say so.

If it doesn’t make any sense – tell us…

We welcome questions and discussion – the more debate the better the solution.

We want to have a culture where it’s possible to challenge ideas without attacking. At Next we’ll happily be wrong a 100 times if what we make as a result is right.

We’ve Got Your Back!

We’re a team and that means we always have each other’s backs. It means we’re in it together.

As a company we’re always honest when we make a mistake or under-estimate delivery, but we never single out someone – we take it as a team.

So if you under-estimated a deadline or scope of work – don’t keep it to yourself and try to put in a few sleepless nights of work – speak up – the quicker you share info the quicker we can manage it and help.

If you really think you can help someone – be honest – tell them how or what. Good friends are honest. Be prepared to be challenged and appreciate it.

If something outside of work is affecting you tell us – if it’s ok with you. We don’t hold hands and ask you to share your feelings, but we appreciate honesty about anything that could help us help you be happier at work.

Proactively Solving problems

Have an idea? Make it happen.

Been given a task? Take responsibility for it.

Get involved beyond your “Scope of work”. We want developers to question strategy, designers to question code.

Proactivity is one of our greatest strengths at Next. The ability to keep moving and make things happen is a quality our clients appreciate.

You’ll also hear us talk about having a bias towards making a lot. Our aim is always towards making something to test our assumptions. The sooner we can prototype ideas the better.

A prototype is worth a thousand meetings.

No Babysitters

We’re all adults, so expect to be treated like one – we won’t babysit you, we won’t constantly check up on you.

If you’re given a task, the default expectation is that you’re working to get it done asap. The p part of that is important – we only expect what’s possible.

We expect you to be able to ask questions and make decisions and share those, not just blindly do what you’re asked to.

If you need to be managed then make sure the product owner and project manager knows that so we can help you by increasing reminders and update intervals.

Meetings

Meetings are great, when they’re needed. But a lot of the time they’re a waste of time. So we hardly ever have them.

Meetings are important and useful when they are planned for and run properly.

Before setting a meeting consider if we absolutely need to have it to solve the problem, only invite essential people, be well prepped, set the agenda so that everyone knows what it’s about, and then run it efficiently

Face-time is important so we have a Monday catch up as a team, because that helps us connect and share updates face to face. It’s important for us to all feel connected on a personal level, but at the same time respect everyone’s time and preferred working style.

We also run weekly project meetings on Monday. For many of you that will be the only meeting you ever experience. I know, right.

Have fun

No-one is watching you sweat, no one wants you to sweat. All we ask is that you create the best work you can and have fun doing it.

As Aaron Marshall puts it – Go Big and Go Home.

If you don’t love what you’re working on – tell us – this doesn’t mean that there are small things we all dread doing, but the overall work must be something you take pride in, something that is growing and showcasing your craft.

If you’re not having fun and you have some suggestions how we can fix that then speak to us – share it with team. Instead of complaining – help fix it.

How We Work

Tools

We’re always looking at ways of improving how we can work more effectively, more collaboratively, so our toolset is constantly changing.

Slack

Slack is the artery of our workflow. Our offices are generally quiet. Slack is never quiet. All of our tooling is integrated into slack, so in a real sense, everything happens there. We talk about work, we talk crap, we share work in progress we share stupid links. If you’re on Slack, you’re in the office.

Google Apps

We use google for all of our docs, spreadsheets, presentations and asset storage. We encourage you to have all your working files backed up by using Google Sync. Because shit happens.

GitHub

If you’re not writing code, you’ll experience GitHub as a project management tool. You’ll get issues assigned to you, which you close when completed. We’ll cover this more in Sprints.

Wunderlist

For anything that doesn’t have a repository in GitHub, we have a Next Wunderlist account so that we can assign tasks to people across the organisation. You can use it however you want to.

Design Tools

We have a more exhaustive list of design tools we use and recommend in our designer’s handbook.

Developer Tools

Developer specific tooling is covered in detail in the developer’s handbook.

Sprints

The Next studio runs on a 5 day sprint system which starts on a Monday. This makes it easy to manage workflows and to plan who is working on what and when. We plan our workflows a week at a time.

A Few Points about Sprints

  • Your workload should be clear at the start of the sprint
  • You should not get any new work allocated once the sprint has started.
  • Any work labeled as high priority should be done first, low priority last
  • If you’re assigned too much / too little work, speak up – preferably sooner than later

Weeklies

Weeklies are one of the very few meetings we have where we review work done / not done in the previous sprint, and talk about the objectives for the next sprint. We really need all hands on deck at these.

  • A Weekly marks the end of a sprint and beginning of the next sprint
  • We typically have a weekly for each client or for a project if its big enough
  • You’re only required in a weekly, if you’re working on that client/project in the sprint
  • As soon as you’re no longer required in the Weekly, you can go

Done

Track time without timesheets.

We’re very fortunate to be able to work on retainers with our clients. And while we never get audited, we insist on keeping as accurate as possible account of our time spent on projects. We also hate admin. So we’ve made is super simple with a tool we built called Done.

How it works:

  • Open the Slack Channel of a projects you wish to log time into
  • Type /done followed by what you did, be sure to add the time – write it naturally
  • That’s it.

Done is really simple, so use it all the time. When you finish something, when you get up for a cup of coffee.

Some Tips:

  • Don’t wait until you’ve finished a task, track time as you go along
  • Remember to track once a day, we recommend you track every time you switch contexts or take a break
  • If you forget to log something, you can log it the next day by prepending [yesterday] to your message
  • You can undo your last entry by typing /done undo

Remote Working and Flexi Time

At the end of the day, what really matters is what gets made, not where it gets made. Because we want you to make awesome stuff, and lots of it, we’re structured for both office-based and remote working. Work from the sanctity of your home where pants are optional. Or, work from Next HQ where we have a stocked fridge, good coffee, nice people and decent enough beer. Whether it’s our place, your place or any place – we’ll let you work wherever you get work done.

Remote working is kind of a new thing for many people who join us, so we wrote a separate handbook for that.

Your Growth

We want everyone who works with us to be wealthy, contented and growing in every sense of the word. We’re invested in our staff’s growth as people, employees and professionals. We do regular catch-ups and reviews bi-annually – we will do whatever we can to help you be the best professional you can be. That looks different for everyone, but here’s some of the ways we look after our people:

  • 5 working days additional learning leave per year
  • Performance bonuses
  • Investment in staff passion projects
  • Medical Aid and Retirement Annuity contributions

Contributing

This is Your Company. This is Your Book.

If you’ve found this book helpful, awesome. If you think there are some additional things we should add to it, even better. We want joining next to be as seamless an experience as possible. To make a suggestion add an issue, or submit a pull request on GitHub. If that’s confusing, send a mail to readme@wearenext.co.za