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How to Effectively Manage Your Remote Development Team?
15 min.

Due to COVID-19, everyone has realized the convenience and benefits of remote work worldwide. Some vast global companies have implemented permanent (or at least long-term) remote work policies, including Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.

Following the Owl labs research, it has shown that 16% of companies worldwide work entirely remotely.
Remote work is a cost-optimization method, and proper management has been proven to raise workers’ productivity levels.

programmer relief after finding out that coronavirus transmitted via human interaction

ProCoders specialists have worked remotely for years, so we gathered a lot of experience in the remote management sphere. We have seen different methods used by our clients, and during the whole time working with them, we have collected the best ones. This article will tell you everything we learned about remote work.

So, how are companies managing remote development teams achieve good results?

Examples of successful remote companies/startups

Many companies have successfully managed remote development teams that have produced incredible projects. Among such companies are Zapier, Automattic, and 1Password; their entire workforce works remotely, some of the most successful ones. So it only makes sense to draw inspiration from some of these examples and learn how to manage a remote development team.

Zapier

The only time the global work automation company, Zapier had its entire workforce together was in 2012, when the co-founders lived in the same flat. As of 2020, over 300 employees worked across 28 different countries.

man says 'one does not simply transfer to international business'

Wade Foster boils identifies the three most apparent wins of remote work as tapping into a global talent pool, reducing expenses, and employees achieving better focus. By understanding how to manage remote developers on your team properly, you, too, can replicate these benefits.

Automattic

Automattic is the company behind some of the most popular software products in the world: WordPress, WooCommerce, Tumblr, Longreads, Simplenote, etc. Automattic has over 1,400 employees from across 80 countries speaking 99 different languages, all working remotely!

The Automattic model relies upon the strength of constant active communication across teams to keep its business running round-the-clock. Part of the ‘Automattic Creed’ for the company’s employees says, “I will communicate as much as possible because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.”

Joda says that communication is the key

1Password

The workforce behind 1Password numbers over 250 individuals, with almost everyone working remotely as full-time employees or contractors. This has been so for all 14+ years of its existence.

Typifying how to manage a remote development team, 1Password also recognizes the role of communication and collaboration and how they could be huge challenges to remote work. Hence, it invests in tools that enable collaboration while also setting clear expectations from the start.

A woman is taking advice

Suppose these successful companies can build a whole business model that rests entirely on remote work. In that case, it stands to reason that all it takes to make a remote software development team achieve its goals is to have proper management.

How are these companies able to achieve this? But, more importantly, how can you implement effective processes for managing remote development teams? The detailed tips below are quite instructive.

It starts with onboarding

The onboarding stage is critical because it sets the tone for the rest of the project, and it will affect how fast your specialists will successfully develop and improve your project.

First, you need to communicate the project’s vision to the developers. Ensure that the project’s goals, expectations, and objectives are clear to each person and that each person understands where and how they fit in: their duties and responsibilities. Have a detailed guideline at hand for this.

Let’s Check which Developer Fits You!

The next thing is to provide the team with the tools and resources they need to work. This may not include infrastructure and equipment, but at least it does include documentation, database, access, permissions, etc. This also includes providing developers with open work channels like Email, Online Tools, Video conferencing, Instant messaging, and Social media to ensure round-the-clock efficiency.

In addition, you need to clarify the work schedules. Of course, each person’s schedule can be customized according to their convenience, but should also be generally aligned with the pace of the project.

Use the right tools/software

Managing a remote development team is not about finding one magical solution or the perfect tool that solves all your remote work challenges. There’s probably not. Different tools have their roles in ensuring the success of the project. There are different kinds of tools for collaboration like for task tracking (Trello, Jira), holding meetings (Zoom, Google Meets), sharing code (CodeSandbox Live, CodePen), brainstorming (Podio, Redbooth), managing databases (Relational database, Network database), etc.

joke about zoom

In the case of ProCoders, our main instrument to ensure productive communication is Slack. This business application is not supposed to be used for personal purposes. It’s comfortable not only in terms of business communication but also in terms of discussing different issues: no matter which part of the world you are in – you can always see who is in their workplace and discuss developing problems in the branch dedicated to this topic and even call and share your screen any time you need it.

