Manage a Remote Development Team
It takes a great deal of trust and confidence when you’re managing a software development team remotely. This setup has its own set of challenges unique to its situation compared when collaborating with an in-house team. The work still needs to get done even when they are out of sight.
The great news is that there is a wide array of tools and procedures to track and measure the process without micromanaging everything. In this post, we will use our experience here at Full Scale to show you how to make managing a remote development team a tad easier. We’ll show the common challenges faced by remote teams and some actionable tips to effectively collaborate and achieve the best results.
Challenges Faced by Remote Teams
Whether or not we like it, remote teams are now the future of work around the world. It affords business owners the flexibility to form their own teams across the globe and compete in this highly globalized economy. Its accelerated growth also brings with it a myriad of challenges brought about by a lack of face-to-face interaction. Here are the 5 common challenges that most remote development teams encounter as they adapt to this new work setup.
There’s a reason why this is on top of the list. Effective communication is the foundation of any workplace, most especially for remote teams. Managing remote teams can be challenging and communication can bring some setbacks to companies who are trying to steer their virtual employees in the right direction.
To ensure an organized flow of correct and complete information, it’s a must for companies to promote a culture of open communication, hire the right employees and use the right tools.
When managers trust that their employees are able to work on a common goal, then teamwork can happen organically. Face-to-face interactions create more trust and strengthen the bond between teammates. Having a common goal, team spirit, and even organizing teambuilding activities can inspire a level of trust between remote and onsite team members.
Time Zone Differences
One of the challenges of managing remote teams is working across different time zones. It’s easier to set work schedules for employees (both virtual and onsite) in the same geographic region. However, collaborating with remote employees on a different time zone can be an uphill battle.
To address this, teams can use collaboration tools such as Slack or GoToMeeting to reduce time overlap and the need for more teleconference meetings.
If you’re managing a global workforce, the diversity could also bring potential language and cultural challenges. These barriers may affect how employees engage with each other and how they accomplish tasks. As a result, this may lead to conflicting work habits, values, and customs.
It is crucial for managers to understand these differences to maximize the benefits of a global remote team. To keep these conflicts at a minimum, remote teams must enforce a policy that promotes positive work ethics and fosters cultural understanding.
Tips to Better Manage your Remote Development Team
Hire top talents with the right attitude and values
Collaborating with your remote development team can bring a host of challenges. So, set proper expectations even before the job interview stage. Clarify things such as the developer’s day-to-day tasks, if there will be standup meetings every day, how they will track and measure their progress, and many more.
A developer should have a positive mindset, great work ethics, and communication skills. This one is pretty obvious. But, we couldn’t stress enough how important it is to hire not only for technical skills but to take account for personality traits. Remote developers should be able to fit the company culture, especially in a multinational environment.
Building a personal connection creates trust and boosts team spirit among remote team members. Invest time to know everyone on your team, both at the onsite and remote office. The stronger the bond becomes, the easier it will be for everyone to be on the same page towards a shared vision.
Having a remote team should never replace face-to-face interactions. All team members stand to benefit from this, which includes regular video conferences or a site visit to remote offices. Encourage team members to join in at least one weekly video conference. This is a way to share knowledge, keep tabs on their progress, and an opportunity to build a personal connection. Keep in mind that voice, tone and facial expression and posture all play an important part during in-person face time.
Focus on communication
Without establishing strong communication channels, important information can get lost, intensified by the lack of in-face interaction and time zone differences. To keep team members more effective and aligned with the goals of your project, here are some tips for you:
- Invest in quality equipment and software tools – Make sure that both offices have a fast and reliable Internet connection, advanced computer equipment, and video camera, smart TV, and microphones should be in good working condition.
- Arrange daily meetings – Whether your team choose to have traditional meetings or stand-up meetings (a.ka. daily huddle, daily scrum, morning roll-call, etc.), set time each workday for each team members to discuss quick status updates and other important insights about the project.
- Use tools to your advantage – For quick questions that require quick answers, use chat messengers such as Slack and Skype. These tools are also great when sharing ideas with the team. If you want to discuss something at great length, email is still the best place for that. Also, what you say and how you say it is just as important as the medium you use. Before sending, reread your message for grammar, tone, and context.
This carries more weight for managers who have a hard time delegating tasks to others. Instead of discussing issues or project updates, they try to control every detail by finding and implementing the solution themselves.
Oftentimes, this can lead some developers to feel undervalued and hamper their creativity and growth. Remember that problem solving is a significant part of what developers trained for years. Micromanagement will only rob them of that ability. This is not an effective practice and might provoke developers to leave the company. So, don’t micromanage. Learn to trust that your team members can do the job on their own and still deliver good results.
An excellent alternative to micromanagement is establishing workflow documentation. Coupled with measurable and actionable objectives, documenting a workflow gives team members specific instructions to follow. This prevents any misunderstandings about their tasks and assures managers that they will complete the tasks according to standards.
Establish a common development culture
To promote a productive development culture within your team, here are some tips you can follow:
- Create a unified development environment during setup – Create a Getting Started document for a smooth first-day transition. This makes it easier for developers to work together, stay productive and monitor issues. Instead of scheduling one-on-ones (do this later on to get feedback), you can automate the setup as much as possible.
- Disclose all decisions across all teams – It’s important for teams to understand that when decisions are made, they have to be communicated. Sometimes, critical decisions are agreed in an informal setting which is a waste of time. When communicating decisions, it’s better to use a corporate wiki for easier access to updates. Then someone from the team can set up a notification for important updates through email or chat messenger.
- Set guidelines when filing bug reports – Set a clear guideline for filing and fixing bug reports so it would be easier for everyone to monitor on issues.
- Clarify the definition of “complete” for tasks – By having a clear definition on tasks tagged as “complete”, this sets proper expectations and eliminates misunderstandings around them. An example of the definition “done” is when codes are created, reviewed, tested, launched, etc.
Managing a remote development team is no different than if you were to work with an onsite team. By following the tips we’ve shared in this post, you can establish a healthy and productive relationship between the main site and the remote office. The overall success of a project depends on how effectively a global company used its tools, processes and most importantly, its people.
If you’re looking to create your own remote development team, we’re happy to help you here at Full Scale. We have solid industry experience and knowledge in managing effective remote teams. Check out this video where Matt DeCoursey, Co-founder of Full Scale, on how we can help build a successful team for your business. Get your free consultation today to get started.