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The power of distributed teams in software development

24.05.2017

Software Mind

There is a reason why so many companies that use software development outsourcing end up working with and managing distributed teams. While some may consider it a necessary evil, more and more companies greatly appreciate the enormous benefits it gives. Of course, that is, as long as they are able to avoid all of the problems that come pre-packed with it. Find out why and when distributed teams are just what you need to develop great software.

Your shiny new software project has started this month. Everything is going very smoothly. Your team of developers consists of skilled and cost-efficient individuals, since you were able to expand your recruitment to pretty much the entire world. Some of them have rare skill sets that you simply couldn’t find in your home market. A work is being done efficiently and (almost) literally around the clock as team members from all over the world can work at different time due to time zone  differences. Thanks to that, your project is likely to be completed faster than solutions developed by your competitions, speeding up your time to market.

Sounds like a dream? It’s very much a reality for some companies working with distributed teams.

Benefits of distributed teams in software development

The moment you accept the idea of distributed teams, that is, team members working on a single software project remotely, you gain access to many privileges.

For example, you can hire software developers from countries such as Poland that offer an excellent return on investment. You may also be able to find rare breed of specialists that you have failed to find close by. As a matter of fact, getting access to just about any niche expert becomes as easy as it will ever get. This larger and more diverse labor pool makes scaling your team much easier. All of this in turn may allow you to create a more flexible and cost-efficient development machine that gets the job done faster.

There is no point in dwelling on the selling points of distributed teams anymore as they are quite self-explanatory. Instead, let’s address the elephant in the room.

Distributed teams have their flaws…

Indeed, any company that makes a decision to set up a distributed software development team needs to realize that it’s not necessarily a walk in the park. Some of the most important problems to address include:

  • Communication

Since most of software projects today use some form of Agile methodologies to make the development process more flexible and efficient, communication has become one of the most crucial aspects. For example, stand-up meetings allow the team to identify various problems early on. The fact that they usually take place in one room, as team members stand and look each other in the eyes, means that they are short, productive and straight-to-the-point. It’s difficult to re-create such an environment with a distributed team. This example, more than anything else, shows just how important non-verbal communication may be in a field such as software development. Solutions such as Google Hangouts may be helpful here, though it’s never going to be the same.

  • Interpretation

The more complicated a software project is, the most likely it is for various team members to interpret some of its requirements differently. Things get particularly difficult when the project involves advanced interfaces and the design team works remotely.

Differences in time zones may force some developers to skip important design sessions meant to lay out details of the user interface. This is often dealt with by either dividing the topic of interface into smaller bits of information, or follow-up instructions via emails and other means. Typical results of such maneuvers include team members misinterpreting requirements and having to start all over again.

  • Cooperation

Core hours is the time when all team members commit to working on the essential part of the software project and put all administrative tasks aside. This approach can improve velocity, but it requires all of the scattered team members to get together at the same time. When the time zone difference is too great, establishing regular core hours becomes an exercise in futility. There isn’t really a way around it. Core hours may be limited, or you may simply focus on software development outsourcing destinations located relatively closely. For European clients as well as the U.S., Poland has the potential to become a place like this since the time difference is relatively insignificant compared to other traditional outsourcing destinations.

…but with fine management they all become challenges

Of course, none of the problems described above cannot be solved with the right approach. Otherwise, distributed teams would not have become so popular with companies engaged in software development outsourcing. Having worked with many partners as part of a team like this, Software Mind has developed the Agile toolbox – a set of best practices meant to tackle all kinds of common issues with outsourcing. All of them has to do with problems that typically occur in distributed teams. The Agile for outsourcing and Flexible Scope Management tools make it easier to clearly define project requirements. So do the Right Communication Channels. The MVP is a testament to our ability to efficiently work with ever-changing scopes and short development cycles. And there’s more where that came from.

Making distributed teams work – an expertise in and of itself

The peculiar conditions of working in distributed teams may cause troubles even to seasoned developers. It takes a team that has actual experience in working remotely to truly get the best out of this approach. We wouldn’t go too far by saying that making distributed teams work is an ability in its own rights. If you are interested in software development outsourcing, you should definitely consider including that criterion in your requirements.

Are you interested in software development outsourcing and consider making full use of the benefits of distributed teams? Contact us and let us know all about your next exciting software project!


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