Working and managing remote teams can involve a wide range of challenges, but if they are addressed correctly, they will provide enriching benefits for all parties.
While it is something more and more common nowadays in the software industry, today, many people and companies think that working with remote teams is not a good idea.
In many cases, the old myths are still valid, such as the one that being at the same office, room, or building increases the team’s productivity. If we look for the definition of team, we will find that it is a group of people who work together to achieve a common goal. Even if we analyze it a little bit further, we will find that a team can be effective or ineffective, depending on how its members work together to meet deadlines and complete tasks.
As you may have noticed, there is no reference about geographical location of those people at all.
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The truth is that the fact of working and managing with remote teams, whose members are located in different cities, or even countries, involves a wide range of challenges. If they are addressed correctly, not only will the success of the work team be guaranteed but they will also provide enriching benefits for all parties, which are often not taken into account.
Among the main challenges that we come across when having this kind of team, we need to figure these out:
- The team synergy despite the physical distances
- How to handle different cultural backgrounds
- How to compensate for the lack of human contact
- How to solve the time-zone issues
- How to organize daily work
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In this context, the key word is communication, because it will help us to solve most of all those challenges. This involves not only the use of the numerous tools that allow us to make it happen through voice, chat, and video (both in real time and deferred), but also to project management tools.
From the very beginning, there must be a common understanding and agreement among the parties regarding the best practices and standards to be adopted and followed. This includes development methodologies, good programming practices, processes, and everything that will make it possible to obtain a high quality result that satisfies the client.
Defining checkpoints will also be helpful to ensure that all of the above is fulfilled by each and every one of the involved parties.
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Another important aspect when it comes to managing remote teams is to distribute the work uniformly, ensuring that all team members understand their role and no one feels just as a collaborator but rather an important part of the group. Doing that, we will ensure the motivation of the entire team to achieve the desired objectives. The distribution of information should also be done in the same (uniform) manner to ensure that the team can quickly respond to any situation that may arise.
Now, it turns out that many of those mentioned challenges are really great opportunities… How is this possible?
To begin with, we can consider having the best professionals in each place. Today, in this industry, there is already a very competitive market where the demand for professionals is still much higher than the supply. It is clear that talent is not exclusive coming from a specific city or country, especially in terms of technology (although there are some markets well known for its IT professionals). The more you are open to work with teams distributed in different places, the faster the staffing process will be.
Additionally, the distributed teams provide greater coverage thanks to the different time-zones of the places where their members are located (also known as Follow the Sun [FTS] development). Thanks to that, we won’t have a team that only provides support during shifts or a specific time range (which generally coincides with the work schedule but sometimes does not coincide with the client’s schedule). Instead, the fact of being geographically distributed in strategic places makes solving this problem more natural, having at least a part of the team available at almost any time.
That sounds great, doesn’t it? This is fundamental in a globalized world like ours and especially in those projects where the development team and the client are from different countries or regions.
But there is more. The cultural diversity of a distributed team encourages everyone to think out of the box, accepting and adopting ideas that can become new and unconventional. This becomes a great way to build an innovative team and empower the different resources. At the same time, companies can gather different perspectives from various locations, which create a good sense of usability, local norms, and scalability of the product.
To Sum Up
The type of work team to assemble will obviously depend on the needs, culture, and budget of the companies that participate in any software project. While implementing a geographically distributed work team involves certain challenges, addressing them is worthwhile.
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The advantages they bring are in sight, and best of all, they are enhanced by the implementation of Agile methodologies and the constant development of all the communication tools that exist today.
Do you have experience working and managing remote teams, geographically distributed, within your software projects?
Are you thinking about transitioning from an on-site team to a distributed one? Let us know!
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