It can be hard to switch the mindset and start to work with the dedicated development team that is not present in your office. The approach of remote working is getting more and more popular, as it gives companies access to high-quality specialists and enables them to reduce the costs. For those who are already working with remote development teams, just starting to work, or just thinking to start working this way, we prepared the best practices and tips for successfully managing your dedicated team.
Main aspects of managing remote development teams
There are 4 main aspects of managing remote development teams where you should concentrate your attention on:
- The importance of the Product Owner role
- The process, roles, and technologies for managing the project
- Determining factors for choosing your technology partner
The first and the main one, from our expertise, is communication.
Communication as a key to a successful partnership with remote development teams
Communication is the key to a successful partnership between parties. With the help of it, we are building our relationship, setting goals, reviewing the process, discussing new opportunities, choosing the best tools, and so much more. Even me, writing this article is communicating with you, reading this article.
In the case of managing remote development teams, you need to switch from face-to-face to online communication. Luckily, there are a lot of tools to talk with your remote workers online. Various tools are covering different needs. The requirements depend on the communication level. We can classify 2 communication levels; there is no official terminology for it, so we will name them instant and structured.
The instant communication represents disorderly communication, mostly not united by a specific topic, and that mainly consists of short messages.
We mostly use Slack for this purpose as you can easily find the person you need to write to, add necessary files, or even make a reminder. Also, it is possible to create groups united by topic or project to chat with a group of people related to it.
Structured level of communication
On this level, the contact is defined by the purpose. This level of communication covers the topic in a more structured way. It’s used for daily stand-ups, short and long-term planning, and retrospective meetings.
For building an efficient remote team, it’s essential to create a feeling of belonging. That’s why we recommend using video as an addition to audio in online communication. Using video in calls/conferences creates a more robust connection as it covers 3 types of communication: verbal, nonverbal, and visual. By utilizing all these types, a speaker ensures he or she has the necessary attributes to avoid miscommunication and misconceptions.
It makes the most sense by the retrospective meeting as the progress, issues, personal opinion, and feelings of each team member can be discussed. It makes it necessary to see the emotions of other team members and make sure you were understood correctly.
You can go even further with creating an atmosphere of physical presence by using an extra screen/display with streaming your remote team; it gives a feeling that you are working side by side. Companies that use video conferencing can help their remote employees feel more involved by giving them a chance to see their coworkers and engage with them. If there’s room for an additional screen, one can be used to display the remote participants while the other can be dedicated to shared content. This is particularly helpful in larger rooms, so people furthest from the screens can easily see the shared content. The screen sharing feature enables you to show your content without the hassle of emails and uploads. It is a real time-saver; it also gives you the ability to gain instant feedback and make changes on the spot. Video conferences and extra screens empower employees to innovate, collaborate, and achieve great things together.
Also, we have noticed that some clients are used to working with the Whiteboard. There are tools that can stimulate Whiteboard online. We mostly use Miro. Whiteboard is a handy tool for planning, brainstorming, and retrospective meetings. It is not just productive, but also a fun way of doing things. We are using this tool when we prefer the meeting to be more engaging. We open the Whiteboard and start creating things together as a team.
When you work with the remote team and not with the individual developer, try to direct your communication to the whole team. It helps all the members of the team be valued and updated about changes. It also excludes the chance of duplicating work and gives the feeling of equal importance to each member of the team.
The importance of the Product Owner role in remote software development
The second aspect we would like to pay attention to is the importance of the Product Owner role. In Scrum methodology, a Product Owner is a person on the client side who is responsible for gaining all the requirements from the stakeholders and providing them to the development team. He or she is reliable, decisive, and is the primary contact person for the nearshoring development team.
Product Owner should take his role seriously. He should dedicate enough time to it. The result of the software development project and digital product largely depends on his work.
The responsibilities of a Product Owner include:
- Define goals and create a vision for development projects
- To describe the issues in the backlog (development team’s project to-do list) from the user’s perspective and manage them
- Determine the order and prioritize tasks
- Evaluate the progress at each cycle
- Understand and forecast the client’s needs with customer journey mapping
- Being the first interaction person on the client-side
- Participate in the sprint retrospective meetings and answer all questions the team has
The process, roles, and technologies for managing the software development project with remote team
We have already talked about some tools which help to improve communication. But what are the tools for successfully planning, observing, and managing the project? And who defines how the processes in the project look like? To give answers to these questions, let’s firstly consider what type of companies work with remote teams.
