Best Practices for working with remote software teams

this is our short list of “quick wins” that any team can implement quickly and easily.

Estimated Read Time:    5 minutes

Remote work is increasing in popularity and it’s easy to see why as it’s creating happier employees and lower fixed cost structures all without sacrificing work output or quality. We’re not going to get into the in-house vs remote work debate as it’s been well stated other places, here we’ll discuss the best practices for remote software teams specifically…

After working for the last decade with teams across several time zones and in different countries, this is our short list of “quick wins” that any team can implement quickly and easily.

Treat your remote team just like you would anyone else in your company

This is the golden rule of working with remote software teams. Treat everyone equally. You want lasting, meaningful relationships with your team members regardless of where they reside. Invite them into all the slack channels, Github repos, and project planning meetings. Having context of where the product and organization are going is very helpful. Developers have to make many micro decisions along the way and you’ll want them to be informed to avoid technical debt.

Daily standup

Regardless of location, pick a mutually beneficial time of the day where everyone hops on {insert preferred video conferencing tool}. We typically have the scrum master, project manager or team lead share screen via Skype and walk through the core tool (Pivotal Tracker, Trello, Jira, etc) for standup. Communication is one of the hardest parts about remote work, it requires over-communicating at times and draws attention to poor communication in a negative way. Bring everyone together for 20 minutes each day and get into a nice routine. Staying updated each day is helpful and doesn’t allow minor issues to become larger issues. This can be challenging for managers, but the ROI on devoting the 20 minutes is off the charts.

Use tools religiously

Without a structure or basic process in place, things may break down when you hit roadblocks or challenges. Having tools in place forces “Minimum Viable Process”. Your structure should pre-define procedures, thus eliminating re-work and confusion.

Must haves…

  1. Project management tool: (JIRA, Pivotal Tracker, Trello, etc)
  2. Chat / Communication tool (Skype, Slack, Hipchat, etc)
  3. Code Repos (Github or Bitbucket)

Without these basic tools, it’s hard to communicate what you need & when you need it. They serve as a platform to avoid never-ending meetings.. We don’t know any developers who like sitting in meetings all day. Getting tasks down ‘on paper’ quickly and efficiently provides a foundation on which good software can be built.

If possible, integrate your tools: have Github commit posts to Slack, or have Pivotal comments go into a shared channel on Hipchat. Most all modern tools ‘play nice’ with each other. Keeping one developer or team in sync with the wider organization has nothing but benefits.

Communicate, then communicate some more

As with any good relationship, fixing small problems quickly, transparently, and with conclusion is often better than letting things boil up and result in a blowout. The same applies to remote teams. If your developer drives you crazy with the way they name their branches or doesn’t ask questions until it’s too late, step in early and often and mention it. Explain why you’re making the request so the developer can have have the correct context, then kindly request the change you’d like.

Last but not least…

Go visit!

We wrote about this in more detail in our medium article HERE

The takeaway is simple. Face to face communication can be very helpful during certain work sessions but more importantly it helps form lasting relationships.

Dev Shop Advisors is a boutique software outsourcing advisory firm. We help companies connect with a highly curated list of remote software teams around the world. We’re happy to be of assistance, and there is no cost to companies looking to hire.

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