This article kickstarts our series of real questions asked by the CTOs of tech companies from around the world. First up, a question from Marcus Greve from Kochan & Partners:
What’s the best way to work with a remote development team?
XSolve’s Scrum Master Barbara Strąk answers the question.
If you’ve ever outsourced a web development project, you’ve probably worked with a software company and a remote development team, so you already know how challenging it can be. If you’re new to this kind of arrangement, you might be wondering how such a collaboration should work.
From the start, let’s be clear: not everybody has the right skills or attitudes to work remotely. If you are looking for a remote development team, look for “doers” who take responsibility for their job. Find a self-organized team, which can help you achieve your business goal. With these basics in place, you can think about how to improve the relationship and reach next level. Based on our own experience working remotely, we can give you the following advice:
1. One remote person = the whole team is remote
For me, this is the most important rule. Even if almost everyone is sitting in the same office, but one is working remotely, the whole team should be treated as if it is working remotely. What does that mean? Basically, it means using the principles below. To begin with, it may feel artificial because you are changing your behavior, even with people in the same office, but for seamless, long-term cooperation it makes sense.
2. A tool for daily communication
When you all work at the same location, you don’t think about your daily communication. If you have any questions or need information you can just talk. But when you have even a single person working remotely, you have to find a way to maintain the same quality of communication. The easiest solution could be a chat tool for your team (for example, Slack, TeamSpeak or Basecamp). You have to remember to switch all conversations there so as to not make anyone feel isolated.
3. High-quality teleconference technology
You probably know how annoying a poor quality connection can be. With a scattered team, you’ll be spending a lot of time on remote meetings, so investing in a professional teleconference equipment is definitely a good idea. If there are multiple people joining the remote meetings on your side, you need a camera which can ensure that every person is visible in the frame. A great solution for small rooms is one that has a wide-angle line of sight. What’s even more important than the picture is the sound. Consider multiple divided microphones which you can place on the table. It really makes a difference when you can easily hear everyone and you don’t have to repeat yourself like a parrot: “Could you say it slower and louder?”.
For remote meetings, I can recommend zoom.us, meet.google.com and appear.in.
When you work remotely, “transparency” isn’t just an empty, trendy agile word. You have to trust each other. To achieve that trust, you should ensure easy access to all necessary information. Keep all project requirements, meeting notes, etc. in one digital place. Encourage your team to ask questions when something isn’t clear. Take care to keep your results and work in progress visible. Choose one online tool for all your essential information. I can recommend JIRA or Trello. Avoid physical boards, but if you strongly prefer them put identical boards in both locations and agree on a way to synchronize them with every change, or put a camera in front of it and transmit a live stream to the other part of the team.
5. Face to face meetings
Even if you think you have the best online tools, an amazing process and a great level of trust, you just can’t overestimate the value of time spent together in real life. An excellent practice, which our clients really appreciate, is a project workshop held at the beginning of the collaboration process. Usually, we host it in our office, sometimes in the office of our client. It’s a great opportunity to discuss the project details but also a great team building activity. We insist on repeating such meetings a couple times during the year.
6. One language
To increase transparency and avoid misunderstandings, keep all project notes and meetings summaries in one language, known by the whole team. Apply this principle to every type of communication; even when you tell a joke, do it in a language familiar to everyone. This builds relationships and removes barriers.
7. The human factor
Remember that your remote team members are also human beings, not just an avatar on your screen. They can have a bad day and maybe not answer your question promptly, and that’s okay. Also, remember the small things which make a big difference – it may be sending birthday wishes or finishing a tough meeting with a smile and a “thank you”.
8. Add your own tip here…
What has helped you while working with a remote team (or as part of one)? What practices, processes or tools were really useful for you?
Working with a remote development team is not without its difficulties but we believe it can be done right and create excellent results. Here is a quick summary in a form of an infographic:
The above list doesn’t guarantee the success of your web product development – there are many other factors to consider – but it will definitely make for a smoother collaboration. Finally, if you have questions don’t hesitate to get in touch!