Working with remote teams to develop and release new products has become the norm for almost all aspects of software development. Nowhere is that more true than in the mobile space. Whether you’re the one doing the hiring or have been hired yourself, remote team working is an emotive subject. Many people have strong views on it and sadly, many have had negative experiences. As more and more companies opt for remote development teams in one form or another, it’s worth stopping to consider ways to optimize team structure and processes.
Firstly, let’s ask ourselves, why have enterprises struggled with remote teams in the past? Sometimes it’s to do with a mismatch between the enterprise and the choice of dev partner (check out our blog, How do you make sense of the spectrum of app dev options?) Budget is a factor, of course, and when it trumps other requirements such as skills, it can end up being a false economy, costing you in terms of man-hours and time. So, laying a good foundation for a business relationship is key. This entails a clear representation of the project’s scope, key deadlines, challenges and opportunities from the client / enterprise. But what about the steps to success once a project is underway? Here are our tips on maximizing the experience and the outcomes of your mobile initiative.
Honesty is the best policy
Sure, all firms have their politics, but it’s best to be transparent with your development team. They will not understand subtle power dynamics or hidden agendas unless you inform them. Why? We developers thrive on information, even if we don’t act on it immediately, it could give us clues how to tweak later iterations. Similarly, we know that there’s much that can’t be disclosed with certain projects and we completely respect that. However, careful thought should be given to ensuring teams have as much information as possible and aren’t forced into making assumptions that will be time-consuming to reverse at a later point. Honesty is a two-way thing. On the flip side, having a dev team that you can rely on to tell you upfront when they encounter problems is going to be crucial in fostering a good working relationship.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
In a world where people of different cultures, languages and time zones are coming together to work in concert with each other, any issues in communication can quickly become major problems. Figuring out what works for your particular situation should be a priority for anyone overseeing a dev team. There are some great tools out there to help smooth the process (Jenkins, Atlassian JIRA) but remember that a flexible approach which embraces diversity can work wonders. In fact, taking time to foster a culture or working ethos is not just a nicety for complex dev teams, it will help save time in the long run.
Be generous with your time
The “I’m too busy to delegate” mindset is your own worst enemy. Taking proper care to explain what’s needed and ensuring a really good awareness of the end-users should be factored in at the start, but it doesn’t stop there. Dev teams tend to work on a given task until they hit a wall, and then ask for more input. Taking care to listen, explain again and remain open-minded – these sound like nice-to-have soft skills, but they’re actually pretty important in how effectively the job gets done. Furthermore, in the absence of “water cooler chats” and other personal interaction that takes place when workers share an office, the person managing the dev team may well be the lynchpin through which communication flows, another compelling reason to build proper, personal relationships with your team.
Work as a team, not with a team
It’s a small matter of phrasing, but it speaks volumes when an enterprise considers its remote developers to be part of the same extended team. Whenever possible, consider accommodations for your app partner so they actually get to work alongside your own team in the same offices. If that’s not available due to distances, time zones or budget, then use the fact that team members are geographically dispersed to your advantage. In such team configurations it’s possible to ensure the project continues around the clock. This approach relies on the remote team having the training, information and tools at hand to enable them to work independently of you.
Working to schedule
Key timings and deadlines need to be observed. Every project should have mid and long-term goals that the whole team understands and is working towards. However managing the minutiae is counterproductive and inefficient, so strike a balance whereby you are kept informed regularly but the process of reporting isn’t draining too much time.
At Apexon, our customers consistently concur on the qualities they value most about us. They tend to single out the level of skills they encounter at Apexon, the quality of the people and the successful outcomes that they enable. Check out what our customers say about us, or get in touch directly to discuss your mobile initiative in more depth.
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