The last several years saw a huge rise in the number of employees working remotely – both in software development and many other industries. Increasing interest in searching for skilled developers abroad and an abundance of innovative communication tools contributed to this trend. But is working remotely in software development projects actually efficient? As usual, there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. The key issue is communication. However, one thing is for sure – developing software in distributed teams is and feels different. Such collaborations do require special approach to make them really work. But it can be done.
Software development outsourcing, which pairs software developers from countries such as Poland with foreign companies searching for skilled professionals, has been on the rise for years – a trend well-reflected in the ever-increasing global spending on information technology services, which peaked at $ 933 billion in 2017 and is set to grow even higher.
Of course, as software development outsourcing becomes more popular, so does the practice of working in teams distributed all over the world, or, in the broader context, the idea of working remotely. Giants such as Dell are planning for as much as half of its entire workforce to work remotely in a not-so-distant future. Working remotely saves employees’ time spent commuting. Such employees are also reportedly happier. But does it translate into better products and smoother projects in the context of software development? Only if you take the challenges of working remotely into consideration, which are mostly related to communication – in just about each and every aspect of this concept.
Regardless of what kind of software product one develops, it goes without saying that every stakeholder should be on the same page regarding the vision of what the final product should be. But many project managers don’t realize that creating this common context for the product is more difficult in distributed teams. When your production team is dispersed, there is little to no small talk regarding the product. In order to make up for it and before you establish clear and repetitive rules for communication, it’s not a bad thing to somewhat overdo it and have your teammates talk to each other a lot using various video conferencing and text- and graphic-based tools.
The initial part of the project is crucial in establishing a common vision of the product as well as making sure that everyone understands their role. It’s more true than ever when your team members can’t see each other face to face too often.
However, this period of unbalanced and tight communication can’t last forever. In no time, your team members will function in Scrum teams, communicating on a less frequent, but regular basis using various Agile approaches, revolving their work around milestones. Once you focus on mid- and long-term goals of your project, it’s necessary to give your employees more freedom in completing their assignments and coming up with new creative ideas.
Plan for overlap time
Both the initial and subsequent parts of the development will go much more smoothly if you can ensure significant overlap time. The term overlap time refers to a period of time when all of your team members can be active at the very same time. Depending on the location of your employees and differences in time zones, it may be more or less difficult. However, do try to increase the overlapping hours by as much as you can. Use the Time Zone Converter to calculate time differences between various locations.
Project management is the key
As you can see, communicating efficiently in a team full of remote workers, regardless of time differences, requires the project manager to move around carefully, switching between periods of relatively tight control to more creative freedom without ever letting the project go astray. Therefore, a skilled project manager makes even more difference in ensuring a successful delivery of the product. They make sure that every meeting has a clear purpose to ensure maximum efficiency and doesn’t feel like a waste of time to stakeholders.
At Software Mind, both project managers and developers are well-versed in applying communication skills and various good practices to make Scrum meetings go smoothly.
The hidden power of collaborative tools
Tools make our life easier. In case of managing remote workers in software development projects, they are indispensable. After all, it is their emergence that made remote collaboration possible in the first place. Today, making wise choices in this department helps each team member focus on what is their main responsibility.
At Software Mind, we have put a lot of effort in determining the best set of tools for software development projects. Depending on a client, we may use tools such as Jira, Slack, Trello, Hackpad, WebEx or Basecamp.
At the end of the day…
it’s all about recruitment. One of the reasons why projects developed in distributed teams often prove extremely successful, despite the hardships inherent to the nature of working remotely, is that by expanding your search for skilled experts worldwide, you get access to excellence you won’t find in such abundance in close vicinity. These are skilled managers and developers that can see the big picture of the project and act accordingly that make collaborative development go smoothly. Find a skilled team like this and reap the benefits of outsourcing without having to worry about communication.
Software Mind is a Polish software development company, which has been providing quality outsourcing services for years now. Here, at Software Mind, it’s all about the combination of the very best Polish software developers and our knowledge of how to use their potential in various outsourcing scenarios. We have been accumulating and drawing inspiration from all of our experiences and clients to become the company we are today. You can read more about our approach to efficient outsourcing in our Software Outsourcing Toolbox section. Or you can simply contact us to talk about your next exciting project.
 What Leaders Need To Know About Remote Workers study by TINYpulse