While remote work has many benefits for developers, notably work-life balance, it has several drawbacks. One of which is communication.
Since remote development teams aren’t present in the same physical space, it’s often difficult to communicate, build relationships, or develop any sort of rapport. These all negatively impact collaboration, productivity, and your bottom line.
Thankfully, companies that know how to manage remote development teams get high-quality results. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Several things need to be in place to get the best out of your remote development team. Before we share them, let’s re-examine the foundation of a remote development team.
What Is a Remote Software Development Team?
A remote or virtual team refers to individuals who work across multiple cities, countries, and even continents to achieve an organizational goal. And a remote software development team is a group of technically trained people who design and create computer software programs and systems for an organization.
Managing a remote development team requires specific approaches, which we discuss in the next section.
Best Practices for Managing a Remote Development Team
The first step is hiring right, which means looking beyond technical expertise.
For example, you need to make sure that candidates are the right fit culturally. You want developers who are communicative and open to new perspectives. Once you get recruitment right, you’re ready to leverage the potential of your remote team.
1. Set Clear Expectations and Goals
In a successful remote development team everyone understands what success looks like. From the start, set the bar on the standards of performance and output you expect from your remote development team.
Communicate your expectations to the team regarding work hours, communication channels, deadlines, and deliverables. Document this information so team members can easily access it when they need clarification.
However, be sure to set realistic and attainable milestones. This keeps the entire team in sync and within a feasible time frame, and enhances team morale and productivity. Conversely, unrealistic goals will result in inconsistent periods of productivity and an exhausted development team.
2. Provide the Right Tools and Resources
Although it may sound obvious, don’t forget to give your team the proper hardware and software. Consider providing funds to your remote development team to allow them to purchase or replace outdated equipment and optimize their workspace. Give them access to all the documentation needed to carry out their tasks effectively.
Ensure each developer can access a reliable internet connection and provide them with the necessary software, which includes the following:
- Communication: Slack, Vonage, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are invaluable to stay connected and collaborate effectively.
- Project management: Jira, Trello, Asana, and Basecamp keep remote development teams organized and on schedule.
- Code collaboration: Popular solutions like GitHub, GitLab, and BitBucket help remote development teams create code together.
- Cloud storage: Google Drive and Dropbox allow remote teams to share files and collaborate.
- Time tracking: Solutions like Harvest, Toggl, and RescueTime are helpful to track hours across projects.
3. Build Trust and Communicate Effectively
Miscommunication in remote work leads to errors, delayed projects, and failure to achieve goals. So, both parties must communicate effectively.
Poor timing is typically the cause of miscommunication. For example, if you try to communicate while the dev team is in a tricky coding session, you’re unlikely to gain their undivided attention. This is when details are lost.
It’s better to schedule regular stand-up meetings with your remote dev team. Everyone can be transparent about what they’re working on in this meeting. Then, you can identify potential roadblocks and facilitate necessary collaboration.
Of course, it’s difficult to find a time that works for everyone — especially if you have developers around the world. In this case, reduce the number of video meetings and switch to chat. Maybe create a Slack channel for stand-ups and let team members read the thread at their convenience.
You may also improve communication by leveraging your phone system’s DID feature (what is DID? It’s direct inward dialing) to reach internal extensions directly without going through an operator. Phone conversations are often more clear and concise than emails or chats, especially when discussing complex technical issues.
4. Close Communication Lines During Off-Hours
While it is crucial to prioritize communication for globally distributed teams, don’t overdo it. You want your remote development team to have a healthy work-life balance. So establish clear boundaries for communication during off-hours:
- Encourage your remote team to disconnect and recharge during their time off. To help, be sure to set clear expectations on response times.
- Make them understand that they don’t have to be available 24/7 and that taking time to respond to non-urgent messages is okay. The practice creates a sense of respect for personal time and allows your team to recharge.
- Consider implementing a rotating schedule for on-call duties. This ensures rotation among team members, provides everyone with equal time off, and reduces burnout.
5. Establish and Follow Clear Guidelines
There must be guidelines for managing a remote development team to ensure consistent expectations. These guidelines should cover various aspects of team collaboration, such as project deadlines, communication protocols, and task management.
The remote software dev team should know when to collaborate with external stakeholders and how to communicate. If you use outbound call center outsourcing services for market research and surveys, let the development team understand the specific requirements and expectations.
When developing guidelines, be sure to:
- Identify what needs to be accomplished and when: Team members can prioritize the most critical tasks and allocate their time effectively.
- Decide on the primary communication channel: This helps maintain continuity and context across email, chat platforms like Slack, or video conferencing tools.
- Encourage open communications and regular updates: Regular check-ins and status updates help keep everyone aligned and ensure that work progresses smoothly.
- Establish guidelines for handling conflicts and resolving issues: Open communications put team members at ease to express their views. It is also important to monitor remote employees on their goals and productivity levels.
6. Promote Collaboration and Teamwork
Among the qualities you want in your remote development team is the ability to work independently. However, it is equally crucial for them to be team players when necessary. Several tasks, like brainstorming sessions and code reviews, require remote team members to work together.
But this doesn’t happen overnight. It needs to be ingrained in your culture and reinforced regularly. To develop this culture:
- Create clear communication channels and expectations.
- Provide your remote development team with the tools they need to collaborate, like chat, video conferencing, and project management software.
- Facilitate team collaboration by simplifying communication. For example, registering a domain to create personalized email addresses for each team member can improve communication. Domain registrations also help establish a sense of professionalism within your remote development team.
- Schedule regular check-ins and team meetings to discuss progress and identify potential issues. This is a good time for team members to ask for help when they need it and provide constructive feedback to one another.
It’s important to foster a supportive and inclusive environment to promote collaboration. Success becomes inevitable when everyone is happy to work together and invested in the same goal.
7. Implement Clear Log-On and Log-Off Hours
When team members have set hours for work, it helps establish a routine and creates a sense of structure. This is especially important when working across different time zones.
Encourage your team to determine their log-on and log-off hours based on their productivity and availability. Some team members may prefer early mornings, while others may be more productive in the afternoon or evening.
Allowing flexibility within these hours empowers your team to work at their optimal times.
Communicate these log-on and log-off hours to the entire team so everyone knows each other’s availability. It helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that employees are reachable during work hours.
8. Account for Asynchronous Scheduling
With team members spread across different time zones, finding a balance that allows everyone to collaborate effectively is crucial.
Encourage your team to use tools and practices that enable asynchronous communication. This includes project management software with task assignments and deadlines. Team members can work independently and provide clear instructions and documentation for each project.
Asynchronous scheduling allows your team to work on their own schedule and meet project deadlines at the same time. It helps team members maintain a healthy work-life balance since they can choose when to work based on their preferences.
Managing a successful remote development team doesn’t happen overnight. It requires effort, commitment, dedication, and time.
You must communicate on a different level since your development team is in a different physical location. You also need to provide the proper communication tools.
Remember to create a culture where your team feels safe to share their views without judgment or criticism. Also encourage your team to take time off to recharge and avoid burnout.
Managing a remote development team has its challenges. But by following the tips above, you can achieve success.