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Managing Remote Teams: Top 11 Strategies To Maximize Your Software Development Efforts

It’s hard to get people to agree on the same thing, but few would argue that remote working isn’t here to stay, especially in the software development world.  And as new communication technology continues to evolve, you’ll have to manage remote software development teams in ways you never have before. The best way to get ready for successfully managing remote development teams is by preparing now! This blog post will discuss eleven fundamental ways to make working with remote dev teams a huge success for both you and your organization.

List of Content

  1. What are the Main Challenges Of Managing Remote Software
  2. Top 11 Tips for Managing Remote Developers
    1) Use Real Time Communication Tools
    2) Share the Responsibilities Across the Team
    3) Create a Feedback Loop for Each Team Member By Holding Regular One-on-One Calls
    4) Set Clear Expectations
    5) Establish Well-Documented Procedures
    6) Don’t Overload Your Team
    7) Expand the Team With the “Right” People
    8) Encourage Social Interaction
    9) Conduct Physical Meetings and Retreats
    10) Be A Supportive Manager
    11) Implement a Project Management Tool
  3. Summary
  4. FAQs

What are the Main Challenges Of Managing Remote Software Development Teams?

In today’s world, every software company has a development organization where team members are working in more – and more varied – locations than ever before. However, this change isn’t always smooth, and for many product orgs, remote work poses as many problems as it does opportunities.

 

Managing remote development teams will require new ways of thinking about how you communicate, build trust and foster a collaborative culture among your agile development team. However, well-managed remote workers can thrive, even in an uncertain environment, if handled the right way.

 

But managing correctly means first understanding the main challenges you want to avoid.  To this end, there are four big ones to watch out for:

Lack Of Clear Expectations

As we detailed in a previous blog post (didn’t everyone read it?), every project needs to have its own “definition of done”. This means you need to create clear expectations for yourself and your remote workers, and ruthlessly stick with it (seriously!). This will help you, for instance, avoid accumulating tech debt and help with bug management.  But most product organizations don’t set these expectations, and remote developers are then left to code to what they think the spec should be.

Lack Of Communication

As the old adage goes, if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. The same is true for software development teams.  Easy collaboration is the hallmark of all great development teams; poor communication is the fatal flaw of all poorly performing teams.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here is scientific proof!

Lack Of Trust

The best managers have the confidence to trust those working under them, even if the team members are more junior or inexperienced.

 

This is true for remote work too. The freer your employees are when organising their working time, for example, the better results you will see in the long run. “Just get things done” – versus “get things done my way” – is a rule of thumb you should intentionally broadcast while remote working with teams.

So in summary: actively manage don’t micromanage!

Low Productivity

C-Suite executives commonly fear low productivity when it comes to remote software development teams.

 

But this is actually a total myth if you manage the right way.

 

According to a survey by Connect Solutions, 77% of remote employees show increased productivity. In addition, 30% say they get more work done in less time, and 24% say they do more work in the same amount of time (even if they’re sick!).

 

Did we debunk it for you?

So, what to do if you want to be a rockstar manager of a remote development team?  Let’s dive into our best practices for effectively working with remote development teams.

Ready to skip to the good part and start building amazing remote development teams? We’ll make it easy!

Reach out to TurnKey

Top 11 Tips for Managing Remote Developers

1) Use Real Time Communication Tools

Heavily leverage synchronous communication tools where real time conversations can take place.  Often times developers prefer asynchronous communication but this can leave many feeling isolated over time.

 

Awesome communication tools like WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, and Hangouts can help you stay in touch with your remote team members in real-time—and are highly affordable. Use these tools to help teammates work from home without sacrificing face time with your colleagues. It’s a great way to foster collaboration.

2) Share the Responsibilities Across the Team

This second principle is about building shared trust.

 

Remote employees need to feel valued, respected, and recognised. One way to build these qualities in the workplace is by assigning clear responsibilities to each team member. This makes everyone feel like they’re an integral part of the project and are treated fairly and equally.

3) Create a Feedback Loop for Each Team Member By Holding Regular One-on-One Calls

Though the idea of having frequent one-on-one communication seems obvious, it’s often overlooked by many development groups since they mistakenly believe that these meetings need to happen face-to-face.  But this is far from the truth!  Virtual meetings work just as well and serve as a constant reminder to everyone in the group of how valuable they are.

4) Set Clear Expectations

Direction is critical when it comes to teamwork.  Folks need to know where the product is headed and how to get there. Setting clear expectations is an important success factor here: team members need to know what is expected of them and the proper process to follow.  Without an understanding of the guardrails, developers will do what they think is best, putting the seamlessness of your code at risk.