Companies hiring remote teams
Generally, there are three most common scenarios of companies who are getting remote teams. In reality, there are much more cases and more complicated structures, but in a simplified way, they all can be related to one of those 3:
1. Companies that already have an in-house development team(s) and planning to extend it.
2. Companies that already have an in-house development team(s) and planning to build a separate one (for different projects or different parts of the project).
3. Companies that are starting a completely new project and don’t have an in-house development team.
When we are beginning to work with companies 1 and 2, firstly, we check the existing workflow and setup. If we see the potential for improvement, we will recommend how to enhance the process. We suggest Product Owners think about the team’s expectations about the planned workflow and the proposed changes to avoid misunderstandings. Also, it is good to be open-minded and listen to the advice of the experienced Scrum master for the improvement and decide if the proposed solution fits the setup.
For companies 3, we are building a new structure regarding the project’s requirements. We are educating the client and provide possible options. The task of the Project Owner in this situation is to listen carefully, discuss provided options with the other members of the company board, and to choose the best fitting solution.
In most cases, we recommend using the Agile approach to software development.
In Agile software development, a sprint is a set period during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review. The duration of a sprint is determined by a Scrum Master. The function of a Scrum Master is similar to the role of a Project manager in a Waterfall approach to software development. Each project is individual, so we would recommend hiring a Scrum Master or a Project manager in addition to your remote development team to define and introduce the process. Also, this person takes care that each member of the team knows and understands the given tasks and makes sure the output meets the requirements.
There are plenty of tools for managing the process of development. The one we recommend is Jira. JIRA is a tool for the whole team. A Project Owner provides requirements. As a result of gained requirements, tickets are created. The primary responsibility of the Scrum Master is to define process fitting to the project and the team, monitor if everything in the process works as planned, and, if needed, propose changes/adjustments to the process. Developers are getting from the system information about requirements/tickets, updating their tickets’ status, and giving their feedback. All of these can be done in one tool.
Why exactly Jira from the whole diversity?
- It can be used for your processes without limiting it, or you can even create a unique workflow
- Enables to see what is happening in the sprint and the progress of the backlog
- It’s easy to plan the road map, not just a backlog, but also on a higher level
- Simple and clear planning and prioritizing of the tasks
- Integration with Confluence that helps to hold all the documentation (from notes to product specifications) in one place.
You are free to choose any other tool for managing your project as long as it fits your requirements. From our experience, Jira is a great tool, so it’s worth trying if you haven’t done it yet.
Determining factors for choosing your technology partner
While the team is remote and can be located anywhere in the world, you are still in close contact with them on a daily/weekly basis. We would recommend you choose a nearshore software development company instead of offshore regarding the same time zone, closer business culture fit, and travel distance.
Face-to-face meetings with your team are not mandatory but highly recommended to build even closer relationships. For that, together with transport accessibility, check the office circumstances. For example, are there conference rooms available to meet with your team or/ and conduct the workshops.
Another critical factor is the size of the company. There is no simple answer that big is good and small is bad or visa-versa, it all depends on your requirements. What we want to highlight here is that there should be enough specialists in case you need to scale up your team, and the company should be flexible enough to scale down when it’s necessary. Also, it’s beneficial to work with a company that has developers experienced in a broad range of different technologies. When advice from a specific field is needed, there is always a professional to help you with it. Here you can read more information on how to choose a software development company. Also, besides software developers, specialists like Scrum Masters, Security Testers, DevOps, and Quality Assistants should be available to hire.
What are the best practices for successfully managing remote development teams?
It’s time to summarize and highlight the most critical practices for managing your remote team.
1. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication; Use both instant and structured communication for different needs and include all members of the team in contact.
2. Second, as a Product Owner, invest enough time and energy for your responsibilities. Try to get the most detailed information about the requirements for the digital product and features, and be there for the team when questions evoke, or assistance is needed. Or, if you are the owner or CEO of the company, delegate the responsibilities of the Product Owner to the trustworthy person who is decisive and user-oriented.
3. Get your technology in place. Planning, tracking, releasing, and reporting can be done in one tool. We recommend this tool to be Jira. Hire a Scrum Master in addition to the development team for the smooth process of development.
4. Hire your team from a trustworthy nearshore company. Consider all the factors before making your final choice.
Now you should be ready to go! We hope our advice helps you to manage your team more smartly. If you have questions or need a dedicated development team, feel free to contact us.
Good luck with managing your remote team!