14 min read
How to Manage a Remote Development Team
A large talent pool of skilled workers in your niche at a moderate price. Sounds good? It’s what’s inspiring the offshore software development boom for startups and agencies. But all the good stuff comes with a question: how to manage a remote development team?
Managing a geographically dispersed team of developers can be challenging, especially if you’ve never done it before.
In this article, we’ll outline the best practices for managing remote teams effectively and confidently. These tips will help you maximize the benefits and reduce the challenges of your offshore software development project.
But first, let’s remember why you’re here.
Remote Development Team: the Benefits
Remote work is booming in software development owing to the following company benefits:
- A pool of exceptional talent. The remote work model has eliminated geographical barriers to hiring. You can now tap into an extensive global network of remote professionals with specific expertise.
- Diverse perspectives. Remote development teams bring together experts with different cultural backgrounds, experiences, and thought processes. This boosts creativity and knowledge sharing, which ups the quality of work done.
- Time and cost savings. Starting out with a remote team saves time and resources when compared to setting up an in-house team and office. Additionally, offshore software development gives you access to talent at a lower rate.
Still, managing a remote team — especially offshore — requires a different skill set from traditional management. Knowing what to expect will increase your chances of success.
How to Manage Remote Developers: Challenges to Be Aware Of
Despite the apparent benefits of hybrid teams, Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index shows that leaders long for a return to traditional office culture. The reasons are multiple:
- Lack of physical supervision. The same research indicates that 85% of employers struggle to trust employee productivity with the shift to hybrid and fully remote schedules.
- Communication obstacles. Working with a remote team from different countries and time zones makes scheduling more challenging.
- Differences in laws and regulations. NDAs and intellectual property laws vary between countries, so managers spend more time drafting and enforcing agreements and safeguarding sensitive information.
Fortunately, with the right strategies in place, you can overcome these obstacles and “skim the cream” of offshore development while your competitors are still hesitating.
With that in mind, here are our 8 top tips for managing remote teams well.
How to Manage Remote Developers on Your Team: 8 Practices
The challenges of managing a remote development team may seem overwhelming, but as we’ll show you, it doesn’t have to be so. With these 8 top practices in your management toolkit, you’ll be much better placed to navigate your offshore software development project successfully.
1. Establish a comprehensive onboarding process
Your ideal development time may be short, but diving headfirst into coding is risky. Despite the physical distance, it’s crucial to give developers a complete understanding of your company’s culture, values, and mission.
Start by introducing new remote developers to your in-house team departments and who they’ll report to. Make sure your remote employees have access to all the internal resources they’ll need to be effective from day one.
Additionally, get familiar with your newcomers’ preferred working styles, software development tools, and schedules. This will help you organize work better for a smoother collaboration.
Overall, onboarding builds a foundation of transparency and reliability: exactly what you want from your team members once work starts. When you’ve completed this step, you can move forward with the core of your work process.
2. Clearly define the working process
With organizational routine covered, it’s time to introduce your project guidelines to your remote employees and set your expectations. Clearly define your project goals, including the expected outcomes, timelines, milestones, and quality standards. This helps your remote workers understand the project’s interdependencies so they can prioritize tasks accordingly.
Remote work also requires more transparency and visibility. When outlining your process, highlight which deadlines and dependencies are the most important. This encourages remote teams to proactively address any issues, preventing delays and setbacks.
These are all general practices that you’ll need to adapt to your specific software development methodology and development process.
3. Use effective software development methodology
Many offshore teams use Agile development. In this setup, people work closely together in short iterations (sprints), usually lasting one to two weeks. Agile is a good option from a management point of view, as it promotes all the benefits of working with remote teams:
- Increased collaboration. Agile methodology fosters communication among remote developers through regular meetings such as daily stand-ups, sprint planning, and retrospectives.
- Progress visibility. Burndown charts are a standard Agile technique for tracking progress over time. They show the amount of work completed versus remaining work, allowing a remote team to visualize your project’s status and identify any bottlenecks.
- Flexibility. Agile features such as sprints, transparency, regular inspection, and adaptation all make your development more flexible. This is particularly useful for remote teams working in different time zones or with multiple responsibilities.
Agile isn’t just a technical framework for breaking down projects into milestones: it’s a paradigm shift that enables you to manage remote teams effectively. Getting to grips with this (or your remote team’s) methodology will make everything go more smoothly.
4. Adjust the work to different time zones
Juggling time zones can look complicated, but in fact, different work hours can be advantageous. How about leveraging around-the-clock efficiency to maximize developer productivity? When a developer is working in a time zone ahead of yours, this gives you a window of time to review their work and provide concise feedback. In contrast, developers have more time to focus on coding in the morning and then join the meetings with your team in the afternoon and evening.
You can also use technology to tailor work to different time zones. Asynchronous project management tools, for example, can facilitate collaboration among remote teams without needing real-time interaction. We’ll delve into these tools in more detail later on.
Still, asynchronous software doesn’t fully replace the need for regular real-time check-ins, which require overlapping “golden hours” — at least three to four hours — to keep your remote team on track.
5. Encourage frequent communication
Maintaining a structured meeting schedule is key to keeping your developers on the same page. Set up a rhythm of regular stand-up project meetings, making sure they’re short, relevant, and frequent. Wherever possible, encourage cameras and face-to-face interaction to bring a personal touch to your technical environment.
Communication shouldn’t all be formal or planned. Encourage non-work related communication since it can effectively combat isolation. Allow your team members the joy of inside jokes, as this will boost their creativity and sense of connection with colleagues.
