Tricks and Tips for Managing a Remote Team

Hiring a remote team is not a new concept in our digital age. A forecast by the World Economic Forum labeled virtual teams as one of the biggest drivers of transformation in the workplace. Similarly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics approximates that 43% of people work remotely, up from 19% in 2003. Despite the growing popularity and cost-benefits of outsourcing for your development projects, digital entrepreneurs, and start-up founders still doubt the applicability of this idea. It’s relatively common but understandable to have concerns regarding:

  • What if delivery is delayed?
  • How do I know that the remote developers are dedicated to the project?
  • Will the team fulfill the project’s requirements? And how can I ensure they do?
  • How transparent are the processes?
  • Are the developers misusing resources?

If you’ve been burdened by similar questions, you can find solace in this post — these queries can be addressed through a clear communication channel and a well-structured workflow. By adhering to the tips highlighted under the 4 categories below, you can effectively manage a remote team and achieve the desired outcomes of the development project.

Always have a game plan! Before hiring a team of remote developers or even beginning the development project, ensure you have a detailed plan to go — step back and view the project from a wider perspective, which incorporates all team members, client objectives, expected outcomes, and potential future risks. This assertion is reiterated by a Harvard Business Review case study in which the significance of having a strategy was emphasized. The piece claimed that formulating a strategy and sharing it with the members enhanced the collaboration in a remote team.

Managing a group of people from different regions, cultures, mindsets, and time zones can easily become chaotic. So how do you assemble a competent team and successfully manage a project? You can start by creating a detailed procedure, setting all the necessary rules, and implementing them. You may also collect data for the project, organizing it, and allocating specific tasks to all team members.

As you plan out your next project, don’t hesitate to do your homework and think things through. This will prevent you from getting sub-standard work, wasting valuable time, creating a ton of unnecessary stress, and spending too much money. Besides, being detailed increases your chances of tackling unexpected challenges as they arise.

Although the saying “A workman is known by his tools” was proposed long before the digital age, it’s still applicable for remote teams today. The proper collaboration tools can gel the team and work processes into one cohesive and functional unit. They include:

  • Developer tools - Most development teams use code management systems such as Bitbucket and GitHub to track changes and code collaboratively.
  • Communication tools such as WebEx, Skype, and Slack enable remote teams to screen share, share files, send instant messages, hold web conferences, and make video calls. (Please Note: It’s important to ensure that the communication software is convenient for both the developer and the client). An article by Forbes showed that 97% of employees and executives believe that the outcome of a project is affected by the team’s alignment.
  • Project management tools. These are tools such as JIRA that help you manage the entire project by tracking daily tasks.
  • Time Tracking tools - Having a timesheet software will motivate the team to deliver and avoid unnecessary distractions. Optimal usage of time leads to increased team productivity since you can set clear objectives, review performance, and generally track their progress. One of the productivity tracking tools that will let you take control of your time at work is PomoDoneApp. This application uses Pomodone Technique which divides your tasks into 25-minutes intervals (pomodoros) after each you are supposed to take a short break. Regarding this method, after four pomodoros you should take a long break and then repeat the session. This task management technique imposes on you time estimation you have to devote on each assignment and therefore makes you be more focused.
  • Design tools such as Zeplin allow users to get involved in the project and discuss possible adjustments to ongoing work.

We all know that you’re only as good as your team. Therefore, the group of developers you hire has a significant role in the success of a remotely managed development project. If you are a potential client, invest in a team of developers who are trustworthy and highly motivated — the importance of these two attributes cannot be stressed enough!

  • Trust - Very few of us, if any, would willingly transfer our life-savings to a random group of a stranger. Why? We simply don’t trust them. Similarly, clients need a reassurance that their investment/development project is going according to plan. This is achieved by having a trustworthy team of remote developers. While choosing a team, always incorporate the aspect of trust. Ask yourself, are they transparent in their communication?
  • Motivation - Envision a remote team that has a strong self-organization, makes independent decisions, and is willing to invest all their energy into your project. Sounds ideal right? Well, you can motivate your remote team through positive corporate values, giving them a chance to showcase their skills, and recognizing their abilities. In fact, the Entrepreneur claimed that unmotivated employees cost organizations up to $550 billion annually due to lost productivity. Moreover, motivated teams are often ready to compromise for the optimal outcome of a project, and who wouldn’t want that?

A lack of transparency in work processes is a fear exhibited by most people working remotely. The inability to physically monitor the activities of developers may lead to negative assumptions and prejudices. As much as we would like to be optimistic and trust the workers to deliver in a transparent and timely manner, there is always a lingering shred of doubt. The good news is that there are techniques and practices that can help establish transparent processes.

  • Clients are often faced with the challenge of collaborating with developers in a different time zone. To avoid/mitigate the effects of this conundrum, you can organize overlapping times in a workday to promote interaction.
  • Use a Scrum board - This enhances transparency by ensuring team members can communicate regarding the backlog, manage their priorities, and keep track of ongoing tasks. You can also use SaaS software to make the scrum board easily accessible to all project members.
  • Hold frequent meeting - By utilizing communication tools such as Skype, members of a remote team can share their progress and achievements in daily meetings. One way to do this is to run short daily standup meetings where each team members shortly discusses their current and future work items. Standups can be easily orchestrated for remote teams by using tools such as Standuply.
  • Shorten the Timeframe of Tasks - Dividing the scope of tasks enhances the flexibility of the project and allows managers to keep a productive pace.

Although managing a remote/virtual team seems tough, it’s solvable with a strategy, the right tools, a collaborative team, and transparent work processes. Whether you are a client, developer, or project manager, the above tips (especially trust and motivation) may prove instrumental to your success. Finally, don’t forget to communicate, communicate, communicate! Human beings are a social species and clear communication leads to a better understanding and consequently productivity.

This article was prepared by one of the specialists cooperating with React Rangers. Are you facing any issues with your remote team? Tell us how do you handle the challenges of being a manager of a remote team. Visit our website for more information about how you can boost your career with React Rangers.

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