Remote work has been all the rage lately. People have often wanted more flexibility, less time wasted commuting even before the global pandemic, which was quite understandable.
Still, even during the global pandemic, despite examples provided by Facebook or Spotify, many businesses are still skeptical about hiring remotely. Plus, there are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes particularly related to remote software development. Outsourcing is thought to be designed for small tasks and MVPs rather than a way to build great products.
We at YouTeam know it firsthand. Helping our clients extend their development teams, we often deal with skepticism and lack of trust surrounding remote workers which, however, changes as soon as they give it a try.
Tips from startup CEOs and CTOs managing distributed teams on how to run a remote development team
Despite certain risks involved, there are multiple examples of successful tech startups and great products built entirely or partially by the distributed tech teams. To prove this, we’ve decided to reach out to some of such companies, including Zapier, Doist, Toggl, Hubstaff, Buffer, Wistia, Product Hunt, TMetric, and ask them about their best practices for hiring and managing remote development teams.
It is essential for the company to find someone who will perfectly match the team and will help the business grow. Here are 5 essential tips to avoid confusion no matter where your remote software engineers are based: in Eastern Europe or Subcontinent Asia, or wherever.
1. Meet with your assigned developers at least online, but in person if possible
For this measure, it is important to talk not only to business development managers who tend to be better communicators but to the individuals who will be assigned to your team. It is important to understand how communicative these individuals are, what their level of English is, whether they are capable of solving complicated problems and offering solutions, etc.
Particularly if you have a larger project, it makes sense to jump on a flight and visit your prospective software partners onsite & in-situ. Try to meet with the senior executives and individual developers (not just the Business Development Manager or Project Manager) and to observe their body language and how they communicate to prove to yourself that these are trustworthy people.
However, still take guard, because it is sometimes the case that companies can have good sales skills but not the integrity to back it up. This is the reason for the measures to be taken when choosing your new software development partner.
Become Acquainted. YouTeam recognizes that it is important for clients to interact with team members as soon in the process as possible and has created a means of booking time directly with remote software developers of interest.
2. Ensure you have someone technical on the Client-Side (i.e. CTO or Head of Tech)
It is always good to have someone technical on the client-side, such as a CTO who can observe the quality of the code being developed and also assist with the technical decisions being made. Even if you are fairly experienced as a project or product manager, for instance, you still can’t read the code, as well as a lead developer does.
It is also possible that the software development firm will try to cut corners because they might have larger projects, which they deem to be more important and hence put less effort into your product. To ensure these aspects of the offshore or nearshore development process and operate correctly and efficiently, you will need a CTO.
Tip: If you don’t know anyone suitable to act as your CTO, some development companies on the YouTeam platform offer CTO-as-a-Service. All you need to do is search for the right Tech Stack and filter for some ‘Super Senior’ in that technology.
3. Provide top-notch product documentation to avoid confusion
If you don’t have the necessary product documentation, you can rush into the development phase with an unclear product vision and build the wrong thing! So it is important that you work through a rigorous design process to clearly define the scope of works.
Most of the design documents need to be developed on the client’s side so that you have more control over the process. In some cases, this can be used as a trial period to experience how the design/development firm and its employees operate, how quick they work, and what their true resource commitment to your project is.
4. Set suitable working hours
Remote work can be a great challenge if all of your developers are from different countries and so live in different time zones. Setting suitable working time for the team or each house developer personally will help not only to organize members well but will also allow them to work on their most productive hours either at night or during the day.
If you plan meetings or any other calls, make it during some hours during the day but not elongate them for the whole day to let your developers have their time.
5. Adapt and be ready for unexpected situations
Remote workers have a lot more flexibility compared to those who work from the office and who have a micromanaging style of work, which means you should also be ready to get flexible. Team management, in this case, shouldn’t be very strict – it needs to be provided in the way that every member feels comfortable and knows that if something goes wrong, there are people who can help.
For example, if the developer can’t finish his task, you should find out what the problem is, adapt to it, and provide all the necessary tools or documentation for their success.
Learn more about the key sources of remote tech talent in Part II.
Here we have listed 8 tips on how to manage a remote software team.
- Take your time to vet the right candidate. Before vetting a developer, it is important to set specific requirements for the candidates as after the hiring, they will be a part of the team. If they aren’t skilled enough for the project, you will lose time and money for nothing.
- Build and increase trust among team members. This tip is easy but still is one of the most important if the engineering team is fully remote. The best way of achieving trust among the members is to make regular calls, online meetings. It would also be a good idea to provide members with some tools where they can share their thoughts with each other. A project communication plan can also be helpful to ensure that crucial information doesn’t fall through the cracks. Among some of the popular communication tools which are used for better managing remote teams and used by many development teams can be the following:
- Slack. This application is popular among development teams as it helps to create a comfortable space where developers can create channels, communicate not only in group chats but also can send direct messages, share thoughts and ideas, etc. Such an application is a good choice if your team has external developers as it helps them to be up to date about all the things which happen in the company.
- Zoom. Being a video conferencing app, it had become very popular, especially due to the pandemic when most of the companies went remote. This app allows you to connect to the video calls of up to 10,000 members, which can help to fill team needs in communication, helps a lot in making stand-up meetings, and in knowledge sharing through the call.
- Github. Being one of the most popular and the most essential work environments for the developers, its functionality provides version control, managing projects, host and review codes.
- Trello. This is one of the best and commonly used project management tools and collaboration tools around development teams with a good user experience. This application helps to create dashboards with different topics, share thoughts and ideas via commentaries to it which surely helps for increasing teamwork.
- Make team goals. It is important for the company to manage goals that can be achieved if every member works together with others. It will help not only focus on how many hours each member works but on how productive this time goes.
- Increase communication. As well as trust, this tip will also help members to discuss everything they want about the working process, share ideas and thoughts about projects or simply share some good moments from life and get a live reaction to it.
- Different time zones. If your teammates live in different time zones, it can be either advantage or disadvantage. It depends on how you want to work: if you feel better being in a team where everyone works at the same time as you, you can create such an environment by discussing the best time with other people from the team.
Although it is also a good opportunity to work different hours as it may help you to check or finish some parts of the project if the other person has already finished their part working some hours before you.
- Better schedule the processes. If your company has developers who work remotely from different countries, it is better to let them work any time a day they want and can but it is also needed to plan some calls, meetings, and other things for some hours during the day and then let the developers run their working hours.
- Create the ability for the team to provide feedback. If you, as a team lead, want your team to have trust and better deal with problems it is essential to let your developers provide feedback on the work. It will help to see problems and questions your members may have and help to solve it as quickly as possible.
- Make annual events for the team. This is not only entertaining but also a good chance for the team to get together and chat in real-time situations. Such meetings and events are quite important for raising company culture and team building as during these events, the whole team is gathered to celebrate. They can talk about projects or other stuff but it all will be a lot better for the team as it can be done with some activities or other types of events.
To read more about running the remote team, you can explore Part IV.