How to manage your remote software development team

Finding, onboarding and managing an in-house team can be a hassle given the limited talent pool and fierce competition. So, hiring a remote software development team is a very attractive option for many companies that want to get ahead. Even major companies like Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Google and Slack use outsourcing as part of their strategy.

And while there are many benefits to outsourcing software development, managing a remote team has its downsides. For starters, you'll most likely work with an IT partner located in another country. You'll have to do things differently to accommodate time zone differences and integrate remote team members.

It all comes down to balancing the pros and cons and being open to collaboration. In this article, you'll find out how to effectively manage a remote software development team.

What is a remote software development team?

A software development remote team is an augmented or dedicated team, usually located in another country. For example, nearshore outsourcing is a popular practice in which you work with a technology partner in a nearby country.

The partner will be responsible for finding, hiring and onboarding team members. They will work remotely to build your product or take over certain tasks such as maintenance. The remote team can be augmented, so they'll work closely with your in-house team. Or, they can be dedicated, meaning that they'll handle your project from start to finish and include several roles, such as UI/UX designer and Project Manager.

This all depends on your project's complexity, duration and scope. Many companies find remote teams work so well that they'll enter a long-term technology partnership.

But before you commit to working with a remote team, it's important to know how to establish a good collaboration.

8 Tips for successfully managing a remote development team

It is well-known that efficient and effective communication is the foundation of every successful relationship. To manage an effective team who can deliver a high-quality product, you need to keep the conversation going. You must also do things differently regarding communication, technology and managing expectations.

Here are some tips to help you manage your remote software development team:

1. Choose the right IT partner

Not all software development companies will be a good fit, and that is OK. However, if the partner doesn't want to accommodate your needs, you'll get off to a bad start.

The right partner has a few qualities that make them stand out:

  • Has similar values - putting people first, teamwork, and delivering high-quality work. They should be able to prove how they live their values by providing use cases and recommendations. Additionally, they'll have to demonstrate that they invest in their employees via benefits, training, etc.
  • Is upfront about costs - hidden costs are a hassle, and are a sign that they most likely have other things to hide
  • Prove how they solve certain challenges - what if a team member underperforms? What if you need to add team members to work on your project? What if certain aspects don't work out? They should have an answer and a solution for you

The bottom line is: if you want good communication, pay attention to red flags. If they're not communicative, hide important details, and prioritise profit at all costs over quality work, you'll be better off elsewhere.

2. Set clear goals and expectations

Set yourself and your team up for success by setting a direction and the reasons behind these choices. This method will not only increase the project's success but will also help your team understand what’s at stake.

  • Clearly communicate your project goals, objectives, and timelines to the team. Make sure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities
  • Regularly review and assess individual and team performance. Use performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate progress.

Now, you may be wondering: what if you don't have clear goals? Then, it may be a good idea to look into pilot projects. The IT partner will help you define project requirements and set everything up, including communication channels.

3. Make full use of project management tools

Project management is a critical aspect of any remote software development team. It's good to choose something that will be able to grow together with your team if needed. A project management tool should be intuitive and help you manage and track all types of tasks. It also does wonders for assigning responsibilities and time management.

Our favourite tools include:

  • Trello - build agile flows, monitor and manage bug requests, asynchronous sprint retrospectives
  • Asana - manage backlog, your Agile sprint and conduct retrospectives
  • Azure DevOps - Agile planning tools that help you manage your sprints
  • Jira - issue and project tracking
  • Confluence - software documentation, works well with Jira

It's OK if you've never worked with similar tools before. Your IT partner will most likely be able to guide you in choosing something that works well for your unique situation.

4. Choose a communication channel

Email is great, but it won't accommodate complex collaboration needs. A good communication channel depends on your team size, integration requirements, needs and preferences. Since you'll most likely use more than one, it's good to establish the main and secondary channels from the beginning. Here are some popular options for software development teams:

  • Slack - has real-time messaging, file sharing, and integration with various other tools. It allows for organized team channels, direct messaging, and threaded conversations. Slack also supports integrations with project management and development tools
  • Microsoft Teams - another popular choice that integrates well with other Microsoft tools like Azure DevOps. It provides chat-based communication, video conferencing, file sharing, and collaboration features. Teams can be organized into channels based on projects or topics
  • Jira - as seen above, Jira is primarily a project management tool. However, it also offers communication features. You can create issues, track progress, assign tasks, and have discussions related to specific tickets or projects
  • GitHub/GitLab/Bitbucket - version control platforms like GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket provide more than just code management. They offer features like issue tracking, pull requests, and discussions that enable effective communication within development teams. These tools integrate with Git, making it easy to collaborate on code and review changes
  • Zoom - allows teams to have face-to-face meetings, share screens, and collaborate in real time. It can be useful for remote teams when conducting code reviews and discussing complex topics.