One great idea for managing remote developers on your team is to automate everything that can be automated. If the developers have to fulfill the same task more than two times, you should probably automate that. It allows the team members to focus on high-value tasks instead of mundane chores.

Maintain a formal work structure and hierarchy

Many companies new to remote work are still experimenting with different work models, tools, structures, and so on to find optimal ideals.

The good news is that you don’t have to entirely transform how you work, even though some innovation is inevitable. The traditional work structure and hierarchy have worked and can effectively manage remote developers on your team and create a strong work culture.

supervisor watch the work

That means having team members report to managers daily, tracking tasks assigned to subordinates during work hours, etc. The only difference between this and physical work is that the means of achieving this differs.

This improves accountability, a necessary aspect of work delivery that remote teams often find challenging. Collect updates about what each member has been and will work on to ensure everyone is on the same track.

If you improve Foster Accountability, there will be practically no other changes in your work structure.

Communication

This is perhaps the most critical factor in managing a remote development team. Communication makes remote development (or work, generally) successful.

However, the true value of communication is revealed in how it helps improve team members’ understanding of their responsibilities and each other. That means the presentation of work reports and the assignment of tasks both don’t count as proper communication.

Proper communication in the work context is engaging and makes team members feel valued. One-on-one interactions between the project manager and the developers ensure this. Listen to your developers voice their concerns, questions, and suggestions they may not be comfortable raising when every other person is present. Likewise, encourage the developers to maintain cordial interaction with each other.

lack of communication disturbs

In addition, try to avoid communication overload while trying to improve it. That is when you hold meetings so often that the essence of work is lost in unnecessary and unproductive gatherings.

You need an interplay of synchronous and asynchronous communication to keep the project running. Synchronous communication is live messaging or video conferencing when all parties are present and active. Emails are an example of asynchronous messaging when messages are intermittent, and a response is not mandated immediately.

In the ProCoders contract, it’s stated that our developers must respond to you within half an hour during their working hours. Even if a person is busy with some tasks, they can surely write that they will respond later.

ProCoders can advise you to use direct and accurate wording when communicating with your team. The more specific the tasks are set, and the more honest you are with your team, the more effective their work will be.

Take Advantage of Time Zone Differences

To take advantage of time zone differences, you must begin by hiring people who can work with minimal supervision for your remote development team. In particular, you can implement the agile project management methodology to break tasks into bits and assign them to different people to ensure continuous development. For this, there should be a main shared tool where each team member can look up their tasks as well as see what other people are up to. Such tools are Jira by Atlassian, Trello, Asana, ClickUp, etc.

At the same time, you need a lot of flexibility to manage time zone differences for your remote development team. Of course, you can’t be up 24/7. In this case, allow your team members to work anytime they please. And this is where employee productivity estimation comes into play. When evaluating an employee’s productivity, you must consider the tasks completed rather than the number of working hours. This also requires special managerial skills.

managing a remote development team with time difference

At ProCoders, we try to find overlap times for team members working in different time zones so that you can communicate with the entire team. For example, when a developer lives in a different time zone, which can be an obstacle to communication, we at ProCoders can change an employee’s working hours so that you’re more comfortable with it. When both of you are online, this time can be used for scheduling meetings, briefings, task assignments, and group assessments.

There’s also another option: you can set up the round-the-clock development. What does it mean? If you have your local team and you’re located in a different time zone, your local team will develop the project during their working hours when our developers are sleeping, and then, after their working day is finished, our developers will wake up and start their working day too! It’s a total win-win. This multiplies your gains, particularly in time-to-market.

Risk assessment and backup

What happens when a team member falls sick? Or if their computer breaks? Or if they are temporarily out of reach for any reason when their presence is desperately needed? Your answers to these questions determine your preparedness for managing a remote development team.

Before starting the project, it is essential to carry out a comprehensive assessment to identify risk factors in knowledge management, task assignment, geographical flexibility, cultural differences, technology/infrastructure setup, etc. Likewise, there should be a backup plan to keep the work on track when things go out of hand.

