Telecommuting or working remotely has quickly become the norm. According to FlexJobs, 43% of U.S. workers telecommuted at least occasionally last year. In Canada, the IT sector has the largest proportion of non-traditional remote workers. Remote employees are also expected to make up as much as 32% of the Canadian workforce by 2025.
Today, building remote software development teams is an effective way to respond to the shortage of top tech talent. It also helps businesses diversify their talent pools while saving money because you don’t have the overhead expenses associated with having all your employees in-house.
However, this phenomenon presents a new challenge of managing remote development teams. How do you effectively do it when you don’t have everyone under the same roof?
Remote development teams can be made up of software engineers from different time zones, cultures, and it can also be hard to build rapport with team members. Sometimes communication can also be a challenge if there are significant language and cultural barriers.
At Digi117, we’re highly experienced in managing remote teams and here’s what we have learned.
1. Get Everyone in Synch Right from the Start
When you start building your remote team, it’s better to put your team together quickly and go over the basics. This means defining your objectives, their roles, milestones, management style, and metrics for progress and success.
Even if team members are in different time zones, make an effort to get the entire team together for the initial virtual meeting. By getting everyone in synch right from the start, you can ensure that team members are clear about their roles and objectives.
It will also be a good idea to make this a weekly event to build rapport and a sense of belonging (even when there are vast distances between them).
2. Take Advantage of Technology to Better Manage Workflows
When it comes to project management and collaboration tools, we’re spoilt for choice. There are plenty of platforms to help you communicate, collaborate, and manage workflows.
These platforms and apps can also go a long way to make project management feel like a seamless experience. There’s a wide variety of workflow apps and communication tools to choose from, so do your homework and select the one that best suits your company and management style.
Some of the tools and platforms are as follows:
These workflow and communication tools play a critical role in keeping your tasks and projects on track and moving forward. However, to complete a project successfully, it will be vital to keep all lines of communication open.
3. Keep Communication Channels Open and Easy
There are plenty of communication tools that make sharing information simple and easy. But limit the number of communication tools you’re going to use on a project as it can quickly become a headache.
If you choose to use different communication tools based on the individual preferences of each developer, important messages can quickly get lost in the mix.
The best approach is to find the right tools (these are usually the ones that easily integrate and compliment other project management and collaboration tools) and try to use them efficiently to fill in the gaps.
4. Follow Agile Process Metrics
It can be highly beneficial to implement agile and lean process metrics as it can help you plan and make informed decisions about processes that you would like to improve.
However, it’s important to note that they don’t measure the quality of your product or the overall success of your project, but you should engage in this activity anyway.
The basic metrics you can measure are as follows:
- Lead Time
- Cycle Time
- Team Velocity
- Open/Close Rates
You can also conduct some product analytics to measure the overall performance of your software system:
- Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)
- Mean Time To Recover/Repair (MTTR)
- Application Crash Rate
5. Build Rapport with Team Members
Building rapport with your remote development team members is important. So regardless of the project management approach, you choose to go with, make an effort to build trust with a personal connection.
By building rapport with your team members, you can help them develop a sense of ownership and commitment to the project. You should also encourage your team to have a good rapport with each other.
This won’t happen overnight because it will take time for everyone to get comfortable with each other. But if you start noticing some interpersonal gaps, it will be a good idea to start using video conferencing tools as it will help everyone feel like they’re working in the same office.
Regardless of which way you approach it, building rapport with your development team will be key to boosting morale as you go through the ups and downs of software development.
While remote teams help fill in the talent gaps, it’s also a growing trend to support the rising millennial workforce that demands increased flexibility and mobility. So if you don’t already have remote workers in your company, there’s no time like the present to hire some.