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How to manage a remote software development project with remote software developers?

Offshore software development requires working with a remote team or even multiple remote teams. Each remote team could be working on a dedicated project or assigned to multiple projects based on their availability. 

This makes managing a remote team of software developers difficult and complicated. However, it is only complicated, not impossible. There are several ways of managing any remote team. Remote teams can be persuaded to accomplish the same milestones that working-from-office teams will. 

Here are some approaches to managing remote developers working on software development projects. 

1. Grooming a remote-first mentality

Remote software development often stalls because either side of the stakeholders finds it difficult to adopt a remote-first mentality. A remote-first mentality means that every member of the team is willing to approach remote work as a productive means to get things done. The physical absence, virtual meetings, and use of online communication and collaboration tools all become normal and accepted. 

In fact, companies like WordPress, Buffer, Hotjar, have all adopted remote working and are going the distance in their innovation and growth. A remote-first mentality requires either side to accept that the team will not be meeting each other in person or working together in the same room. Also, work would get done through online communication and collaboration channels. This mentality would go a long way in working together through a virtual setup communication and collaboration happen through web tools and mobile apps. 

2. Equip the team with collaboration tools

Collaboration is key to the success of a remote software development project. Without collaboration, the team’s efforts will be fragmented without a singular focus. Collaboration ensures that the entire team and its efforts are compiled and unified as a single file heading towards a shared goal. 

Also, collaboration ensures that team members are able to focus on the task in which they specialize. It is a tool that brings out the best in each team member and maximizes the output of the team as a whole. Needless to say, successful software development projects have in their arsenal state-of-the-art communication and collaboration tools that bring together team members irrespective of their location and role. 

3. Schedule regular catch-ups

Working from the office gives the opportunity to meet and greet any team member spontaneously. In a remote software development project, it may not be possible for the client to always reach out and connect with a developer as and when needed. Whenever updates are required, or when a new development is to be discussed, it is necessary to schedule meetings. 

Ideally, such meetings should be scheduled so that every stakeholder is aware and has some certainty as to when the next meeting would be. It also brings some structure to discussions ensuring that every team member is available for the discussion. It is a productive way of running software projects while team members are located in remote destinations. 

The regular catch-ups can also double up as timelines within which specific tasks are to be completed and reported. This ensures that the project progresses in a smooth fashion without any undue delays. 

4. Make information easy to access

Remote software development projects fail when information is not easily accessible or shared with the stakeholders. In an ideal world, access to information should be democratized in a remote work environment. It ensures that developers, QA professionals, and project managers are all on one page as to client expectations and are able to deliver high-quality output without any shortcomings. It also eliminates rework as mistakes are avoided.

An ideal way to make information accessible is to use cloud storage with common folders that all stakeholders can access. The edit option can be reserved for specific personnel to avoid multiple reiterations to documents and assets. The common view access itself would bring down dependency on each other and help maximize the productivity of the remote team.

5. Set up a feedback loop

As much as discovery calls are necessary before starting a project, it is equally important to set up a feedback loop once the project has started. A feedback loop ensures that developers are getting the right feedback for improvement and remedies to their operational challenges throughout the course of the project. 

Be it technical or tactical, the feedback loop ensures that quality output is obtained from the team without fail. Without a feedback loop, the developers may not be able to deliver work that meets expectations. Also, they might remain in the dark as to what is expected of them in everyday operations.

6. Manage time zones

Every remote team will have team members belonging to diverse time zones. The US and Asia have time zones where one team may not even get to see the other team unless one team stays up late at night or wakes up early before daybreak. 

The point here is, while scheduling catch-ups or planning huddles, it is necessary to manage time zones of all team members. The meeting should be scheduled at a time that is a middle ground for all. No single team belonging to a specific time zone should be forced to work at a specific time zone. The entire software development team should find a middle ground where all team members can attend the meeting comfortably. 

Managing a remote software development team: Final thoughts

Managing a remote software development team is vastly different from managing an in-house team. The distance definitely can make things challenging, but, with the right processes in place, they can be overcome. 

A remote team of software developers can actually achieve a lot more than an in-house team if they are equipped with the right set of tools and workflows. Remote teams have been around for a long time, however, it is the pandemic that accelerated its adoption and turned it into a mainstream work practice.

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