Team in Software Development
29 Jul

Managing A Distributed Team in Software Development

Mahipal Nehra

In a competitive market, companies need to do more with less. It has led to the growth of distributed teams, where employees get split by distance and cannot collaborate in person.

Although remote working and distributed teams are not new, they used to be around 6% before the pandemic. However, post-pandemic, 51% of employees prefer remote work.

This abrupt move toward distributed software development teams in the IT industry has shifted how we used to work. And this is not a far-fetched assumption. For instance, top IT companies like Slack, GitLab, Skype, and Zapier all leverage distributed teams worldwide.

Read: Agile Software Development Team Structure

But often, most of us ask if a distributed team is as efficient as colocated teams.

While most team managers will say working at the same place is better, we disagree.

“Why is that so?” you may ask.

Don’t worry this blog will help you understand all about distributed teams and the correct ways to manage them.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Distributed Team: An Overview

A distributed team is a term used to describe a team where all the team members are located away from each other and sometimes even work from different time zones.

With the distributed structuring of the development team, you get multiple co-functioning teams where team members collaborate remotely to work together. It is a team with an outsourcing model where your business hires one or more service providers from different locations.

Put simple distributed development teams are not restricted geographically, so they don’t have to work remotely from some headquarters where someone drove decisions.

Instead, distributed teams work asynchronously and fulfill their workflows autonomously from any location. After completing the task, they share the ownership with the succeeding team members. Besides, a project manager ensures workflow proficiency through practical collaboration and regular communication.

Some of the benefits of leveraging distributed teams are as follows:

  • Better flexibility to work from anywhere the team member prefers improving their productivity.

  • As the team is independent of geo-locations, you can hire expert professionals from the global talent pool. But, beware of the language barriers and choose wisely.

  • Turning to the distributed team or outsourcing a software development company will reduce costs and keep you within budget than hiring, training, and offering high-end salaries to an in-house development team.

  • With multiple teams residing in different regions, the project’s productivity also increases as the development team might be available 24 hours daily and continuously delivers diverse functionalities and elements of the software.

Although the benefits of the distributed team are extensive, we cannot deny that working with a distributed team is not as easy as it sounds. One might face a few challenges while working with a distributed team. Some of these challenges are:

  • The time difference across the distributed team sometimes makes it difficult to get a hold of every team member concurrently.

  • Lack of in-person interaction can be the main struggle for distributed team members as they don’t understand the nonverbal hints leading to miscommunication.

  • Hiring team members from different vendors across the globe can lead to language barriers if they don’t speak a common language to communicate and discuss the project.

  • Staring at your screen throughout the day without someone to share the workplace with can kill the companionship feeling one has.

Tips for Managing A Distributed Team

Now that we know the basics of the distributed team and the challenges that might occur while managing a distributed team, it’s essential to discuss the tips that will help overcome these challenges.

  • Hire Ideal Team

The first step in creating an effective distributed team for software development is to get the skilled people onboard. But, it will not be a simple task to fulfill as not every job seeker is suitable for working remotely.

As a distributed team manager, you will have to hire those who can work regardless of the country they are residing in. The best way to find the ideal team is to search for employees who are disciplined and self-motivated.

You can take one-to-one interviews, check their communication skills, and analyze their expertise through skill assessments, this will ensure that you have the right team members.

Besides, if the team member already has experience in working with distributed teams then that can be a plus point.

  • Create Regular, Consistent Visual Interactions

Remember that the tone, gesture, and voice of the team play a crucial role in communication.

Additionally, having a solid rapport with the team is crucial to making the project successful. With personal communication among team members, you can build trust, ease self-organization, reduce the risk of missed deadlines, and boost their morale.

We are asking to create a great personal connection within the team as the stronger the connections are, the better the chances of improving their companionship.

Read: SaaS Tools for Successful Remote Team

For that, you can include regular face time between the distributed team through video conferencing tools like Zoom or Slack that will bridge the gap between teams.

Moreover, if you want to remove any video conferencing problems between the development team, you should encourage them to have at least one 1:1 video chat session with others that will allow them to be less formal and allow them to share their knowledge casually.

  • Develop an Onboarding Process

Developing an onboarding process can help you improve employee retention by as much as 82%. Needless to say, the onboarding process must be structured exceptionally for the distributed teams. As the distributed team will not have any coworkers to talk with, they can easily feel disconnected and isolated from others.

And to avoid such a scenario to take place, you should follow the given steps:

  1. Use communication tools in the starting first weeks while avoiding email as much as possible.

  2. Allow the team to have regular meetings or organize fun activities for virtual teams that will allow them to get to know each other.

  3. Organize meetups for new joiners and stakeholders to help them understand the working culture easily.

  4. You can also allocate a buddy to help team members in a smooth transition into their roles.

Read: SaaS user onboarding

  • Stay Agile

We all know how agile has become the predominant method for web app development. The reason behind its popularity is the flexibility of work it offers to the developers to meet the customer's requirements. It allows them to adapt to the frequent changes in the user's priorities easily.

Read: Agile software development

And while managing a distributed team, micromanaging can become a huge problem to deal with. Although it is natural to be tempted to bug them with regular updates on the progress, it can negatively affect their productivity and performance in person.

To overcome this, all you have to do is align short meetings where each of the team members gets a chance to share progress and inform others about what they will be working on next.

Read: Stages of the Agile Development Lifecycle

The project manager can also share deadlines or strategies during this time leading the team to be flexible all the time.

  • Set Realistic Expectations

The expectations that you have with the team should not be overboard. To achieve that you can set realistic expectations and goals for the team that can be reached with ease. It will stop the team from being burned out during project development.

For that, you can choose a scope-specific method that will help you set achievable goals for every phase of the software development life cycle.

Read: Best Practices for Unit Testing in Java

For a better understanding, SDLC has seven phases, including:

  • Planning

  • Defining requirements

  • Designing and prototyping

  • Software development

  • Testing

  • Deployment

  • Operations and maintenance

Depending on the methodologies used for software development, you can either merge or divide these phases to suit the project’s convenience. Most importantly, referencing all the phases of the project helps you to set attainable goals for the team and faster delivery.

  • KPIs to Monitor Performance

The project management method you will use can highly influence the key performance indicators of your team. These KPIs will act as an indicator of the performance of the team.

If you follow the scrum project management framework, where the development team delivers short yet important results, you need to keep the KPIs short and effective. While, in the case of agile project development where your distributed team will deliver the project in one go, then have long-term KPIs.

Read: Best Web Application Technologies and Frameworks

Having a distributed team instead of an in-house one, it becomes more important to keep every KPI focused on the result that was process-focuses before.

Conclusion

A distributed team management needs a thorough, well-established approach. Initially, such a model can seem complex and challenging, but with ideal project management, tools, techniques, and development service providers, you can get quick deliveries of web app elements and acquire remarkable results.

As stated in one of the previous sections, a distributed development team enables productiveness, agility, and flexibility. Moreover, searching for skilled professionals without wasting time and effort on in-house training becomes more manageable.

The technologies and tools to track the progress, performance and success rate of the team’s workflow make distributed team management effective. These tech tools also reduce the risks associated with remote services. Nevertheless, by hiring a distributed team or outsourcing the project, your business will thrive like never before.
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Posted by Mahipal Nehra | Posted at 29 Jul, 2022 Web