5) Establish Well-Documented Procedures

Though it sounds boring (and admittedly a bit painful), you must document everything—from your company’s organisational structure to key responsibilities of each team member. Of course, remote work doesn’t necessarily mean that the process changes compared to the onsite one, but when managing a remote team, it’s essential to ensure the same procedures still apply.

 

In other words, don’t have your internal product documentation look like this:

Not sure how to organise processes while working with remote development teams? Call TurnKey.

We’ve got you!

6) Don’t Overload Your Team

The productivity of your remote development team is critical.  Thus, you don’t want to overwhelm team members or this metric will suffer. 

 

Moreover, a culture of overloading stymies the creation of loyalty and trust. Hence, you won’t succeed in reducing turnover (check out the cool ways we help manage churn at TurnKey).  

7) Expand the Team With the “Right” People

When you’re building a remote development team, the most important thing you need to do is hire people you’re confident can succeed working in a remote culture.  If the shoe fits, wear it.

 

Then you need to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding their expectations for the relationship and the job and offer the training and coaching to make sure each team member is successful.

TurnKey is here to help you get it “right.” We’ll custom recruit your developers and ensure that they are a perfect culture fit.

Call TurnKey!

8) Encourage Social Interaction

Remote work poses a challenge in terms of building social cohesion. Building trust and creating a healthy working environment in a team is difficult when not physically together.  So it’s super important to make your employees feel like they are a part of something bigger.

By way of example, let’s look at how the legendary Silicon Valley startup Airbnb does it. According to Brian Chesky, its co-founder and CEO: “At Airbnb, the first couple weeks are extremely critical for us, as they are for every startup. So we encourage our employees to form groups and our leadership team to encourage social interaction in this new space. This helps build camaraderie, trust, and loyalty.”

 

Excellent approach, right? Imitation is the highest form of flattery: take a page out of Airbnb’s playbook to inspire your remote software development teams.

9) Conduct Physical Meetings and Retreats

We can wax poetic about building high performing remote development teams but the reality is that they need to occasionally see you in person too. So spend the money and time to travel, meet face-to-face, hold team building events and foster relationships with your team members.  We promise it will be worth it!

10) Be A Supportive Manager

Adapt the structure of your management style to fit a remote work environment. Your remote teams need to know they’re being seen and heard, so consider weekly conference calls to get everyone on the same page. You’ll encourage communication both within the company and outside of it. And stay in contact with colleagues, both online and in-person, to ensure you feel connected.

 

In other words, when it comes to managing remote development teams, be a leader not a boss.

11) Implement a Project Management Tool

Remote work requires a different set of tools than an office environment. In a remote environment, you’ll of course need to rely on communication tools like Zoom, email, Slack, IM, text messages and more. But if you want your remote workers to communicate even more effectively, you’ll also need a project management tool to organise all your desired processes too.

 

To help get you started, here is an overview of the Best Project Management Software Of 2022 to help evaluate the options and select the right one.

Summary

In conclusion, the best way of working effectively with remote teams is to organise transparent processes, partially delegate responsibility to your team members and communicate a lot (as in, a lot a lot!).

 

Moreover, consider creating the opportunity to meet in person at least once a quarter, and of course heavily use communication tools to keep everyone on the same page each day.

And, of course, find the right people that fit your remote culture from the start.  This makes everything else easier!

Time to supercharge the management of your remote development team? TurnKey is here to help!

Reach out today!

FAQs

Why is managing a remote team a challenge?

It's not easy to manage people virtually, but there are ways to make it work spectacularly well. First, be realistic about the fact that there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. So, keep in touch as much as possible. Next, find tools that work best for you and your team, such as Zoom, Hangouts and Slack.  Turn the challenge of remote work into an advantage!

What makes a good manager of a remote development team?

The most critical success factor in becoming an excellent remote manager is understanding the challenges remote employees face and how to overcome them. 

Great remote managers are also flexible and agile, and they set clear boundaries and goals for team members. They are also honest and fair, and choose to lead by example rather than lead by coercion.

How to manage remote developers?

Since remote software development teams are more complex than onsite ones, it's crucial that you ensure you're setting up the proper structure and tools so everyone can work effectively together.

One of the most important steps is to set expectations early. Communicate clearly about expectations so that everyone understands what they need to do. And don't forget to set deadlines for tasks or you’ll be herding cats as the next product milestone draws near.

👍 Rating — 5 (4 votes)

Amy Howitzer

Technology and software development expert and author

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