Some of the challenges that may come up include:

Lack of Time

Often, projects go over the estimate. One remedy for this has a pretty solid discovery phase. Filing in every detail at this stage has helped us at ProCoders with our remote development teams.

development plan for effective management meme

Lack of Money

Another aspect when the budget might go wrong. To optimize costs, it helps to hire remote developers from countries like Estonia or Croatia, where the cost of living is lower than in Western Europe or the US.

Lack of Reliability

Certain models of hiring developers for a remote development team attract more risks than others. For instance, freelancers may disappear midway through the project, causing intellectual property issues. However, software development outstaffing companies or simply dev shops, such as ProCoders, are properly registered and leashed by government laws and regulations.

Health Issues

We know how challenging it can be in terms of deadlines when an employee unexpectedly catches a cold and is unable to work. In our case, ProCoders employees can always focus on their health and take the time for recovery when it’s needed. We can provide our clients with employee replacements during this time, so it doesn’t affect the work progress much.

You should have a proper plan at the beginning of your project, as well as backup solutions if something goes wrong. A backup arrangement does not necessarily remedy the situation by making it go away. However, it must at least mitigate the impact of the situation. Adaptability is a critical success factor in software development.

man says he have a backup plan

Our team augmentation for HANDLE Global is a bright example of how ProCoders handles risk assessment and backup.

In 2020, client HANDLE was in the medical equipment sales business, providing online marketplaces where healthcare organizations could resell their outmoded medical equipment. When COVID hit, they saw their business opportunity differently: they needed a dedicated software development partner to expand their core offerings to meet market demand by developing a comprehensive tool for their clients.

ProCoders has been working with HANDLE’s specialists to ensure that the CCM’s system of editing modulus is as effective as possible. We rebuilt their infrastructure and redesigned their platforms so they could accommodate new tools being added.

We encountered minor difficulties, but we had a backup plan at the beginning of the project and backup solutions if something went wrong. As specialists in our field, we reacted quickly and efficiently. Learn more about this case study on our website!

Start your Discovery Phase with ProCoders today!

Organize hangouts/team-building activities

Whether a team is remote or physical, it helps that workers can bond beyond the scope of the project. However, remote teams find it difficult to replicate the ‘water cooler’ experiences that help employees working physically chat about non-work stuff. As a manager, one of your effective aims in managing a remote development team should be to improve camaraderie among your subordinates.

There might be a dedicated #watercooler channel on Slack or an equivalent on your favorite collaboration software. There is a Watercooler Slack bot that basically “pairs up the members of your Slack workspace for quick socials calls.” The fewer team members feel isolated, the more affinity they feel for their colleagues, and the better they can work together.

A lady is telling about a win-win situation

Generally, there should be scheduled times for team members to get off work to unwind and have fun. This could be through lightning talks, quick demo presentations, or even online games. These events could help the developers learn something new, experience creative sparks, and generally become closer to their colleagues. In essence, create a healthy and friendly work culture.

Trust your team to deliver the best

One key aspect of trusting your team to deliver the best is not to micromanage your developers. A manager is more than a supervisor; they are a liaison between each member of the team as well as between the team and the upper management/executive team/client. Therefore, the manager’s role is more to facilitate coherence than to achieve dominance.

Focus on engagement and guidance rather than authority and sanction. When they present opinions and suggestions, consider them seriously and objectively. More so, actively seek their ideas on how to make the software better, especially if you don’t possess a strong technical background.

Encourage members by listening to them and rewarding them for a job well done (more on that in the final section). When they present opinions and suggestions, consider them seriously and objectively. More so, actively seek their ideas on how to make the software better, especially if you don’t possess a strong technical background.

Reward your developers

Just as you would let a developer know immediately if they are out of line, be quick to dole out praise when a developer does outstanding work. Indeed, they are getting paid for their work, but a simple verbal acknowledgment of their effort goes a long way to motivate them to do even better. And “thank you” might seem small, but it does the trick in many cases.

Bonuses are valid rewards, as well as corporate gifts such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, and other merchandise. Rewarding developers for each milestone cleared spurs them on for greater achievements. Good for them; good for you. So, why not? Properly managing a remote development team is not just about enforcing rules; it also entails bonding with team members.

how to manage remote developers on your team inspiration

Where to recruit remote development teams?

