How to work with a remote development team: 3 best practices
In theory, remote working is easier than ever before. Thanks to the internet, countless different mobile devices and the cloud we’ve got everything we need to facilitate a proper global set-up. But with remote benefits such as flexibility and continuous connectivity, come new challenges such as different offices and time zones. So in reality, remote working requires a little more than just the technical ability to launch an office on the other side of the world. If you want to work with a remote development team, you’ll need some specific knowledge. Here are 3 best practices from our own experience with ‘going remote’.
I. Create the Right Environment
Sounds obvious, right? After all, without the right environment things probably won’t work out; the team won’t be happy and the desired results won’t be there. The success of a good synergy between a company’s HQ and its remote development team starts with the conditions in which employees operate. Therefore it’s important to pay attention to the following aspects.
Employees on both sides of the planet need to be committed to build an agile offshore operation that works. For starters, that means they need to be in it for the long haul; you can only create the right environment if people dedicate themselves to the successful offshore scaling of your business for a longer period of time. When it comes to a remote development team, that dedication includes travelling back and forth multiple times per year.
To avoid unwanted employee turnover as much as possible, you want to make sure you hire the right people. So during the recruitment process, be completely honest about your expectations and about the job. If the role includes a lot of travelling for instance, tell the applicants that and ask them if it would bother them. The more they know about the job beforehand, the better.
If everyone is responsible, it’s easy to hide behind others and thus eventually, no one feels responsible. That’s why you need to appoint at least one individual that has the principal responsibility in his or her respective country. It’s how you ensure they continuously act in the best interest of your company.
Your remote talent needs a good and inspiring place to work from. A fast and reliable internet connection is just the start of it. Try to create the same atmosphere you have in your main office, it will help your remote development team feel like part of the family. Think of the art on the walls, the office furniture or that quirky meeting room your employees decorated for example.
At Gapstars, we take into account all specific considerations regarding your organisation’s preferences and standards. We have your office, workspaces and scrum room ready to go when you arrive.
This is probably the most important one. Rather than just vibes, it’s your company culture that counts. Create a culture that becomes the basis for your success. Ideally, you already know full well what your company is about, what your core values and beliefs are; transfer these to the people in your remote development team, it’s a crucial step in setting up an agile offshore development operation.
There are three things you want to cultivate regardless of your own company culture: fun, an entrepreneurial spirit and open-mindedness.
II. Establish a Culture of High Performance
Right, onto the second best practice now. We’ve briefly mentioned the importance of company culture, but we’ll elaborate on this a bit more here.
You may have seen our post about Agile software development already (if you’ve missed it, go here), but to cut a long story short: Agile is the way forward. Therefore your remote development team should promote this clearly visible and flexible approach – both from a technical as well as a process perspective – across the business.
There are different Agile methods you can use, at Gapstars all teams are using the Scrum methodology.
Sharing is Caring
When you work with a remote development team, you want to make sure your offshore employees feel part of the company. There a many different things you can do, but we’ll give you a few examples:
- Create a fun channel on for example Slack so all employees can share random jokes, anecdotes and pictures to encourage interaction outside the work related stuff;
- Share company-wide announcements with everyone and ideally at a time where everyone is in the office;
- If you have weekly (or monthly) team calls, change the times of those calls regularly. That way it’s not always your remote team that needs to come in early or stay late in order to attend the call. It also shows the employees in your main office that you value everyone equally;
- Face time is essential. At least once a year, organise a company offsite where everyone physically gets together and bonds;
- New business developments often take some time to be fully absorbed by the existing organisation and its members. Have someone – or be that someone – that plays the role of ‘offshore scaling promoter’ within your existing organisation.
Feedback is super important, both for you as well as your clients. It’s one of the reasons why many professional organisations facilitate their clients with a constant feedback cycle. You want the developers in your offshore team to always be involved in the feedback cycle too. With a 360 degree feedback tool, developers and clients are able to learn from each other and work towards a common goal: top quality software.
III. Continued learning
Our final best practice is about a hot topic in today’s work environment, namely employee learning and development. The (non) existence of a good Learning & Development (L&D) programme has become an important reason for employees (not) to choose a company to work for. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Senior developers always (should) have a responsibility to help their younger and less experienced peers. Within the Gapstars community we deem it essential to help each other learn and grow. That’s why we have developed a training program that involves regular training sessions from experienced senior developers. This is also a good way for colleagues to get to know each other better.
Every offshore development team needs its Master Yoda so to speak. Trainers are very experienced developers, who are not only great at writing code, but also know exactly how to translate this into a full-scale academy to make sure every new talent becomes a highly skilled – and motivated – developer.
At Gapstars, our learning and development program is designed to create a culture where continuous self-improvement is the norm, in an environment where it feels safe to try harder. Our Tech Academy enhances the quality of our development and adoption of new technologies, while our Business Communication Program ensures that once equipped with the right tools, our engineers can express themselves freely and with confidence.
By setting objectives and key results (OKRs), we’re able to track progress for individuals and teams. This allows us to provide our clients with a constantly optimized service.
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. It’s important to share as much knowledge, information and expertise as possible between the different offices. This can be done via a communal chat channel or a company forum for instance. Regularly flying back and forth developers and trainers for a constant exchange of old and new knowledge should be on your agenda as well.
Our goal at Gapstars is to create tech leaders, which is why we sponsor innovation in the local Sri Lankan IT community. The Gapstars Tech Academy provides training in the newest and in-demand technologies for employees and potential hires. As such, it creates opportunities and access for those who want to learn and become leading technologists.
Our Tech Academy curriculum focuses on practical and modern programming tools and techniques needed to deliver when you’re part of a fast-paced development team.
At Gapstars, we see communication skills as being a key attribute of a great software engineer. Through our partnership with the British Council, all of our teams are given verbal and written assessments to track English proficiency levels and presentation skills.
Courses are arranged by our in-house Learning and Development Trainer based on each employees’ individual development plan. Learned skills are practiced immediately during client interactions and through various town hall forums in which our engineers are able to put their presentation skills to the test.
Part of being a developer is working with smart, online tools. A dedicated e-learning platform can help young and less experienced developers to catch up on the necessary skills; they can literally learn when, what and where they want and at their own pace.
Before You Go
At Gapstars, we are firm believers in the Agile philosophy when it comes to building dedicated, offshore scrum teams and software; it helps develop software faster, with greater adaptability and customer collaboration. On a daily basis, we help our teams deliver products with the best time-to-market and the highest possible quality. As a result, our clients benefit from a competitive advantage, which in turn enhances their customer’s satisfaction.
Voilà, 3 best practices from our own experience on how to work with a remote development team. It might not be an exhaustive list, but it should definitely help you get started if you want to grow your business and scale smarter.