Remote work is not new but in the current global business climate it is here to stay, whether we like it or not.
There are a number of reasons why remote work is the path of the future. First of all, there is clear evidence it increases employee productivity, it reduces time spent on commute, it cuts costs for both the company and the employees themselves, it opens up the market connecting companies and skilled individuals in ways that are not possible in conventional offices.
On top of this, the market for outsourcing services is growing exponentially, especially in tech. Software outsourcing companies are already versed in remote work because they tend to take advantage of the global pool of talent.
As a business wanting to improve the everyday work flow with a remote software development team, there are a number of things to keep in mind when building and maintaining it.
Finding the right people for a remote software development team
To reduce the drudgery of sifting through candidate applications be prepared with a detailed and crystal-clear job description. Be open about your expectations and needs.
Tech skills are, of course, the main thing someone brings to the company. The more experience they have and the better their work ethic is, the easier it will be to integrate these people into your team. That does not mean that you cannot hire juniors that get to learn and grow with the team and the company. In their case willingness to learn, strong basic knowledge and lots of determination are the ingredients that will make them useful and help them blend in sooner rather than later.
Choosing people with the right attitude is essential when it comes to remote work. Your task might be putting together a multinational, multicultural, multilingual team that work together on the same project and need to see eye to eye, or have to be able to negotiate and collaborate efficiently. For this reason, choosing someone who is culturally sensitive, open-minded and respectful of differences is a must. This minimizes the possible conflicts arising from cultural incongruities.
Great remote workers are self-driven, pro-active and people who think on their feet as remote work means they might need to find solutions by themselves because they do not have someone available at all times to answer questions and to guide them. They are also excellent communicators and people with a growth mindset, who know they can learn or overcome the obstacle if they put in the right amount of work.
Another aspect is whether you want a team of generalists or of specialists. The former possesses a broad range of knowledge and expertise and are able to handle end-to-end solutions, but might get stuck on more specialized issues. The latter know a part of the technology in depth and can work much more efficiently in their niche, but find it hard to see the bigger picture which is a roadblock to effective communication in the team.
A hybrid team is the ideal if you can find the right individuals and combination of skills.
The key to success for integrating new members in a remote software development team is onboarding. You want the people you bring to your team to start contributing as soon as possible. This means it should be easy for a new addition to learn the necessary information as quickly and as easily as possible. For this, scripts that can configure a laptop for the needs of the company, equipment with preloaded tools for code repositories, development inventories and links to company resources are a huge help. A company handbook is another idea that will put all the vital information at the fingertips of the new members without any hassle. It should provide an overview of the vision, values and rules of the company.
Documented workflows and processes, explicit guidelines, roles and responsibilities and setting clear expectations are all methods to initiate a new team member in a successful way. Spell out what flexible hours are, for example, if they exist, how to use internal communication, who can help with different issues and so on. A shorter way of saying this is that the newcomer needs to know about the product, the process, the right tools used and professional expectations.
Appointing someone to help and guide new team-mates has the benefit of creating relationships and also giving the new hire direct insight as well as a person to rely on at the beginning for questions and direction because what they lack at this stage is context and connection
Onboarding can be automated as well, with the help of videos, written guides, and checklists. Also offer letter presets, various templates, and any other resources they might need.
The challenges of managing a remote team
When people do not work in the same physical environment, don’t see each other, and cannot create organic relationships intentional ways of keeping the team together are mandatory.
The right people for the right environment
Hire people who fit the company culture, who can find things in common with the people in their team, and whose values match those of the company.
Ask newcomers to write a message of introduction about themselves on the internal communication system and encourage the other members of the group to be friendly and welcoming.
It is ideal if the company culture is also a culture of hard questions, one in which it is ok to admit that you don’t have all the answers and where roadblocks are part of the process. This is a culture of honesty where people can ask for help at the right time, discuss issues and processes that do not work, and strive to continuously improve for better performance.
The company’s ability to scale, innovate and make work meaningful is the backbone of its culture, the code of conduct is just the how that takes everyone to the desired outcome. If people feel they work for a purpose and are aided by the right values and leadership, they are more likely to be motivated to maintain the focus and collaboration that make results possible.
Build a culture of mentoring and coaching. A workplace is a space of improvement where people organically learn from each other. In a remote setting that is not possible so make it intentional. Everyone has something to impart and they should do it. Everyone is encouraged to become a mentor and also to make an effort to learn from others.
Without swift and effective communication no project can be accomplished successfully. As a manager make sure everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are. Clarify everything, from day-to-day tasks to how progress is measured. Try to eliminate all misunderstandings or take steps to address one immediately if it arises. Be open about all decisions and changes, make sure the team is in the know ahead of time about updates to strategy and deadlines.
Meetings are a controversial topic, but regular, short, relevant ones keep things in motion and allow everyone to understand the big picture. Have protected focus time for the team when they can work without disturbance, except in case of emergency, and don’t overwhelm them with messages they don’t need to see. It is more useful to everyone if they get only the info that requires their attention.
Decide on common terminology and offer all the details about the project, this will enable your team to understand and approach the project in the best way possible. Focus on written communication for important things because this creates a record of issues and forces the writer to express ideas in a clear and concise way.
Know who you are working with
Make an effort to get to know your team members. Having an idea of people’s particular strengths and what they find challenging can help you delegate work better. It also creates a connection with your team and encourages people to be more involved as well because you show care and interest. Insist on face-to-face interactions from time to time as issues can sometimes be solved more swiftly in a real-time conversation while also bringing the team closer.
Knowing the people you work with and their needs makes it easier to stir them in the right direction if they want to continue to improve their knowledge. Helping them grow professionally through continuous training makes them more qualified and competent and gives you people that are versatile and can solve a higher number of issues.
Another benefit of knowing your remote software development team is the fact that you can give them personalized feedback. It’s important to offer as much positive feedback for the good things they have done as that pertaining to issues and mistakes. Give concise but comprehensive feedback because it will improve the product with every iteration and help with the growth of the developer who receives it.
Focus on secondary tasks. If developers get stuck on an issue, as they are bound to do, they should be able to have a secondary or tertiary task on hand to maintain productivity high. There are situations when an issue is not under the control of the developers or they need to take some time away so they can come back to it with new eyes. Such a situation should not mean they are idle, but that they can focus on something else for the time being.
With a remote software development team you should not strive for control, instead, offer people your trust. If someone is not doing the work they should be doing it will become very clear in no time. So, pestering people with question and check-ins just breaks workflow and can make them feel undervalued or even disrespected. If the team focuses on a common goal, there is no need for micromanaging.
Allow the team to make decisions and come up with solutions, this is why they are there in the first place anyway. This reduces the time spent in discussions and more gets done.
Focus on long-term goals and not the day-to-day. Offer direction and let your team members get to the destination in their own way. They are there also because they are disciplined and able to self-organize so don’t undermine them.
The right tools for the job
A project can be tracked synchronously through messaging boards, real-time whiteboard tools, collaborative design apps, the list can go on, and asynchronously through project management tracking tools that organize the workflow and where everyone can keep up with the progress of the project. Tools for code review, google docs, and wikis can maintain the flow of information uninterrupted.
Software outsourcing companies are very familiar with all these details of building and working successfully with a remote team. What makes a demand on the market so great for such companies is their comprehensive portfolio of services, expertise, and resources to ensure overall project success. This allows their clients to redirect resources to other crucial aspects of their business. It cuts the costs of hiring, onboarding, finding the right tools, and the right processes which keeps their company lean and makes them able and willing to come back with another project.