If you hire remote developers, you can access many people with different skill sets and from different parts of the world. Some top destinations for finding remote developers include Estonia, Croatia, Portugal, Mexico, China, India, etc. Estonia, in particular, is a massively growing talent hub for software development and just about any tech role.

Estonia leads among other Central European countries in terms of the number of engineering graduates. The average number of engineering graduates in Estonia is approximately 3,000 per year. During 2021-2022, Estonia produced more than 1,000 ready-made engineers.

However, compared to France, Germany, and the UK, Estonia loses out in terms of graduates, as these countries produce more than 100,000 ready-made specialists. But you shouldn’t forget that the number of graduates does not affect the quality of education and the level of newly minted engineers.

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In addition to the massive number of graduates of technical universities in countries of Central Europe in general, hiring talented developers is several times cheaper than in other countries. It’s not that Central European developers lack quality. The cost of living in Estonia is low, so recruiting a remote development team from there is relatively cheaper. For example, an Estonian one from $20 per hour, and a Polish one – from $35 per hour (the developer’s rate depends on their level).

Because navigating hiring from a foreign country (and remotely) can be puzzling, companies like ProCoders exist to supply client companies with tech talents to meet their software needs. Tens of developers and engineers are employed at ProCoders, making up tailor-made teams for partners with the outstaffing model. ProCoders is rated by Upwork and Clutch among the top IT outstaffing and staff augmentation companies.

Get our Clients’ Contacts to Discuss their Experience with Us!

Hiring from ProCoders puts you ahead of the game. All our developers and engineers work in a collaborative environment; therefore, you can rest assured of cohesion among the team members throughout the project life cycle.

F. A. Q.
What can I learn from companies that have successfully managed remote teams?

This article does not only discuss lessons from companies that have managed remote teams. It explains lessons from companies that are entirely remote teams! Drawing from the examples of ProCoders, we show that it is not just possible to manage a remote unit in your company; it is possible to manage your entire company remotely too. The key points to successful management of your remote teams are:

  • Remote work allows you to build companies of any level and size: your team can be completely remote or just some part of it.
  • Effective communication is the most important aspect when working remotely. You can use tools such as Slack and Google Meets for remote communication, Trello and Jira for task tracking, etc.
  • You shouldn’t forget to consider the time difference if part of your team lives in another country or even a continent. Before hiring such an employee, you should carefully think about the best working hours when you will also be able to communicate with them live.
  • Don’t forget about your employees’ spare time! Even though they work remotely, you should still think about such things as hangouts, team building, etc.
What is the role of onboarding in managing a remote team?

The first step in building an effective remote team is to build an effective onboarding process. Many things hinge on that first impression, including future rapport between team members. The onboarding stage is the stage for handing out tools, resources, and schedules, so that team members know your expectations as a leader.

What is the most often ignored point in managing a remote team successfully?

That should be risk assessment; many leaders do not properly examine the risks and provide alternatives before moving their team to the remote model. Besides, risk assessment goes beyond merely providing backups. It is a strategy detailing a comprehensive plan to overcome various risks and challenges.

Conclusion

The greatest benefit of using remote software development is attracting talent that would otherwise be out of reach, improving your overall ability to compete in the marketplace. The first step in ensuring successful remote work delivery is establishing a good working relationship with the developer community, which benefits you and helps grow your business.

However, the following steps are also crucial for the successful management of a remote team:

  • When communicating with a remote development team, it is essential to consider the time difference. Because of that, use appropriate tools and ensure you use the correct communication channels to get your points across.
  • Make sure you structure your work using applications that will allow you to remain organized and not get confused by the amount of information you may receive from your team members during the day and night.
  • Team building is also essential for successful collaboration, so praise developers for even small tasks they complete (even if it’s in two words on Slack).
  • Remote work is about saving work hours; you need smart tools that help you to achieve just that. One way to manage remote developers on your team is to automate everything that can be automated.

Want to try to manage remote developers on your team in the best way possible? Contact ProCoders today! We have great remote work experience and a pool of highly qualified developers. We are ready to help you with your project today!

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