More and more software developers choose remote work, as it is convenient, flexible, and cost-effective. But at the same time, it adds a headache to managers and team leads who need to build a remote development team and understand how to make it a success. In this guide, we share 10 tips on managing programmers at a distance and nailing even the most complex projects.
1. Concentrate on long-term goals
Micromanagement or focusing on daily tasks and controlling them is a losing strategy when it comes to remote teams. As a professional, you should better concentrate on the milestones and final results allowing developers to choose their own speed and task. From time to time, remind them what you expect in the end and let them achieve that goal on their own terms. Remember that programmers become more creative and effective when you give them problems, not solutions.
2. Consider time zones
Due to financial issues, most outsourcing companies are located in Eastern Europe and Asia, so you and your team might live in completely different time zones. That’s why your task as a manager is to schedule meetings and assign tasks considering the time zone of all your developers. Your goal is to organize as much work time together as possible.
3. Set basic rules
Most likely, you have never met your software development team in person. You don’t know some of their personal traits, preferences, and expectations. Add different time zones and cultural peculiarities and you will receive a highly-demanding task. But it is possible to solve this with one document describing the project and its goals, work rules, and corporate ethics. The clearer you communicate basic rules, the simpler it will be to manage the team in the future.
Apart from setting basic rules, you need to communicate a clear vision of the future project and give answers when needed. Be fast in answering emails and messages, so that the team and project manager have the required information to continue their work.
4. Have regular meetings
This advice is rather self-explanatory. Remote teams don’t have a chance to gather in a meeting room and discuss their daily struggles and achievements over coffee. That is why any professional manager should schedule meetings via Zoom, Telegram, or another acceptable program to set tasks, track progress, and keep updated on the struggles their developers might have. Usually, remote teams have daily, weekly, and monthly meetings with different members of the team and project owners.
5. Reward developers
Most software development companies spoil employees with loyalty programs, financial bonuses on holidays and birthdays, or small gifts. Even with a tight budget, you can find non-materials ways to appreciate the team for their hard work and dedication. It is a great way to raise motivation and team spirit.
6. Be kind and supportive
Apart from strong management and organizational skills, you need to know how to create a comfortable and trusting environment for the team. Be patient, compassionate, and attentive to people’s needs and pains. Your remote software developers should know they can reach you if any troubles impacting their productivity arise.
7. Give preference to organized people
Some developers can’t be focused when working remotely. They are filled with distractions which results in poorer quality and missed deadlines. That is why it is better to hire people who feel comfortable working remotely without constant control and supervision.
In the recruitment stage, it also won’t be redundant to research candidates’ soft skills. Potential candidates should be autonomous enough to work on their own and complete tasks without constant reminders. They should also be team players to build effective communication even when the time zones and languages are different. Being respectful, patient, and calm is a great plus because these qualities help to defuse possible conflicts and harm productivity.
8. Use time-tracking programs
While the team of developers works remotely, it can be a challenge to check if they spend the necessary amount of time on your project. To solve this problem, developers came up with such programs as Jira and Asana. These are dedicated tracking tools where the team can report the time spent and the tasks completed. These tools integrate with other programs, so you get a perfect working environment to manage and control a remote team.
9. Be honest
When you don’t see your team every day, you might sometimes forget that they are valuable members of the project and need to be informed about the current situation and upcoming events. Your remote team of developers should know your goals, important decisions, and other news that can impact their work and well-being. Such information should be written down in an official document and sent to project managers and developers. Transparency lets you become closer with the team and show them that they are an important part of your company even if it is a contract-based project.
10. Use Agile methodology
More and more companies, both remote and on-place ones, switch to the Agile methodology which was created in 2001. It offers to manage projects by dividing them into several phases (cycles) and communicating with stakeholders. This approach manifests that people are more important than instruments and that collaboration is the best way to achieve success. Thanks to flexibility and horizontal management, Agile methodology is great for remote development teams.
4 instruments to manage a remote team
- Project management programs allow tracking progress and leaving comments without a need to contact each developer in person. Such tools include Trello, Zoho Projects, Wrike, and Jira.
- Shared calendars for effective planning and scheduling. Add deadlines, public holidays, meetings, and vacations to have a clear picture of your team’s activities.
- Tools for video conferences like Zoom or Skype make meetings more personal and help with deciding faster compared to regular messages.
- Chat apps with solid encryption where you can communicate one-on-one or in groups, send files, and record audio/video messages. They are also great for less formal communication and GIFs with funny animals.
In recent years, remote work has become a new norm and millions of employees including software developers will hardly return to their offices in foreseeable future. Although managing such workers is challenging, it still has multiple advantages. And the tips above will surely help you to succeed.