Distributed Software Development Challenges – and the Best Practices to Solve Them
In today’s ever connected world (at least as it relates to software!), it’s easier than ever to find talented developers scattered all over the globe. And if you work at a tech startup or high growth company, you may be wondering if building a distributed software development team is the right move for you.
There are certainly many advantages to going the offshore development route: lower costs, no need for physical office space, and access to top talent regardless of where they live. But there are also some challenges that come with managing a remote team.
In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at some of the top distributed software development challenges and provide some best practices to help you overcome them.
Table of Contents
Key Challenges in Managing a Distributed Software Development Team
With the right distributed software development team in place, you can create world-class software without ever having to leave your office. However, managing a distributed team can be challenging – especially when you’re first starting out.
Here are the major pain points that tech startups and high growth companies typically encounter with distributed software development teams:
Communication is key in any workplace setting, but it can be especially difficult to maintain open lines of communication when developers are distributed across the globe. In fact, 41% of new workers say the most challenging aspect of remote work is collaborating and communicating with coworkers. Time zone differences, language barriers, and cultural differences can all contribute to miscommunication and missteps.
In addition, distributed software development teams often lack the opportunity for informal face-to-face interactions that can help build trust and rapport. As a result, distributed teams can often struggle with poorly established communication channels, which can lead to misunderstandings and frustration.
If your distributed software development team faces communication challenges, there are a few things you can do to handle it or –better yet–avoid such situations before they fester in the first place:
- Make sure that all the developers on your team are using the same communication tools and that everyone has access to them. There are a number of different options available, but some of the most popular include Slack, Chanty, Discord, Hive and Flock.
- Schedule regular team meetings, both for updates and for brainstorming sessions. The most used online meeting platforms are Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting and Skype.
- Encourage team members to ask questions and give feedback.
- Have a plan for dealing with conflict and coming to resolution.
- Be patient - it may take some time for the distributed development team to find its groove. But if you keep calm and carry on, eventually you'll start to see impressive results.
Lack of trust between development teams
One of the challenges of distributed software development is lack of trust between teams. In a traditional, co-located environment, team members can get to know each other and build trust over time.
However, distributed teams often don’t have that opportunity. As a result, they may be less likely to trust each other and more likely to communicate using formal, impersonal channels.
There are a few things you can do to build trust in these situations:
- Have developers get to know each other on a personal basis. Provide time for the developers to learn more about each other, including their backgrounds, interests, and goals. This will help the developers understand their teammates as people.
- Be transparent about what everyone is working on. Have developers share what they’re working on and why it's important. This will help team members understand everyone’s motivations and build trust in their collective abilities.
- Communicate frequently and openly. Distributed teams require clear and concise communication to function effectively. Make sure everyone is on the same page by sharing updates regularly and addressing concerns openly.
- Establish common goals and objectives. Distributed software development teams need to have a shared sense of purpose to be successful. By aligning everyone around a common goal, you can help build trust and cooperation among team members.
- Be patient and flexible. Remote teams often operate in different time zones and have different cultural norms. It's important to be patient and flexible when working with team members from different backgrounds. This will help prevent misunderstandings and build trust over time.
- Establish clear expectations. Distributed development teams need to have a clear understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities. Make sure everyone knows what their job is and what they're accountable for.
Insufficient Time Zone Overlap
There are a few distributed software development challenges that can really impact social cohesion within a team.
One challenge is time zone mismatch. Since folks on the team are working during different hours, it can be difficult to find a time when everyone can be available for a meeting. This can lead to team members feeling like they are not included in decisions or not being able to contribute as much as they would like.
But though it seems frustrating at times, it can also be an advantage since it allows distributed team members to have more flexibility in their schedules. If someone needs to take a break in the middle of the day, they can do so without disrupting the team’s workflow.
Additionally, distributed teams can take advantage of “follow the sun” software development models to get work done around the clock. This means that even if a developer is only available for a team call for a few hours during their local night, they can still contribute to the team’s efforts. In distributed software development, time zone differences are not necessarily a drawback – they can actually be a competitive advantage.
