Advances in cloud-based platforms, and structural shifts brought on by the pandemic, have increased the importance of best practices when it comes to managing remote developer teams.
In many ways, remote and in-house teams are managed similarly. The methodologies are much the same, as are the tools. However, there are some critical distinctions. Here are some examples of where remote workers require special consideration:
The scrum. The morning scrum (the daily Standup Meeting within the Agile Methodology) is critical for remote workers. It formalizes the start of the workday, and creates a sense of community, with everyone on the same page.
Find the right platform. Remote workers have to be found in a chat, or perhaps via email, which can be challenging. Using popular project management and communication platforms like Slack or Asana, in which communication tends to converge in one place, can make this easier. “Keeping up with software and virtual management is key for remote workers,” says Emilio Baez, President & Founder at US-headquartered Developers.Net. “We use Asana for everyone – whether remote or not – as it ties in the workflow.”
Calendar management. When it comes to calendars, managers can be stricter with remote workers. Calendars aren’t just for scheduling calls and deadlines – they can be used to make expectations clear, at whatever level of detail. They are also critical when teams are working across times zones, as meeting schedules can be synched in each developer’s calendar.
Good, standardized technology. Remote workers need the right technology, and excellent bandwidth and connectivity, to support video conference calls. “You don’t want to have an image break up during a video call – you want everyone to be crystal clear,” says Baez. “Many clients need 24/7 uptime, and that should be true of the developer community, too.”
Clear documentation. For remote workers, it is crucial for the client to have a good understanding of how the work hours are being spent, and what is being accomplished. It is also important that all procedures and expectations be written down in a clear manner. The right communications’ platform can function as a central hub where all documentation can be located.
Frequent communication. With remote workers, communication expectations should be more formalized, as co-workers and managers can’t simply drop by to discuss something. “Companies need quick access to their developers,” says Baez from Developers.Net, which has an Assisted Expansion model that combines the cost benefits of staff augmentation with the experience and accountability of managed services. “We recommend that our developers check in with the client first thing in the morning. They should also inform the client when they’re going to lunch, and again upon return from lunch, with a final check-in at the end of the day.”
“We recommend that our developers check in with the client first thing in the morning. They should also inform the client when they’re going to lunch, and again upon return from lunch, with a final check-in at the end of the day.” — Emilio Baez
Positive feedback. Positive feedback for a job well done is a good practice, whether a developer is working remotely, or not. That said, remote workers aren’t exposed to the kind of informal positive feedback that they might get in an office environment, and so it’s a good idea to make a point of complimenting them on good work.
Use plain language. In office environments, employees will often communicate with a range of styles – from colloquial to formal. With remote workers, it can be difficult to gauge tone and inflection, given that communication is via chat functions, or mediated by voice and video platforms. It is important to use simple, proper and consistent grammar, with no slang, so that a developer has a clear understanding of the work required.
Support & Training. Without face-to-face access, it can be easy for managers to forget a developer’s needs. A company like Developer.Net has a company manual that supports remote workers by clearly outlining roles and expectations. There should also be clear communication with regard to training opportunities.
Room for feedback. In an office environment, a developer can take a manager aside and provide informal feedback on a project. That’s harder to do for a remote worker, yet their feedback is critical to ensure a project’s success. Manager’s can formalize this process, or simply make it known that they are open to, and interested in, any constructive criticism that could improve the quality of the work.
The in-office environment allows for informal communication, and face-to-face encounters, that are lacking with remote workers. As a result, it’s critical that remote workers be offered guidance on how to communicate effectively, so that a project won’t go off the rails, but also to reduce social isolation. Done properly, a positive strategy for managing remote workers will result in content, productive, and confident developers who do good work – and are proud of it.