Within the software development community, remote working was the rage even before the pandemic. This is because it offered access to top tech talent that wasn’t available locally, provided flexibility, and helped keep costs down.
However, if you haven’t managed a remote distributed software development team before, you might have to rethink your project management approach. For example, optimising the whole process from day one is crucial to get the most out of your team and project.
If you’ve never done this before, it’s best to partner with an established third-party provider to get the ball rolling. This approach will ensure that you hire the right developers (following best practices) or even hire the perfect remote team for your project.
You can also benefit from their extensive experience setting up trust and accountability protocols and parameters to work within established timelines and expectations. Once that’s out of the way, you can start onboarding and training your remote team of software engineers.
Remote Team Onboarding and Training
Whether software developers work in-house or in an extended team, you have to have a trial period to accommodate them and help them adjust to your corporate culture. This approach will also help you better understand how they work, communicate, and collaborate with the rest of the development team.
It’s critical to pay attention to what the developers are actually doing, how they get along with each other, even in a remote setting. For example, two software developers with the same skillset and experience may not share the same level of commitment or delivery of quality work.
If you have to micromanage anyone, this is the best and only time to do it. But don’t do it for more than a few days. If they can’t leverage the resources available to them by this point, you might have to replace them.
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It’s also best to get involved in the coding process right from the beginning. If you like how it’s going after a couple of weeks, you can step back and let them proceed.
Look Past the Location and Language Barrier
Your company needs coding ninjas, not expert English speakers. As long as they’re able to converse with you, understand you, and get their point across, it’s more than enough.
For example, in Ukraine, English is spoken widely, and a lot of tech professionals have a decent command of the language. Most often, they have already worked for technology companies in North America and Western Europe, so they’re well-versed in Western cultures, management style, and real-world business requirements.
Take Time to Prepare Guidelines and Clearly Define the Work Process
Product owners must create a framework for the remote team to work. For example, feedback from team members is only useful if everyone’s aware of the relevant best practices and benefits of each working methodology (agile or otherwise).
Of course, you can brainstorm with the team and develop a working methodology that everyone prefers to use. But the ultimate decision comes down to the project manager or product owner. This approach helps negate any potential conflicts that might pop up later in the software development cycle.
While it’s important not to micromanage your remote team, it’s crucial to establish a clear minimum administrative process. By leveraging tools like Jira Workflows, you can keep things organised. In this scenario, you have to ensure that critical processes are respected and followed.
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At this juncture, it’s also important to note that you have to be a liaison and not just the “boss” of everything and everyone. Sometimes, you’ll have to be the crucial link between team members, enhancing collaboration between departments, and more.
Meet Together, Meet Individually, and Meet Often
Even though everyone’s working from home (in the new normal), it’s essential to often engage in virtual meetings. This approach can help keep your project on track while building team spirit.
However, it’s vital to create an environment where your coders feel comfortable to speak freely and share their thoughts and opinions on how the project’s going.
Virtual meetings are perfect for sharing knowledge, asking questions, brainstorming solutions, and encouraging collaboration. But don’t make the mistake of filling the days up with endless meetings.
During group meetings, managers should also click on the record button (once everyone is aware that you’re doing it). By recording the session, you can avoid revisiting issues that were already discussed. In our experience, recording group meetings lead to an uptick in productivity.
However, try to keep most of the communication between you and the team members in written form. This will help them go back and refer to your instructions and more without “bothering” you.
You don’t have to record one-on-one sessions as these are often personal conversations about specific tasks, individual activities, and so on. While group meetings should be held at least weekly, one-on-one meetings can be held twice a month.
You can use tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack or Zoom and encourage the creation of informal side-channels. While it won’t replace chats by the water cooler, it’ll certainly add a positive dimension to team interactions.
Experiment with Pair Programming
Pair programming enables two coders to work together simultaneously on the same tasks. With tools like TeamViewer, they can share screens and code together, improving the quality of the code while reducing technical debt.
Distributed development teams that engage in this activity tend to form stronger bonds and grow with the transfer of knowledge and expertise. It also helps keep software engineers accountable during the lifecycle of the project.
However, it’s important to have some common sense here. Please don’t ask them to work on the same task for a whole day. Instead, distribute their responsibilities evenly and schedule a time for them to work together on the code. Whenever the time differences are significant, pair programmers who live geographically closer to each other.
At Evolve, we have successfully worked in remote extended teams for years and know how to get the most out of them.
If you need some tips to manage a remote development team efficiently and effectively, we'd be happy to share our experience with you. Schedule a commitment-free call now!