Of course, adjust as needed. For example, you may prefer Google Meet over Zoom because you already use Google Workspace.

5. Prioritise transparency

Transparency means honesty. In our experience, constant communication is the best policy. You can actively encourage this by:

  • Autonomy and trust - teams can work independently, and you trust them to deliver quality results. Avoid micromanaging at all costs since this communicates mistrust from the get-go
  • Provide timely feedback - offer constructive feedback and reward good work. Even a quick message can set team members on the right track or help them improve their work
  • Create a transparent workflow- ensure that everyone has access to relevant project information, and encourage regular updates and status reports.

The most damaging thing you can do is withhold feedback or essential information. You'll find out the hard way that it'll be too late to make significant changes, and team morale goes down fast.

6. Adopt an Agile approach

The Agile approach allows software teams to implement a clear framework that promotes team collaboration. Instead of working for months for product development or update, an agile team can run through the development cycle in a matter of weeks. As a result, team members are more productive and engaged since they receive feedback for their work faster and constantly.

Here at Qubiz, we prefer Agile for the same reasons. Even better, our clients see the evolution of the project much faster, sprint after sprint. We also encourage constant collaboration through Agile meetings, such as:

  • Sprint planning - setting goals for the next sprint and allocating tasks
  • Daily standups - quick check-in to review progress and current setbacks
  • Sprint reviews - the team offers demos and gets important feedback
  • Sprint retrospective meetings - evaluating the process and identifying improvement areas

Agile is great for remote teams as well as location-based ones. There's no good reason not to use this approach if you can.

7. Proper project documentation

Project documentation is a must. It has to be clear, concise and easy to follow. Now, by proper documentation, we mean:

  • Establishing the purpose - are you creating documentation for team members or end users? In this case, they can't be one and the same
  • Different documentation types - installation guides, API documents, technical specifications, issues
  • Easy-to-follow format - various formats such as text, images, videos, code snippets, etc.
  • Tips and recommendations - best practices for implementation that will increase team productivity
  • Involve team members - the documentation doesn't have to be perfect from the start, but team members can definitely help improve it.

And last but not least, project documentation needs to be updated regularly.

8. Foster a team culture

A healthy team culture doesn't develop overnight. The more comfortable you feel when working with your remote team, the better. Best practices include:

  • Encourage informal conversations - a simple "How was your week?" can make a difference. Regular 1:1 meetings also help. To boost motivation, show team members that you care about them and their professional development
  • Clear communication - we've all been guilty of over-complicating messages, especially via email. Keep them concise, focus on the main issues and don't hesitate to schedule a meeting for important conversations
  • Regular check-ins - we've mentioned this before, but it's that important. No communication is worse than even poor communication as it affects morale and psychological safety
  • In-person meetings - if you have a nearshore software development partner, travel time could be as short as two or three hours. From time to time, you could pay an in-person visit or host team members at your own office.

The ability to put a friendly face next to a project is hugely underestimated. Cultivating a good team culture will pay off in the short, medium and long term.

Bonus: The three Rs - Reward, Recognition, Respect

Everyone needs to feel that their work is meaningful and leads to something more. This is one of the biggest motivators, as there's nothing more rewarding than knowing that their contribution is greatly appreciated.

Many teams typically have one point of contact, such as a Project Manager. If you can't personally thank the team, make sure that this person will recognise team members constantly for their efforts. Constructive feedback is also important and it will help them make progress faster.

Treating them with respect is a must. Just because the team is outsourced doesn’t mean that they do not deserve to be treated like any other employee. And it is always important to remember that without their value and hard work, your company’s success wouldn’t be possible.

Hello, we are Qubiz

Nice to meet you! 

Qubiz is a one-stop-shop technology partner, covering the whole application lifecycle, including functional design and consulting, software architecture design, UX/UI design, software development, QA, and maintenance. 

We’ve been in business for enough time to understand that putting people first matters the most. Our clients enjoy a trusted partnership, faster time-to-market and flexibility, among many other advantages. 

Learn more about what we do and how to contact us

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