MANAGING A REMOTE SOFTWARE ENGINEERING TEAM

Distributed Team

It goes without saying, that managing a remote engineering team is largely different from managing an on-site engineering team due to the unique variables remote work brings to the fray. The widespread belief that managing onsite engineering teams is easier is only premised on the fact that with onsite teams our fears can be easily verified and workers can be closely monitored.

The uniqueness of remote work and the fact that managing remote engineering teams requires novel techniques and readjustments might be a turn off for many companies, however, the fact is remote work is totally worth the hassle.

Why remote work then?

Apart from the fact that it is the logical revolution of digital knowledge, the truth is everyone is already working remotely to varying degrees, whether it is attending to work emails in the coffee place, traveling for conferences or making work calls from home we all do some work activity away from our offices. Remote work is dynamic and enables the optimization of daily life. When done right it can enhance productivity, provide more inclusion, and general happiness. Beyond the previously stated benefits companies can access wider talent pools, increase diversity which is important to ensure that services have larger reaches and lastly it gives international talent, international careers.

Remote Team Video Conference

Knowing the difficulties and challenges managing remote engineering teams poses, the conversation has to progress to the various techniques that can be utilized to ensure effective management of remote engineering teams. The techniques are broad and try to take into cognizance the various goals different companies have, some companies are goal-oriented and want people who can work under limited supervision and bring optimum results, others want to entrench the company culture on remote teams and as much as possible give them the same experience onsite teams have. The three techniques below speak to companies who might want to maximize remote team experience;

Three techniques to help you maximize your remote team experience
  1. Culture: One popular thought about managing remote engineering teams, posits a total shift in company culture when a remote team comes on board. It is considered vital that all members of the company are exposed to the same experience. By assuming everyone is remote when one remote worker comes on board, there can be a progressive shift in how remote work is perceived, and this can increase productivity. A way to expose all staffers to the same experience involves, for example, asking onsite teammates to join meetings from their own workstations, instead of crowding in conference rooms, this makes the few remote workers not to feel like they are outliers but are effectively part of the company in the same way and it doesn’t unnecessarily put them on the spotlight during those meetings.

2. Information: It is important that everything is in writing, as much as possible. Managing remote engineering teams effectively requires effective communication and in line with giving remote teams the same experience as onsite teams, it is vital that they are privy to important information or at least those onsite team members have access to. The way to ensure a community is to ensure there is no information asymmetry, this shows the much-needed trust that can make remote teams deliver the goods.

The second angle is more tailored to companies who utilize the services of freelancers and care little about integration and more about goals. Companies that are goal and productivity-oriented can understandably find it difficult trusting remote teams except they deploy spycams and espionage micromanagement which is almost impossible and that is why the most essential thing is TRUST. It is hard to glean out the motivation levels of people from sporadic video calls since people can always put up a show for 1 hour or more and that is why the following are important

3. Hiring: It is crucial to hire doers and people you can trust, people who are goal-oriented, and can move as fast as products evolve. Truthfully, hiring remote workers can be difficult. That is why it is clever to outsource hiring to companies who have large pools of software engineering talent like Africave, the company can dig into its pool and find the best quality workers who are tailored for specific companies and projects. Since hiring right can be tedious and cost demanding it saves costs to outsource the process to companies who carry out the vetting process for free and have to stake their reputations on developers, the chances of failure are slim. Understanding Trust; Trust is non-binary, it is not always the case that you trust or you don’t, it’s often the case that you trust people with one thing more than you trust with others. Trust is also dynamic and can be earned and lost at different moments. That is why trust has to be systemized through the following mediums;

  • Through process
  • Explicit and transparent communication
  • Decentralizing decisions
  • Understanding cultural differences
  • Making it a duty to meet people face to face as much as possible, (through team retreats, project kick-offs, etc)
Proper remote team management breeds productivity

People are fast and capable unless they’re obstructed, while supervision and management can be great the reality is it can lessen productivity, and some experts in the field suggest a “Single-player mode” approach and to crystallize this one has time imagine what it’s like playing single-player mode on Nintendo and having to wait for (3) hours to be told by a supervisor if you’ve done well. The game optimizes user enjoyment by systematizing the process and setting clear goals. To effectively manage remote engineering teams, the “single player” can be highly effective especially for freelancers. It is important to set clear and unambiguous goals, which can enable self-evaluation, rely on systematized processes independent of the control of physical management, automate feedback, and allow remote engineering teams to find paths themselves.

 When the right processes are in place, it obviates the need for an infinite amount of trust. Trust doesn’t have to be applied directly but can apply indirectly to systems and processes put in place to effectively manage remote engineering teams, so if it is hard trusting people, flexible systems of accountability can be trusted, which can still ensure optimal performance and input from remote engineering teams.