Businesses and entrepreneurs hire remote teams to develop their software offshore. But before you choose a development company to work with, you need to understand how to manage remote workers to make this collaboration effective and productive.
When entering the remote developers’ world, the biggest obstacle that managers must overcome is to change their mindset by accepting that the developer will not be in plain sight, and where they can manage and follow the work being done. This new paradigm requires businesses to implement a number of mechanisms to track progress and avoid a redundant workload. Such mechanisms will help both manager and developer be more productive, which is in everyone’s best interest.
We cover the best practices we follow to be able to better manage our remote employees and suggest some tools and advice for better development team management.
1. Adopt Known Project Management Methodologies
Our in-house and remote team stays in constant contact without overdoing it. One way is to adopt scrum agile management processes. Such project management methodologies help foster honesty and accountability while boosting the flexibility and productivity of both teams. “Our developers use tools with a shared dashboard like Jira, in conjunction with other plugins. This helps our tech project managers monitor the progress” – says Shilpa (Sr. Project Manager)
2. Foster Accountability
Business owners worry, too, about ensuring that remote dev teams are actually working and not billing for work that’s not done. They worry, for example, about losing control to an offshore dev. “The solution is easy when you schedule update days.” – advises Mary (Project Manager) You can create a dedicated chat in any tool you are comfortable using for communications. “We use Slack, it lets everyone post what they have been working on during the day and what they have planned for the next.” – says Jaseel (WordPress Developer.)
3. Encourage a Unified Development Philosophy
Key components that encourage a development culture include:
- Communicate all decisions made to your team (in-house and outsourced): Critical decisions are often times made in an informal tone or setting. This can result in lot of wasted time before every office and team member involved knows of the updates and stops working on outdated information. Instead of sending out decisions through email or chat, Bohdan (Frontend Developer), says – “You do better if you add it to a corporate wiki or guide for faster access to everyone involved. You can also ask team members to set up email notifications for important pages or groups.
- Minimize environment friction during setup: Creating a simple getting started guide will do wonders in terms of increasing productivity. Instead of scheduling for one-on-one sessions (these can be done later for confirmation and feedback), you need to automate your setup whenever possible.
- Clearly define a “complete” objective: A concrete definition of a “complete” task will eliminate vague work. It is in the interest of everyone involved to craft and distribute a list of project objectives. Such objectives clarify when your project is done. “you’d want to clarify when code is designed, created, tested, and reviewed.” – says Peng ( Full-Stack Developer).
- Publish guidelines for filing bug reports: Not everyone in your outsource dev team might be available in case an issue comes up, but that cannot stand in the way of progress. “You will want to ensure in advance that all team members can file an all-inclusive bug report. And, shared troubleshooting guides make it easy for everyone to track, fix and validate issues.” says Muhammad Maged (Backend Developer).
4. Automate What Can be Automated
Some outsourcing teams look small, but they still manage to complete large enterprise projects just as efficiently as the larger teams. Their secret lies in intelligent automation. This allows team members to put their time and effort into high-impact work, instead of trying to figure out the mundane, routing processes.
Vitaliy Zakharin (QA Automation), says – “For example, we have automated testing, this helps us reduce human errors in codes. Instead of keeping people on performing repetitive tasks for billing, a smart service provider will automate as many processes as possible.”
5. Establish Strong Communication Channels
Due to the differences in time zones, lack of one-on-one interaction as well as small talks, many instructions can be lost without established communication channels. To prevent this from happening to your project, follow these two rules:
- Set time for daily meetings by beginning the work day with a short meeting where everything is clarified and questions answered. These tailgate meetings help you keep an eye on the progress so far. Daily meetings bring together your on-site developers and remote team and forge common interests.
- Manage time difference by defining hours when everyone should be available for communication.
Ahmed (Project Manager) suggests some of the most common tools you can use for communication:
- Email: While project management systems help you save in terms of inbox space, email is still an irreplaceable tool.
- Chat: Chat messengers like Slack or Skype are great for instant messaging and creating that team environment, but users can still take up a lot of time just chatting.
- Diagrams: Tools that share the remote computer’s screen are very useful. Remote controlling another computer saves time when explaining. Tools like Skype’s screen sharing, join.me, and TeamViewer fall in this category.
6. Use Video Conferencing to Bolster Efficiency and Morale
Chats, emails and other team management tools are of a great help, but occasional face-to-face meetings are well worth the effort and time. A video at the start of a project will personalize the tasks and ensure that everyone is on the same page. – says Rohit (Analytics Manager). Mid-project video conferences help keep team spirits up, reassure everyone is on track, and thank them when all is done.
Creating and nurturing personal connections adds trust, minimizing missed expectations and increasing self-organization.
7. Take Advantage of Time Zone Differences
While many think that the time zone difference is a drag on performance, but this is not the case. In fact, your business will achieve efficiency round the clock when you assign developers from different parts of the world to specific aspects of your project.
Andrii (Project Manager) says – “A remote dev team ahead of your time zone offers you the perfect opportunity to review the progress the same day and assign the next tasks. On the other hand, if you are ahead, you have time to mull over and prepare everything for the software development team in advance.”
