Managing teams that are geographically spread out has its benefits, but sometimes can also involve a wide range of challenges. Here are some tips that you may consider when working with distributed software teams.
In the times of Agile, it is easy to struggle with the challenges of distributed teams. Early agile teams were meant to work together in close proximity. But nowadays, the benefits of distributing across time zones and finding talent abroad (by outsourcing) are strong arguments to take on those challenges.
Considering that the IT sector is moving toward outsourced suppliers more quickly than before, and 64% of outsourced offshore technology is software development, according to Fortunly, it is becoming more and more important to be ready for it.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business highlights that people who worked remotely were less likely to leave the company for other employment with a 50% decrease in attrition among home-based workers. OWL Labs also reveals that 71% of remote workers say they are happy in their jobs. Besides this, Merchant Savvy states that across the globe, working from home and remote locations has grown 159% since 2005, more than 11x faster than the rest of the workforce.
Once you have chosen the software company to work with, is time to think about how to get the best out of the remote teams as you will be working with them. Keep in mind that outsourcing companies with several remote projects (mostly in the US) are continually exposed to the challenge of distributed teams; therefore, they are very good at it.
For companies that are searching for the first time, aiming to hire an offshore team for software development, visibility, and control of the resources is a recurrent concern. Properly managing the team when it is in another location can be difficult to handle. However, acknowledging the need to work on some aspects and promoting the best communication and clearly defined processes will be a great first step.
That is what pushed me to share a few principles that have worked for me after many years of working with distributed software teams and have lead us to achieve excellent results. So, how do we boost productivity when working with remote teams? Here are some tips that you can consider.
When software teams are physically separated, it is essential to organize practices, processes, standards, and conventions in order to optimize the workflow and collaboration. Here are some useful ideas:
- Optimize the overlapping times among team members for communication & interactions.
- Keep communication asynchronous as much as possible.
- Structured teams need to be self-sufficient in order to develop a single piece of technology.
- Minimize the amount of collaboration required with teams in other time zones, and make them mostly autonomous.
- Rely on integration points and APIs.
- Overcommunicate decisions across all geographies.
- Minimize the friction in setting up the development environment.
- Clearly define the Definition of Done (DoD).
- Create guidelines for filling effective bug reports.
- Stand-up does not have to be a morning routine. Whatever time of day is most convenient for everyone involved is the best time of day.
- Pick the right tools for communication and sharing.
- Do not overwhelm people with unnecessary documentation.
Do not miss this VIDEO: How to manage virtual teams effectively in software projects
Share knowledge and be prepared for emergencies
Keeping information available and people trained to satisfy their own working needs when others are not available is key to keeping distributed teams productive. How do we do it? Take a note:
- Simplify the access to documentation. Keep it simple and clear.
- Distribute knowledge of the code between offices with code reviews. This makes support and maintenance much easier.
- Make a culture of sharing experiences and challenges. You can use blogs, meetups, or any other tool that best fits your team.
When people get to know each other and embrace the culture of the organization, they commit, perform better, and are more productive. It is crucial to the team’s cohesion to build rapport. Do not miss the opportunity to put this advice in practice, and you will see changes:
- Take time getting to know everyone and join the teams. Personal connections are important. The stronger they become, the greater the chance of building rapport.
- Nothing replaces meeting face to face; however, even with long distance in between, this is not a problem nowadays. Include video conferencing as well as visits to remote offices.
This might be interesting: 6 tips to improve the use of time in a development project
To sum up
Working with distributed software teams is a challenge that comes with significant benefits if we are ready to take it on. It might seem rough at first, but following basic guidelines to organize the people and focusing on communication could become the best investment for your team.
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