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Managing a remote software development team: 3 key ingredients

Bringing a remote software development team onboard means bringing extra expertise while saving on costs and time. The idea of it has become even more appealing now that many businesses have been unable to keep working as usual. So, we share the best practices learnt during years of working together with companies worldwide. Read till the end to discover bonus tips from our clients.

Trust as the glue of remote teams

The most challenging aspect of remote collaboration is trust – relying on your technology partner’ word and having confidence in the team’ expertise. It might take you a while to build that trust, especially if it is your first time managing a remote software development team or if you had a bad experience in the past. However, there are a few things you can do to build mutual trust and nurture a strong work relationship. 

Select your remote software development team wisely

Remote work will not simply work if you doubt the professional on the other end of that conference call. Do some prep work and have a clear vision about what you are looking to achieve. Follow a selection process that will guarantee the best-suited candidates for the job or provide requirements and let an expert company do it for you. As a manager, you are not expected to be proficient in software development to call the shots when it comes to choosing a team of qualified developers for a specific project. Collaborating with a company like ours, for example, would make your life easier. It ensures your remote team is well-versed in global collaboration and flexible to adapt to changes. Follow our how-to-checklist to choosing your technology partner. 

Focus on goals, not an activity

Management tasks, like employing, on-boarding, planning, have all evolved through applying the latest methodologies, such as goal setting. Over the years, our team has gone from an action-driven to a more result-driven style of working by implementing OKRs. What is the difference? As an example, in the first case, developers treat the process as the heart of the work. As long as they use the predefined by the client or the Project Manager development methodology, tool or technology, they can improve application efficiency. When driven by results, on another hand, developers can experiment with different tools and processes, compare them, and suggest the best one for building the specific solution. 

Therefore, we trust that our team is going to accomplish these goals, rather than that they are doing a 9 to 5 job. So, ask yourself what you are paying for. Is it for your team’s time-in-the-seat or is it for achieving best-in-class website design? Applying a result-driven methodology will help you define clear expectations while giving your remote team the freedom to be creative. Thus, a real chance at winning your trust. 

Get to know your remote software development team members 

Social connections are a powerful way to build trust. In the office, getting to know your co-workers is done without thought. When managing a remote team, however, you need to be more intentional about connecting. You simply will not run into each other in the coffee area. 

remote collaboration

Consider allocating time for personal interactions like starting meetings with personal updates on off-work topics. Think about virtual team building activities. Since all of us, at Accedia, have been working remotely, we managed to bring successfully almost all our office initiatives online. A few examples are daily coffee talks, where we discuss anything but work, weekly after work-hours gatherings for a beer or quizzes, ongoing social challenges, and more. Before the lockdown, we also used to exchange regular visits with our clients. The aim was not only to working side-by-side during important project phases but also bringing the team together and getting to know each other outside the work context. We can say it for a fact that bonding with your remote team members will make them more invested in your vision for success.

Communication as the lifeblood of remote success

Even with advanced communication technology, such as instant messaging services and video conferencing platforms, you must put time into communicating with your remote team. Maintaining channels for continued, transparent communication is the most effective way to keep a team collaborating effectively. 

Secure a main point of contact

As a manager, your responsibilities do not end with choosing the remote team and signing the contract. Project success has a great deal to do with deadlines and accountability. For example, the initial project set-up might turn out to be ineffective, whether it is the team size, the VPN, or the virtual machines selected. Discussing the problem with the selected technology partner timely can make or break your project. Therefore, committing to ongoing communication and responding to the remote team members frequently is a necessity. 

Whether it is going to be you or not, make sure there is always the main contact point who can answer questions causing blockages. Vice versa, know who to turn to for all kinds of updates or feedback. For example, we provide a dedicated PM as a complementary resource, who oversees the team and discuss project progress with the client. They are the people clients turn to when comes to performance reports and conversations about team scalability opportunities. Having a main point of contact ensures the project moves forward and you have traceability of deliverables. Meanwhile, the developers can focus on the next big solution implementation, without getting distracted with questions all the time.  

Keep your remote software development team in the picture  

Keeping only on-site team members informed about decision makings, at the exclusion of your remote team, is a guaranteed road to miscommunication. Changes in the business, whether it is a new process, service, or technology, are critical for every project. That is why all parties should be aware of whenever such a decision is made. 

To ensure everyone is in the picture, include the remote team in regularly scheduled meetings for discussions on topics like performance and use official channels, such as email when making official announcements. If you decide to work with a sourcing team, make sure to understand the communication flow of that team’s company. For example, we usually use two main email groups – one for correspondence on a project leadership level, concerning management matters, and the other including the whole team. Even simply using the right email group can help you avoid communication breakdowns.  

