The importance of documentation for Remote Teams — Part I

Marko Vasiljevic
Mar 22, 2020 · 3 min read

As Andreas Klinger writes in his extremely insightful and practical post “Managing Remote Teams — A Crash Course”, a remote team needs roughly 5x process in comparison to a co-located team.

Process can sometimes be misinterpreted as bureaucracy, when it’s really trying to be the opposite of that. Good process is a set of clear rules and expectations that are easily accessible and easily followed. For a remote team, where you want to enable people to be as autonomous as possible, good process is essential.

Over the last month, we have been furiously documenting how we do things on our team (i.e. process), and I’ll be the first one to admit, it’s been a lot of work. However, we are starting to see results and as time goes by and the team grows, these benefits will grow exponentially.

The three key areas that we have focused on to start are: onboarding, management/career progression and hiring. In this post, I’ll dig deeper into onboarding.

Onboarding

Setting a new team member up for success from day one is critical. Onboarding colors how the new person perceives the team and the company. If their first contact with the company is a disorganized mess, they are much more likely to adopt bad habits which will be harder to break later. First impressions do matter! So, focus on onboarding first and get it right.

Here are some of the key areas we cover in our documentation:

Intro to the company and the team

How we work

Getting Set up

In this section, we tell people all the tactical details around getting set up. Here are the key areas we cover:

After the general introduction to the team/company, how we work and basic setup and information, each sub-team continues with its own specific onboarding. Let’s have a look at Engineering team’s onboarding in more detail.

Engineering Onboarding

Here are the areas that are covered in more detail:

This is our first pass of the onboarding documentation and it’s constantly getting better. As the team grows, it’s critical that each new person coming in is able to improve on this documentation, leaving it better for the next hire.

In Part II of this post, we’ll talk more about documenting management practices and career progression.

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