Ah, to imagine the life of a remote worker: Certainly, it must be a piece of cake, when “business casual” means you are going to actually put on clean pijamas today; “office politics” involves negotiating with the kids to play more quietly; and “efficient mass transit” means that you’ve discovered a way to shave two seconds off your 10-second commute from the bed to the laptop.
In reality, remote work – far from being the domain of the bon-bon-eating set – has become the secret recipe that is powering efficiencies and enhanced results throughout the IT development world. Whether working individually from home or clustered among peers in a co-working location, remote resources – far from the distance that the name connotes – have never been able to feel more integral to the whole of the organization.
For companies that have found success in deploying mission-critical responsibilities to remote development teams, the process requires much more than a “plug-and-play” approach. Proper processes, planning and support are key ingredients that must be swirled together with care in order to bake an impressive result.
To help you consider how to get the most out of your offsite development teams, let’s take a look at 10 tips to ensure that success is not a “remote possibility”:
- Excellent Internet connection
It seems like this is a given – but in fact, speeds, bandwidth and reliability can vary wildly between countries (not to mention between here and the office across the hall). Most telecom providers offer a “business-class” offering or some option for those whose paychecks rely on outstanding connectivity. And the last thing you want to do is lose your connection in the midst of a critical online meeting or Skype conversation about a key development step.
Face-to-face certainly adds a visual dimension to conversations. But for development shops that use an Agile methodology, a camera is a “must have”. More than just a means of allowing everyone to “attend” your Agile scrum and to share visual aids more efficiently, the psychology of being virtually “face to face” helps to foster an atmosphere of trust, and to erase some of the conceits that might develop when co-workers are unable to share a physical location.
- 360-degree camera
You’ll want to ensure that groups have access to a wide-view camera resource – particularly if several folks are clustered around a table. And though many telepresence providers offer excellent virtual whiteboard tools, sometimes the temptation to hold up a printed spreadsheet or to whisk a dry-erase marker across the wall is too hard to resist.
- Management and coding tools
Assemble your package of go-to apps, software tools and SaaS suites – and make sure everyone is using the same set. Here at iTexico, we use Github, Assembla and Jira for coding; Google Hangout, Slack and Skype for conversational collaboration; and Invision, Sketch, Adobe Suite and Pixate for design.
- Work methodology
Choose the best workflow management process that fits your particular situation. Though we couldn’t live without full-blown Agile software development, you may also consider stand up, refinement or scrum as a means of keeping things on track. Each of these methodologies offers the kinds of guidelines, tracking, insights and processes that promote the understanding of the relative strength of the entire team, regardless of work location.
- Time management
Nothing builds consensus better than ensuring from the start that everyone is aligned on the scope of the project. A technique like Planning Poker (sometimes called Scrum Poker) is a way to get all your chips on the table. It centers around gamified process to estimate the size of the effort needed to support mobile app development and other software development goals.
Though it may seem counterproductive to recommend getting closer together in a blog about the effectiveness of remote work teams, there’s a method to our madness. For remote team members focused on a particular aspect of a project, it doesn’t hurt to be close enough, geographically, to occasionally meet up at a coffee shop or co-working location. For a creative solution that one technology company uses to unite remote resources, click here.
- Cultural alignment
At iTexico, where our nearshoring operations in Guadalajara, Mexico have been a key to our success, we have also learned that the cultural similarities and influences have fostered greater, and more expedient, integration between remote teams, on-site resources and clients.
- Client alignment
Client buy-in to your remote work philosophy is fairly essential – and ideally, it would be someone who understands the development process. Having a business analyst or product owner communicating with the development team, on behalf of the client company, is a best practice. If not, someone on the corporate side should be designated as delivery manager to assure, understand and communicate about the end deliverable.
- Testing and viewing
Make sure everyone has access to the same tools to manage outcomes, and to test and view products. Gaining specific feedback about the quality of the development process will ensure continuous improvement – the next time around.
What tips have been successful for you when working with remote resources?
About The Author
Alonzo Llamas has more than 8 years of experience on Software Project Management, Certified as PMP®, he has driven many multicultural development teams through creation cycles of different natures, from over-the-air hardware connectivity to mobile applications with great success.