Here are some tips to overcome time zones differences if any:
- Use a distributed team chat tool like those mentioned above to stay in touch and collaborate in real-time.
- Set up regular video calls or conference calls to check in with each other.
- Use a project management tool like Jira to keep track of tasks, deadlines, and progress.
- Be flexible and willing to adjust your schedule to accommodate team members in different time zones.
Another distributed software development challenge is cultural differences. Even though every developer is technically working towards the same goal, there can be different expectations and ways of working. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflict.
But in reality, distributed teams can actually benefit from cultural differences. Distributed teams tend to be more diverse, and diversity can lead to better decision-making. Studies have shown that teams with a mix of experience levels and perspectives make better decisions than those that are homogeneous. So if you have a distributed team with members from all over the world, you’re already ahead of the game.
Low code quality
One of the biggest challenges that can crop up with distributed software development teams is low code quality. Teams often lose focus on long-term goals. To satisfy the immediate needs of sprint planning, they may write low-quality code which later on leads to bad software products.
One way to tackle this challenge is by implementing pair programming. This is where two developers work together on the same piece of code. They can help each other stay focused and on track, and they can also catch any issues with the code before it becomes a problem.
Another best practice is to organize regular code reviews. This is where someone else on the team looks over the code and provides feedback. Code reviews can help to identify any problems with the code and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Another challenge with distributed teams is making sure every developer on the team is performing at the top of their ability. Without someone looking over their shoulder like you might have when everyone is in the same office together, a few developers might not use their time wisely or be easily distracted.
Plus, with poor communication and a lack of measurable goals, it can be tough to hold people accountable. As a result, productivity can really suffer.
But there are some things you can do to help mitigate these issues. For example, setting clear expectations from the start and maintaining regular communication channels can go a long way. And of course, having the right tools in place (like project management software) can make a big difference too.
Moreover, partnering with expert offshore firms like TurnKey can prevent you from hiring incompetent or low functioning distributed developers. All our candidates go through an extremely detailed screening process to choose developers that are perfect fit to your needs. Our distributed teams are highly professional in terms of time management and have the discipline and rigor to maintain robust productivity even when working remotely.
At the end of the day, though, it’s important to remember that distributed teams are just like any other team – they’re made up of human beings who need guidance and support to be productive. So if you’re struggling with productivity issues, don’t despair – there are multiple ways to overcome them.
Distributed teams may not always be on the same page as you are, particularly in terms of the company’s culture and values. With an in-house team, it’s easy to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction because you can have face-to-face conversations where these items are discussed and experienced.
With remote teams, you may have to work a bit harder to engage them with your company’s mission. This can be done through regular check-ins and video calls, but it’s important to make sure that everyone has a clear view from the outset. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing some cultural problems down the line.
The “us vs. them” mentality
The “us vs. them” mentality can sometimes arise between on-site and remote developers. This often happens because on-site workers feel like they are the only ones who really understand the company’s values, while remote workers feel like they are the only ones who really understand the technology.
As a result, there can be a lot of tension between these two groups of developers. On-site devs may feel like they are being ignored or devalued, while remote devs may feel like they are being treated as second-class citizens.
This us vs. them mentality can damage team morale and lead to communication problems. It is important for managers to be aware of this problem and take steps to prevent it from developing.
Here are some tips on how to cope with the “us vs. them” mentality:
- First, remember that you're all on the same team! Everyone is working towards the same goal and has something meaningful to contribute.
- Second, try to get everyone involved in decision-making. On-site developers may have more visibility into the business, but your remote developers may have different perspectives that could be valuable.
- Third, stay open to feedback. We all make mistakes, and we can all learn from each other.
Proactive Ways to Prevent Any Challenges With Distributed Software Development Teams
As described above, distributed software development teams can face an array of unique challenges. The good news is that there are some simple measures that you can take to help ensure that these potential problems with distributed teams never arise at all. These best practices include:
- Define the integration process upfront: Without a clear integration process in place, distributed software development teams will quickly become bogged down in confusion and frustration. By taking the time to define the roles and responsibilities of each team member upfront, you can avoid many of the common challenges that distributed teams face.
