Software developers are often seen as individual programmers glued to computers, churning out lines of code in relative isolation. But anyone who has worked with developers knows that collaboration is key. It plays a significant role in how products are designed, developed, and delivered. For this reason, remote software development can bring challenges.
When everyone worked in the same physical space, team members met in the hall and ended up talking about a programming approach. Of course, they held formal project meetings. But a lot of synergies came from impromptu interactions.
Many companies are now considering a remote or hybrid workforce. They must think about how to maintain that collaborative environment when individual developers are working from different locations. Using an Agile approach to software development can facilitate collaboration because of its iterative process.
Whether it’s scrum or kanban, Agile principles can help businesses achieve the best results from remote software development. However, best practices must be followed. Keep the following tips in mind.
Start with clear expectations. Know what the project needs and establish priorities. As development projects progress, plans can change. So it’s crucial that everyone knows what the priority features are.
Breaking a large project into tasks can help focus individual team members. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by a project’s scope. With well-defined tasks, developers can stay on task without wasting time worrying about the overall project. Use a kanban-like approach to help maintain a task-oriented process.
Whether team members are across the hall or around the world, communication is key to a successful remote software development project. Before starting a project, establish a communication strategy that ensures everyone is using the same tools to stay in contact. For example, an instant messaging or chat tool lets developers communicate in real-time. For example, what do your developers do when they have a question? Do they have the capability to send a message and get a response in seconds? Or do they have to draft an email and possibly wait until the next meeting for an answer?
Whether it’s Zoom or Microsoft teams, organizations need to specify the tools they want to be used when remote employees communicate. It saves time. Using these tools ensures that all project-related discussions are recorded and available for reference. Being able to trace a conversation back to its origins can shed light on why a particular development path was chosen.
Make Meetings Count
People don’t hate meetings. They hate unproductive meetings. To get the most out of meetings, consider the following tips:
- Create an agenda. Having a clear outline of what the meeting will cover helps participants to come prepared. Additionally, it minimizes the possibility of tangents that can make meetings less productive.
- Set a time limit. Based on the agenda, set the length of the meeting and stick to it. Make sure the most important topics are at the beginning. If time runs out, the primary points have been addressed. Table the uncovered items until the next meeting.
- Assign tasks. Make sure that any new “to do” items are assigned before the meeting’s close. Unassigned tasks do not get done.
- Share meeting summaries. Meeting notes should be summarized and distributed to all team members. If possible, have a central repository for all project documents. This allows individual developers to quickly find needed information.
Formal meetings don’t need to happen every day. They can happen weekly or even monthly as their focus is on directional changes, possible scope creep, and potential obstacles.
Have Daily Check-ins
It doesn’t matter if development follows an Agile or Waterfall approach, daily check-ins are essential to maintain a collaborative environment. Virtual stand-up meetings are one way to maintain daily contact. When everyone worked in the same space, stand-up meetings were a great way for teams to have a daily update with minimal impact on workflow.
If stand-up meetings were typically 15 minutes, have the virtual equivalent be the same. Allocate the time per team member to ensure that the meeting ends on time. These 15-minute check-ins are an essential component of Agile software development. These check-ins are a great way to keep all team members informed on what is going on in each aspect of the project. The better the daily efforts align, the more likely the project will be delivered as planned.
Remote teams need an effective information management system that includes source code management, bug tracking, and a data repository. Avoid a process with complicated check-in and check-out procedures. This only makes it time consuming for developers to follow. As a result, they hold their code in workspaces. This approach runs the risk of losing code or developing incompatible programs or services.
Developers need collaborative tools that let them diagram programs or sketch a possible workflow. They may need to share screenshots, even videos, to communicate their concepts. These concept tools need to capture the ideas in whatever format, so they can be shared with the team. The right collaborative tools simplify the process of remote software development and release management.
Micromanagement can kill any software development project. This is true whether the team is remote or not. No one likes to have someone looking over their shoulder every step of the way. Few developers enjoy an environment where they are told how and what to code. Part of their job satisfaction comes from creating a solution to a problem. If project managers tell developers exactly how to write code to address the problem, they are not taking advantage of the developer’s skill set.
Software developers spend years honing their skills to deliver innovative and creative solutions to problems. Taking that capability away from them through micromanagement only complicates the relationship. Many times, it results in a lower quality solution because a developer’s full capabilities are not being utilized.
Find Balance When Managing Your Remote Software Development Teams
Managing a remote team of developers requires a unique skill set. It demands a balance between insufficient contact that is isolating to so much interaction that it hampers growth. Many organizations may struggle with finding that balance. However, offshore development teams have been working for years in just such an environment.
They understand the complexities of remote software development. And they have designed processes that simplify their efforts. As a result, the right balance is achieved. Are looking to outsource your software development? Contact the EC Group International? We have the experience and expertise to meet your development needs.