6. Use the right collaboration tools
Technology has immensely facilitated remote collaboration, meaning that there’s a wealth of tools available to make your management work easier. We can categorize remote project management tools into several main categories according to the task they help with. Here’s a summary of the main ones:
|Category||Name of software||Main functions|
|Task management||Jira||Jira offers project management, issue tracking, and report and analytics features. It supports Agile methodology.|
|Trello||Trello helps organize tasks using boards, lists, and cards. Users can assign and move cards across project stages and set due dates.|
|Asana||Asana helps with task creation, assignment, and tracking, with the option to organize tasks into projects, sections, and subtasks.|
|Time tracking||Toggle||Toggl allows remote developers to track time spent on tasks and projects. As a manager, you can assign tasks and analyze project performance through detailed reports.|
|Text-first communication||Slack||Slack provides various features like channels, direct messages, file sharing, and integrations with other tools. It also has search capabilities and options for a personalized user experience.|
|Video conferencing tools||Zoom||Zoom supports online meetings with screen sharing, virtual backgrounds, and chat messaging. Software developers can schedule and host virtual meetings, webinars, and events, record and transcribe meetings.|
|Google Meet||Google Meet lets users conduct video and audio calls with up to 250 participants, share screens, record meetings, and send text messages during a meeting.|
|File storage||Google Drive||Well-known cloud-based file storage, sharing, collaboration, syncing, and search.|
|Code management||GitHub||GitHub allows developers to track, review, and comment on code changes and store Git repositories. It also has a built-in issue-tracking system and enables community collaboration.|
|GitLab||GitLab provides software development teams with version control features, tools for implementing CI/CD pipelines, a platform for tracking and managing issues, project management tools, and code review capabilities.|
|Bitbucket||Bitbucket offers functions such as version control, CI/CD, code review, issue tracking, project management, and integration with other tools for software development teams.|
|Security management||Cloudflare||Cloudflare’s DDoS protection, WAF, and bot management feature help pinpoint vulnerabilities and protect code against outside threats.|
Some managers add screen tracking software to their project tech stack, but we don’t recommend it. While you may want to monitor remote teams closely, micromanagement erodes trust, which is a foundation of your remote developers’ productivity.
7. Avoid micromanagement
A successful manager focuses on managing processes, not just personnel. This is a core difference between good and bad management. As author Harry Chambers describes in “My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide,” micromanagers typically exhibit six common behaviors:
- They dictate, manipulate, and control others’ time while guarding their own time.
- They control how work gets done and dismiss others’ knowledge, experiences, and ideas.
- They use their authority to control others.
- They require frequent and unnecessary status updates and reports.
- They create process bottlenecks by requiring everyone to seek their approval before moving forward.
- They struggle to delegate tasks; when they do, they micromanage or take back control at the first sign of trouble.
In summary, micromanagers focus on limitations instead of recognizing accomplishments and hard work. This undermines employee confidence, motivation, and pride, leaving workers feeling undervalued and demotivated.
Fortunately, there’re management practices that can give you visibility while avoiding the trap of micromanagement.
8. Stay attentive and keep an open mind
When you prioritize the well-being of your team members as individuals, not just workers, they’re more likely to be genuinely involved in your project. Strive to recognize employee birthdays and holidays and make time for casual conversations during virtual project meetings. Show appreciation for hard work with small presents and bonuses, such as T-shirts and mugs with your company’s logo. All of these things prove your real interest in your remote team members and increase engagement and productivity.
If appropriate, follow the Agile mindset, encouraging team members to take ownership of their work and make decisions independently. For example, prompt feedback on each iteration or sprint can enable a remote team to tweak their work without oversight. This means you can concentrate on managing processes instead of controlling every detail.
And how about training your remote team just like your in-house employees? This ups the skills they bring to your project. You could even attend some conferences together and then organize team-building sessions to help people get to know each other in a less formal setting.
These eight practices will go a long way to easing your shift to remote team management. Still, they’ll only be truly effective if your remote workers are already reliable. How can you be sure that’s the case?
Where Can You Find the Best Software Developers?
Even with the best management skills under your belt, finding time for the daunting task of recruitment can be difficult.
Outsourcing recruitment to an IT outstaffing service provider such as Expert Remote is a practical solution. We’re a vetted developer marketplace, or “virtual agency”, as one of our satisfied clients put it.
A vetted developer marketplace is an outsourcing approach that leverages a global talent pool. This model lets us hand-pick and verify developers and connect them with companies in need of their services.
Sign up to browse available developers
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Here are the main benefits of hiring through a vetted marketplace:
- This model uses a proprietary vetting process to assess critical soft and hard skills, meaning workers have the exact talent they need for your project.
- You save time and money on recruitment processes and contracts, as the platforms handle these aspects themselves.
- Remote team employees hired from these platforms focus solely on your project.
When hiring through a vetted marketplace, you’re only responsible for providing a list of requirements, attending interviews with pre-selected candidates, and selecting the best match.
Final Thoughts on How to Manage a Remote Team of Developers
Offshore development provides a host of benefits, including cost and time savings and improved productivity. Still, time zone differences and the perceived inconvenience of remote project management can feel daunting. Nevertheless, offshore development is more than worth it if you have the right management approach and the right IT staffing partner.
Expert Remote lightens your management burden by simplifying the recruitment and bridging your skills gaps. We scour the globe to source the best remote developers and IT professionals, meticulously verifying their skills and accepting only the top 1% of applicants. Contact us if you’d like to hire a top-level developer in days, not months. We’ll search our community of pre-vetted software developers and send you 3–5 candidates, then handle the admin so you can focus on getting work done.
Remote tech teams & the future of work blog
Remote tech teams & the future of work blog
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