Make time zone difference work for you

Imagine a scenario when your office is based in Boston and you are working with a Bulgarian software development team like ours. The 7-hour difference in time zone is a factor. When one of your teammates is getting started for the day, another might be signing off. The more time zones your team is spread over, the more difficult it gets to find sufficient time to collaborate. So, what do you do? 

Know when the workday begins for your remote software development team and how long it can take for them to get back to you. Communicate your expectations about the hours you expect them to be available online, whether using official policies or unwritten rules. In any case, identify the time when everyone is working synchronously. It might be just 2-3 hours of the day but should be enough to check off the most critical tasks for the day that requires all sides’ attention. For example, it is the best time to have daily status meetings, make announcements and communicate important decisions, review project work.  

Essentially, working with a remote team on the other side of the world means getting a 24-hour workday. When one of your team members is working on an emergent task at 6 PM, they can hand it off to somebody who is just starting for the day. Thus, the project never sleeps and instead continues to get pushed forward, making it possible for managers to meet even the tightest deadlines. 

Technology as the solid ground of remote work 

Remote work is a viable option all because of technology. No matter the tool set you choose, the best about working with a remote software development team is that they are usually flexible and willing to adapt to your preferences. What’s even greater is that, in case you are just starting, you can rely on their experience using a wide range of tools and get recommendations. Here is what to keep in mind when it comes to technology: 

Stick to one tool at a time

The abundance in online tools today make it difficult to select the most suited to your needs. Identify these needs and differentiate tools for different purposes. For example, weekly meetings can be done with video calling, while an internal social networking platform can be chosen for regular chats. Yet, using too many collaboration tools has its side effects, including higher costs, more onboarding time, and data discrepancy. So, make sure to stick to the most essential ones. 

Prioritize collaboration tools

There is a hierarchy when it comes to effective collaboration tools. For us, video and audio conference calls are the number one choice, as they get the message across much more efficiently. So, we prefer video and audio over chat and text when collaborating on a task but also use additional channels, such as email, to follow up with meeting minutes. You can use Microsoft Teams and Slack to have daily catch-up meetings and maintain an active conversation between team members. 

technology

Utilize tracking

Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand what is going on with the project, especially for distributed teams. Documenting details about your project can make a huge difference in the future, let’s say when onboarding a new team member. The best way to do this is by having clear processes and utilizing tracking tools. Consider using dedicated tools for time-tracking, such as JiraAsana, Azure DevOps. Such tools can give you control traceability over the team’s tasks.

Use automation

Managing a remote software development team poses many organizational and time management challenges – the least of which remembering to put real pants on. Find what are repetitive tasks and use tools to streamline them. You can automate processes and stay connected, even when you are not in the same ZIP code as your team. For example, you can notify your team of due dates and set up auto-reminders in Slack or Integrate Jira with Teams to easily visualize the important things like development velocity, workloads, bug resolution, etc., all in real-time.

Bonus tips from our clients

Accedia has always played the role of a remote team, seen from our clients’ perspective. Over the years, we have partnered on 350+ projects with companies worldwide and learnt that it takes both sides of the coin to make long-distance collaboration work. All these success stories proved that remote teams are not only a great addition to your company but can help you stay flexible through difficult times. Read recommendations that our clients shared on Clutch

 “Regardless of who has more knowledge of the history of the project at the beginning, you need to make sure that those people have the expertise to take the lead in supporting the new people coming on board. You also have to make sure that those joining the project are gaining the knowledge and skills that they need in order to be successful in their roles.” – Project Manager, Castle Trust 

“My advice is to know what you want beforehand, which is always important to do. Definitely be willing to let them guide you with their expertise.” – Director of Product Development, SalonBiz

“Be organized with your work so that it’s easier to communicate your needs. You’re paying for their services, after all. If you don’t have everything together, they’ll have to wait to help; it’s a waste. If there was one thing I would have changed, I would’ve probably wanted to be more organized in the beginning.”- Web Developer, Microchip technology 

“Another important point is to get a good project manager from their team. We’ve had a very good project manager who’s made everything successful.” – Business Development Analyst, Thomas Concrete Group

Wrapping it all up

Managing remote teams is no bulletproof but when approached correctly, you will benefit from a healthy team dynamic much needed when developing software innovation. Make the best of trust, communication, and technology – the key ingredients for managing remote teams effectively – and you are sure to set your company to success.  

We hope that these tips will help you navigate to making the most of your long-distance team collaboration. Now it is up to you to decide on a remote software development team that is proactive in helping you implement best practices by sharing feedback and ideas on improving day-to-day communication and processes. Discover the ways you can set up a remote team with us

Violeta is a Marketing Specialist at Accedia, promoting the value of developing software innovation. Social Media savvy, passionate about writing and traveling.

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