By Richard Conn
As remote working continues to grow in popularity, more and more companies are embracing it. While it has many benefits, especially for development teams, it also poses unique challenges. Managing a remote team effectively requires specific resources – from cloud computing options to an XCaaS solution – and skills.
Wondering where to start? We’re here to guide you through some of the best ways of managing your development team as they work remotely, encouraging a collaborative spirit across the team.
Why Go Remote?
Before we look at how, we should look at why. What benefits does going remote have? Of course, there’s the obvious advantage of being more flexible with your team, but there are plenty of other reasons why your development team should move to remote working.
Remote working has many benefits for employees, including less travel, the ability to spend more time with their family, and flexibility. It’s no surprise, then, that many employees are happier when remote work is an option. Given that happy employees are 13% more productive, it’s a win for them and for you.
Extend your hiring pool
If you’re building a quality team of developers, remote work allows you to widen your talent search. You’re no longer restricted by location – instead, you can look beyond your city, and even your continent!
It’s not just about location, either. 99% of workers who have worked remotely previously want to continue doing so. These workers, therefore, are unlikely to consider roles that don’t offer it. Building a remote development team ensures that you get the best of the best.
Improve the quality of products
Given the above, it shouldn’t surprise you that it also means you’ll have better products. Being able to take your pick of the top talent means your team is going to be filled with smart, highly-trained developers. That means whatever they produce is going to be of a high-calibre. Remote work also allows people to take the lead in their specialist areas. If you’ve got an expert in the UK who you think would really help your team in Spain, it’s easy to put them in touch. Thanks to conference video solutions, they can connect quickly over the internet, working together to solve whatever challenges they face. Far better than having to fly them out!
Naturally, with a remote development team, there are not the same costs for hiring out office space or facilities. While you do need to factor in the cost of communications software, and potential hardware expenses if you plan to provide equipment, it’s still likely to be less than rent! Other cost reductions include the lack of extended travel, office cleaning services, and catering.
6 Ways to Manage Your Remote Development Team
For remote working to succeed, everyone has to be on board – and that includes management. While there’s a lot of similarity to how you would manage an in-person team, there are key differences too. Here are six tips to help you to flourish as a remote team.
1. Hire for the team you have
If you’re keen on moving your development team to remote working, there is no point hiring recruits who aren’t going to thrive in that environment. Seek out individuals who express interest in working remotely, as well as those with experience doing so. Adapt your employee recruitment strategies to account for this – if they struggle with an online hiring process, will they struggle to work entirely?
Likewise, you want to ensure new additions will fit in and work well with the team you already have. Different personalities and work ethics can either blend well or clash. Using your business values and team goals as a benchmark can help source individuals who share your priorities, and give you a good idea of how they will fit into your remote team. This is also something to keep an eye on throughout the onboarding process.
2. Keep communication lines open
Communication is an essential part of any team, even more so for your remote development team. Establish early on when regular meetings will be and spend more time in one-on-ones. Use an ACD phone system to manage external calls and keep them separated from your team communications.
One aspect to consider is how you hear about problems. Often, in-person, you can pick up on tensions by overhearing conversations in the office. This isn’t possible when working remotely, so there need to be clear policies in place on how to raise issues and who to bring them up to.
Setting clear communication policies is key to succeeding as a remote team. Establish what information should be shared in each channel of communication with your team. Small questions needing instant responses without masses of thought can be put into a message. Alternatively, changes to key parts of the developmental process or major bugs might need discussing with the whole team in a department meeting. Making the purpose of each channel clear ensures the right people are contacted in the right way about different topics.
3. Set clear goals
A team works best when they are all aiming at the same thing. Whether you have a specific project goal your team needs to fulfil, or smaller goals for the individuals within your team, they should be clear and easy to understand. This doesn’t mean you need to spell out the process of how to get there, but having deadlines, KPIs to measure against, or standards to be achieved all help your team to know what you are asking of them.
These goals are particularly useful in getting the whole team on the same page and creating focus. Using online options like an Excel to do list can help you keep track of your team progress, and ensure everyone is aware of how the team is progressing.
4. Use an Agile approach
Agile projects take the opportunity to review and self-reflect throughout, not just once the final product has been developed. Through having regular meetings and using tools like call center WFM, you can forecast and anticipate a high volume of demand or tasks, note progress and challenges that are being faced, and adapt your team’s strategy to the circumstances. This makes your products less likely to meet major obstacles later on in the development process.
Being agile as a team also allows greater flexibility for your remote employees. It’s likely that at some point, remote team members are going to face challenges requiring different work approaches. Using an agile strategy for slack standups will allow for the whole team to help pick up the slack, or shift the workload to care for the individuals within your team. This means development can continue to go ahead and isn’t reliant on one person.
5. Invest in the right resources
If you want your development team to be able to work to the best of their ability, they need to have access to the resources that make this possible. If you haven’t already begun a digital transformation, it’s vital to do so before going entirely remote – you need to have the right tools in place in order to succeed. As mentioned, communication solutions are key but they’re not the only software you should invest in.
Having a simple way to share and file away documents online reduces the number of emails attempting to track down key files and enables your team to access what they need efficiently. This means your team members aren’t wasting time searching and can focus more on their intended task.
Through screen sharing features and pair programming, your development team can work together, pooling their knowledge and practical expertise on one project. This can speed up the development process, as well as spot mistakes sooner as there is an additional pair of hands working on the project.
6. Take breaks
It’s easy to overlook breaks – both for yourself, and your team – when working remotely. However, research shows how breaks can reduce stress, help maintain performance, and reduce the need for recovery time. With high rates of burnout in many industries, ensuring your team regularly step away from their workstation and move about can help them to stay focused and look after their overall wellbeing.
Breaks can also give your team a chance to bond with each other better. Dedicated ‘watercooler’ threads in your instant messaging app provide space for teams to connect outside of work chatter. You can even run a webinar on a common interest, host an online movie night, or set up a virtual ‘happy hour’. This helps build community within your team, despite being remote from one another, making communication and collaboration more natural.
Focus on Managing Your Team
There’s no one way of managing your remote development team. Your employees and team dynamic will shape what strategies and solutions work, and which leave something to be desired. Being a good manager requires being able to adapt from this feedback, working to provide the best environment possible for your development team, regardless of where they are working from.
However, in some capacity, each remote team will need the above elements. The right team, great communication, clear goals, and appropriate resources are the building blocks for success. Make sure these are a part of how you manage your team, even if you use a different method of integrating them into your work patterns, and keep your development team connected and collaborating.
About the Author
Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8×8, a leading XCaaS solution with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments.