4 TIPS TO EFFICIENTLY MANAGE A REMOTE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT TEAM

The way you manage your remote team can make or break your project success. The truth is that managing a virtual team can be more challenging than doing so with a collocated one. Processes, communications and expectations are very different. You are probably even dealing with different time zones and cultures.

Founders often feel overwhelmed when they don’t see progress being made.

Having the right techniques in place will stop you from being kept in the dark without knowing what’s really going on with your team.

To learn how to supervise and manage your remote teams, check out my four major tips:

 

1- SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

Remote work is usually less structured than on-site work. This has a lot of advantages but it also means that you need to define clear expectations. Every single team member should have 100% clarity on the following:

  • What are their weekly and monthly goals.
  • What projects does the team member owns.
  • How does he/she keeps the rest of the team updated.
  • Who to ask questions or report issues to.
  • How many hours per week does the team member has to dedicate to the project.
  • When and how can the rest of the team reach each other.
  • How much availability do you need from each particular team member.

Be very clear about this since the beginning of the project. There is no point for you to be chasing people for an update or feedback. The whole team should know what it is expected from them.

 

2- COMMUNICATE WELL

Decide which mediums you are going to use for communications and stick to them.

My recommendations are:

  • Hangouts/Skype/Zoom: If you have a to have a relatively long and important conversation.
  • Email: Short exchange of information. For topics that are not too important.
  • Chat: Informal conversations or team discussions about a particular topic.

Make sure the team is comfortable with these and that they are actually USING them. Constant and clear communication is key.

 

3. BE TRANSPARENT

Read the following and memorize it. Print it out. Stick it in your wall. Whatever works for you. But don’t forget about it. It is probably the MOST important tip I can ever give to remote teams:

If you don’t share it, it doesn’t exist.

Do not accept updates from your team such as:
“I have been making great progress on the back-end”
“I have updated the servers”
“Everything is progressing well”

Unfortunately this is not enough. Remember, when working remotely you are in the dark. You need to SEE the updates, not just hear about them.

For example, if you have a team of software developers, daily commits on GitHub are a great method for sharing progress.

No commits, no progress.

There is no need to wait until the feature is completed, reviewed and tested to commit. Your team can commit their code on a daily basis.

Another good technique to show progress is having your team recording a short video. They don’t need to go through every single detail but a 5 min video sharing their screen and explaining what they’ve done works wonders for building trust. That way you are not relying only on their words but you actually see what they’ve invested their time on.

Sometimes there is no much progress to show. And that is totally fine. Perhaps your developer had to spend an entire day researching how to tackle a particular issue. Great. No problem! But even in this case they can still show what they’ve done. He/she can take a couple of screenshots and write a few lines about the research and findings. Sounds so easy but yet very few people do it.

For short videos I like to use Loom. A simple app that allows you record yourself while screen-sharing. Again this is amazing for boosting trust. You want to see people’s faces as much as possible.

 

4- TRACK PROGRESS

Tracking progress is intrinsically related with transparency. As a founder, you have a hundred things to pay attention to and you should not spend your energy in chasing your team for an update.

Your team should be responsible for measuring their own progress. It gives them independence and freedom which are two things that they surely value (as they’ve chosen to work remotely).

How can you track progress then?

1- Schedule a morning huddle: This is a meeting that happens every day, for 15 minutes. Each team member gives an update on progress and reports on any roadblocks that are stopping them from moving forward. This meeting is a powerful technique that keeps the whole team on the same page. It also helps to build and maintain a good relationship between team members and for keeping everyone accountable.

2- Use a collaboration tool app:  Trello is super easy to use and flexible enough to suit a variety of digital projects. If you are using it for software development, bare in mind that it has more limitations than Jira, but it can still work well if you don’t need all the fancy features that Jira offers.

In Trello you can create a backlog with all the tasks that need to be done and have team members marking each task as Doing or Done. On each card the team can add comments, upload screenshots and tag other team members. That way you can look at the card and see what progress has been made in relation to that task.
I hope these tips are useful for you. Let me know in the comments how to do reinforce transparency in your team? What’s working for you?

 

Too busy to manage your team?

I manage teams and projects so that you can focus on growing your business.

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