How to Organize a Remote Software Development Team

  1. Pros and cons of hiring a remote software development team
  2. Essential toolsets for remote teams
  3. Key roles in remote software development teams
  4. Challenges in working with remote teams
  5. Managing a remote team solutions
  6. How to build productive collaboration with your remote team
  7. Top tips on remote team management
  8. Wrapping up

Whether you’re running a well-established company or an aspiring startup, finding skilled talent can become a stumbling block on your roadmap. You’re limited in time and resources, and sometimes finding the right talent locally is next to impossible. This is especially true for the software engineering department.

Fortune 500 companies, as well as businesses from all around the globe, are already reaping the benefits of remote collaboration. They’re already hiring remote software engineers, website developers and designers, app developers, software engineers and QA specialists. On top of that, companies prefer their remote partners to set them up with dedicated project managers, business analysts and account managers.

Pros and cons of hiring a remote software development team

Pros

  • Access to a global talent pool. With all the modern communication tools, you can bypass the limitations of the local job market and hire the right people that can fit in your software team structure.
  • Higher productivity. The recent Stanford study found remote teams to be much more productive than in-office workers. They are seldom sick, they don’t come in late or leave early, and they generally work a genuine full shift and even more.
  • Cost optimization. This is true for both employees and employers. According to the research from Tecla.io, remote staff can save up to $7,000 a year and companies can save up to $11,000. In fact, ⅔ of companies reported higher productivity for remote staff compared to in-office employees.

Cons

  • Broken team communication. For less tech-savvy teams, communication can be a huge challenge, resulting in huge losses and failed project launches.

The solution: seasoned software development teams offer all the right solutions to their clients. For example, engineers at Echo unify communication tools early on. Clients have full control over the planning process and often choose to provide a project timeline on their own. At the same time, Echo ensures availability of its staff and makes online communication fast and effortless with the help of simple and straightforward tools.

  • Poor team collaboration. Usually, it’s up to the clients to decide how deeply they want to be integrated into the project. In turn, remote teams must be open to close cooperation and ensure their availability.

The solution: here at Echo, we encourage clients to meet with our developers in person. Some clients come over to our offices to directly work with developers on their projects; others invite our engineers to visit their premises and work there for the duration of the project. Either way, communication is easy and effective.

  • Project management hassle. Defining roles and responsibilities between the client and the remote team can also be tricky, putting a strain on everyone involved into a project.

The solution: Echo enables direct communication between our clients’ project managers and Echo’s engineers. This means that project managers have direct control over planning, task management and performance reports at any point.

  • Time and productivity tracking challenges. It’s impossible to set up reasonable deadlines and budget for the project without knowing at least basic time estimates.

The solution: Clients can implement their time tracking solutions and KPIs to oversee the performance of a remote software development team. On top of that, a remote team can assist by assigning a dedicated account manager to the project, like Echo is doing for its clients. Account managers work to solve any technical and organizational issues that the client might face.

Essential toolsets for remote teams

Technology is instrumental in making remote collaboration and software engineering organizational structure efficient for all parties. To make the project happen, clients must ensure that their remote teams have access to the essential productivity tools.

  • Time tracking software. In this day and age, tracking time and productivity need not be the issue. With so many time tracking tools, it’s really just a question of figuring out the best tool and letting it do the work for you.
  • Team communication software. It goes without saying that effective communication is key to the project’s success. When a team works across several continents and time zones, keeping everyone in the loop can be tricky. Again, modern technology comes in handy. With so many instant messengers, keeping the lights on is easy.
  • Video conferencing software. Whether a client needs to plan a week’s worth of tasks or a month-long sprint, face-to-face meetings are important to make sure everyone is on the same page. Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype or Hangouts are designed specifically for this goal.
  • File sharing software. Sharing multiple project files and documentation is incredibly easy thanks to the tools like Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. These cloud services offer huge storage space and plenty of useful features, like access levels, offline availability, automatic sync and more.
  • File collaboration software. Shared access to project documentation is crucial to ensure productive performance and avoid bottlenecks. G-Suite is probably the most popular tool that most companies prefer to use.
  • Project and task management software. Assign tasks, track progress, share comments and calendars, attach files, set up deadlines and more – tools like Asana, Trello or Basecamp will sort you out.
  • Integrated development environment. Powerful tools like BitBucket, Bamboo or InVision empower team members with access to the software development and design environment.
  • Additional tools. Every project is unique so based on its specific requirements, remote teams might also need access to a corporate inbox, corporate loyalty programs, etc.

Sometimes, the majority of these tools can be incorporated in the corporate enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Key roles in remote software development teams

So who are the people that make remote collaboration happen?

Let’s take a closer look.

  • Account manager. Is typically engaged in the outstaffing model. For example, Echo provides a dedicated account manager free of charge.
  • Project manager. Is typically engaged in the outsourcing model. Project managers are the key contact for the client, facilitating communication between the client and software engineers; their services make a separate line on the payroll.
  • Team lead (for large-scale projects). This is a person who can organize the development process and deliver expert advice to software engineers. A team lead is essential for large-scale projects that require a technical expert to collaborate with other remote engineers.
  • Software / Web / App Developer. This is a remote team member in charge of the development work. Depending on the scale of the project, the client might want to hire several of them to augment the existing software development team structure.