- Keep communication lines open: In a distributed team, communication is essential. Be sure to establish clear channels of communication early on, and make use of tools like video conferencing and messaging to keep everyone on the same page.
- Foster a sense of ownership: One of the biggest challenges facing distributed teams is a lack of ownership and responsibility. To combat this, be sure to assign tasks and roles clearly, and give team members the autonomy to see their work through to completion.
- Encourage collaboration: Another common challenge for distributed teams is a lack of collaboration. To encourage collaboration, create opportunities for team members to interact with one another, such as regular video check-ins or virtual team-building activities.
- Inspect and adapt: Finally, it's important to continually inspect and adapt your distributed software development process. By regularly reviewing how things are going and making changes as needed, you can ensure that your team remains productive and effective, despite the challenges that come with working remotely.
Why TurnKey Is The Absolute Best Partner for Building Distributed Software Development Teams
Distributed software development challenges are nothing new. But if you’re not careful, they can quickly torpedo your product roadmap.
Fortunately, TurnKey specializes in assembling high performing distributed development teams that function without problems. We understand the unique challenges that come with distributed software development and we know how to custom-build teams that can overcome them.
In fact, we’ve built a five-step process that guarantees a great distributed development team:
- We get on a call with you to discuss your product scope and what skills are needed.
- We custom recruit experienced developers that fit your description and budget.
- We organize a thorough assessment of each candidate, and only pick the best of the bunch.
- You make the final decision and choose your team from among the curated list.
- We help train and onboard the new developers to ensure that they are fully integrated into your company’s culture.
So, if you’re looking for an awesome distributed development team, look no further than TurnKey. We’re the experts in assembling distributed teams that can tackle even the most challenging development requirements.
Distributed software development challenges are plenty, but here are three of the most common ones: lack of communication, cultural differences, and time zone differences.
Distributed teams often have difficulty communicating effectively due to the sheer number of time zones represented. It can be tough to hop on a video call when half the team is asleep. This is why distributed teams need to be extra intentional about communication, using tools like Slack or Zoom to stay in touch.
Cultural differences can also be a challenge for distributed teams. What might be considered normal or polite in one culture may be seen as rude or offensive in another. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. To overcome this, distributed teams need to build trust and respect for one another, which can be done through things like team-building exercises and regular check-ins.
Finally, time zone differences can make it difficult for distributed team members to collaborate in real-time. This is why it’s important to have overlap between at least some team members so that there’s always someone available to answer questions or help out with any task.
When it comes to distributed software development teams, there are a few different types. The most common type is the co-located team, which is when team members are in the same place. This can be in the same office or city, or even just in the same country.
The next most common type is the nearshore team, which is when team members are in different time zones but relatively close to each other geographically. For example, a distributed software development team in the United States might have team members in Brazil.
And lastly, there's the offshore team, which is when team members are in different time zones and geographies. For example, a distributed software development team in the United States might have team members in Europe, India, and Australia.
Each of these types of distributed software development teams has its own challenges, but they can all be overcome with effective communication and collaboration.
A distributed software development team is a team of developers who work from different locations. That could mean different states, different countries, or even just different parts of the same city. The important thing is that the team is geographically dispersed.
So why go distributed? There are a few advantages. First, it allows companies to tap into a larger pool of talent. If you're only looking at local candidates, you might miss out on some real gems. Second, it can save money - no need to provide office space and other amenities for remote workers. And third, it can actually improve productivity, since people tend to be more focused when they're not surrounded by distractions.
Any development team can benefit from a few best practices, but it's especially important for distributed teams.
First, it's important to establish clear communication channels and protocols. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and can easily access the information they need.
Second, it's important to establish a regular cadence of meetings and check-ins. This will help to keep everyone on track and ensure that everyone is aware of the working progress.
Finally, it's important to be flexible and accommodating of different time zones and schedules. This will help to make sure that everyone is able to participate in the business initiatives and contribute their unique perspective. By following these simple tips, any distributed development team can improve their workflow and get better results.