8. Schedule an Independent Technical Review
Independent technical reviews are critical during software outsourcing. It is the best way to get objective information about your software from the outsourcing provider. Even as you get extensive documentation, guarantees, reports and promises from your service provider, asking someone to review the product gives you a feel for how the product will do once released to the public. – says Mario (PHP Laravel Developer). “Such reviews do not offend the developers. Instead, convey the reviewer’s concerns to them. As professionals, the developers will understand and respect the objectives of your business.” Says Wahib (NetFull-Stack Developer).
9. Hire an Independent CTO, If You Can
Individual proprietors and small businesses lack the time and expertise to develop software on their own. They are smart to hire an independent chief technical officer (CTO) to report and control how the outsourcing is working.
Aparajitha (Sr. Net Full-Stack Developer) says – “Too often, business owners and entrepreneurs try to control how the software developers work directly by becoming software savvy, learning the jargon, Java syntax and even the principles of DevOps. This is one route to failure. Instead, they could focus on business development, and manage the CTO rather than the outsourced team.”
10. Tools we use and others
Team leader and CTOs know how hard it is to build the right team – especially remotely. It’s all about great communication, a common goal, and professionalism. It’s important to help developers feel as if they were sitting behind a desk in your company, make friends with technology and choose some tools that’ll help you to manage the progress of work remotely, too.
We’ve divided the tools into the following groups: productivity, chatting, project management, and team culture.
Todoist is a great to-do app to manage every task or process from start to finish. It’s simple and user-friendly and has a great deal of customizable options at the same time. It can be easily shared between team members to monitor their current responsibilities.
iDoneThis is a very nice tool for teams working remotely that offers check-ins and progress reports to boost productivity. Their slogan is I Done This is making teams better and that’s the main goal. Teams can easily keep up with each other’s progress.
Atlassian Stash is a simple tool for keeping developers productive when working with Git. Everyone knows that the management of Git repositories and permissions can be tiresome. Thanks to Stash, developers can structure repos easily in a friendly interface. The repos are organized into Projects which is an easy way for developers to contribute to code that is being used in a given project.
Slack is a must-have tool now. It’s very intuitive and offers a lot of options to diversify and simplify any team’s communication. Slack has useful chatbots and a wide range of integrations that will allow you to decrease the number of e-mails for sure.
HipChat is another cool tool, thanks to which the communication between team members runs smoothly. Its integration with other Atlassian tools, like Jira, optimizes every team’s work and discussion over a project.
PukkaTeam is a great communicator that helps mimic the office atmosphere. Users can feel as if they were sitting in one room together. PukkaTeam is a video-chat that unites the team with one unique feature – it lets people take selfie screenshots every few minutes (or only when you want to). This is a funny way of keeping in touch with the rest of the team and connecting visually with them.
Asana is a tool for teams to track work and get & analyze results. You can manage your task or a whole project from the start, including conversations and notifications, which is a perfect solution for people working remotely!
JIRA is a great solution for managing both dev and marketing teams. With it you can monitor sprints and a project’s progress (you have due dates and task statuses). Assign projects to individuals and allow the whole team to provide feedback, support each other and control the workflow. It’s a great “issue tracker” for sound managers and CTOs.
Trello is a very easy and friendly free tool for managing tasks and projects. It is designed to resemble a board or a clipboard that can be filled with tasks and assigned team members. Thanks to Trello, you can prioritize sessions remotely. There’s a great “virtual whiteboard” to start the remote brainstorming process.
Every Time Zone
Every Time Zone is a super-easy and highly desired tool that shows developers their colleagues’ time zone! Solve problems with waiting for a message from a remote developer who is in the middle of his REM phase. This tool solves problems with scheduling meetings and communicating on time. Also, you can keep track of the current time in different cities.
Of course, the best explanation is the one given face-to-face. Often screenshots, gifs, and infographics aren’t enough, especially for developers who work remotely. The answer is Screenhero, which lets you make a video call with screen sharing options. You can chat and have multiple mouse cursors to control what’s going on with the shared project.
Donut.ai – this tool with a sweet and funny name connects people over Slack. You can introduce a new employee to the rest of a team or arrange a meeting of random developers to encourage them to exchange knowledge and cooperate. Donut breaks down the barriers to introducing, asking for help or integrating.
Quick Remote Team Management Tips
Here are a few more quick tips and thoughts, These general rules can be applied to remote and on-site developers.
- If you micromanage, you will miss the opportunity to learn and let learn.
- Be open-minded and trustworthy, as this is the only way to build a good remote team.
- Keep in mind that an estimate is just an estimate; you will encounter under- and over estimates.
- All who work make mistakes, and if you don’t forgive others mistakes then yours won’t be forgiven, either.
- Most importantly, the greatest motivation for any developer (besides the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult task) is money. So, do not delay payments and consider instituting bonus policies, as well.
- Don’t ignore remote team members simply because you don’t see them every day.
- Don’t overburden you remote team with superfluous goals and timetables.
- Don’t be too worried about different time zones. Use them to your advantage instead.
- Don’t micromanage remote teams. You will stifle innovation and initiative.
- Don’t use a complicated information system. It can do more harm than good in a remote team.
- Don’t forget that remote developers should be equal team members.
- Don’t overlook or ignore cultural and language differences. They can make or break a team.