Challenges in working with remote teams

The most common stumbling blocks for companies managing remote teams include:

  • ineffective communication;
  • difficulty in hiring the best talent;
  • lack of transparency and accountability;
  • tracking productivity and performance;
  • working across varying time zones;
  • lack of an efficient software development team structure;
  • schedule and deadline management;
  • ethics and values within the team.

Managing a remote team solutions

1. Varying time zones

The issue: difficulty with the timely exchange of information as well as meeting the deadlines.

The solution: using shared calendars and plan events and sprints proactively; accepting the possibility of force majeure events and plan accordingly.

2. Project collaboration

The issue: difficulty with task and deadline management.

The solution: using shared project management tools to ensure everyone stays on track.

3. Work ethics and cultural incompatibility

The issue: across cultures, the meaning and importance of different values vary.

The solution: introducing the code of ethics and employee onboarding handbooks, so that everyone is clear on the rules and priorities.

4. Project transparency

The issue: companies are rightfully concerned about commitment and accountability of a remote team.

The solution: decide on a remote software company’s organizational structure early on. This includes project roles, responsibilities, holidays and KPIs.

5. Building productive long-term partnerships

The issue: lack of communication can boost productivity and morale.

The solution: dedicating time every week to catch up with the team and discuss progress and latest goings-on.

6. Being tech-savvy

The issue: organizing remote work efficiently.

The solution: digitizing and automating all processes using the project management tools.

7. Creating a welcoming culture across teams

The issue: making sure the client and the remote team are comfortable working with each other.

The solution: organizing meetups and introducing reward programs for meeting the project milestones.

How to build productive collaboration with your remote team

  1. Set expectations for your remote team. Do you expect your team to be available on weekends? Do you require night shifts? What’s the software development company organizational structure that you require? Set the rules early on so everyone is on the same page.
  2. Be open. When the cultural differences come into play, be tolerant and put effort into getting to the bottom of the issue. Celebrate diversity and multiculturalism within your remote team.
  3. Polish your communication skills. It can be hard to speak the same language with the people next door – think how that can turn out in communication with your remote team. Improving your communication skills is never a bad idea.
  4. Be helpful. It takes time for your remote software development team to settle in, so provide all the help they need to speed up onboarding and show how exciting your project is going to be.
  5. Use the project management software that everyone is happy with. Make sure you invested in a project management tool that has all the features your remote team requires to work on your project efficiently.

Top tips on remote team management

  1. Find the best communication tools. The importance of effective communication with the remote development team cannot be stressed enough. Whether it’s texting and calendar apps or a video conferencing tool, make sure you’ve got your communication needs covered.
  2. Plan and schedule your communication. You will surely text and call your remote software engineers routinely to sort out the immediate questions, but regular communication, like weekly meetings, is also essential to get a global view of your project.
  3. Fight stress. It’s a no-brainer that stress eats away productivity and motivation. Remote collaboration offers a lot of benefits, but it can become quite stressful if the software development organizational structure lacks accountability and clarity.
  4. Plan with time zone differences in mind. Accept that you will potentially face bottlenecks given the time difference between team members. Factor that in your plans and estimates.
  5. Simplify task management. Are the tasks you’re creating easy to understand and comprehensive? Are you providing the access to essential tools and documentation? A surprisingly large number of tasks lack the basic details that a remote team needs to make progress on a task (or at least make a start on it).
  6. Provide work procedures. Discuss the team structure in software project management and decide on work procedures for all parties involved early on.
  7. Focus on goals, not micromanagement. Provide clear project goals and objectives, while giving your remote team the freedom to organize their daily routine. Micromanagement undermines productivity and morale.
  8. Avoid multitasking. It’s probably easier said than done, but setting clear priorities and planning ahead will help your remote team avoid multitasking and get the work done on time.
  9. Socialize. At the end of the day, it’s all about building healthy relationships that all parties are keen to foster.
  10. Organize meetups and business trips. Whether it’s a business conference or a team meetup, bringing everyone round to the same location can have a positive effect on the team’s productivity and progress.
  11. Be proactive and give feedback. Keep you remote team in the loop regarding the project’s progress and provide timely updates on the tasks.
  12. Reward and encourage your remote software engineers. Recognizing success and rewarding hard work will cement your relationship with a remote software development team like nothing else.
  13. Informal is good but to a certain point. Staying friendly and welcoming is important, but this is a business relationship first and foremost. Making sure everyone understands it is going to benefit all parties.
  14. Lead by example. Act on the values and standards you demand and show your remote team the way things are done in your company.
  15. Always have a backup. There’s always a looming possibility that things might go wrong, so make sure to have contingency plans. Work with your remote team to come up with plan B or at least envision various scenarios to minimize risks and losses.
  16. Trust your team. Set up clear rules and expectations, then let your remote team do the rest and apply their expertise to your project.

Wrapping up

The remote collaboration model opens up a whole pool of opportunities. Ukraine is one of the most promising locations to find a remote software development team. In fact, this is a unique opportunity to hire first-class talent at a business-friendly cost – Ukrainian software engineers are much more affordable than developers from other European countries.

Echo is your gateway to this promising destination. We help companies from the US, Canada and Europe find the right talent, organize job interviews and assessments and onboard new teams. Get in touch with us to discuss your remote software development needs!

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quotes
I've founded Echo based on my three passions: engineering, marketing, and head-hunting. As a company CEO, it is always hard for me to make time for writing. However, I like sharing my experience with people around.
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Lou Reverchuk

Entrepreneur, Marketer, Writer

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