Making a decision to hire a remote team for a software development project is a tough one.
The first and main concern is communication.
How many overlapping hours per day will we have? How will I make sure the team got all my instructions correctly? How many hours per day should I spend on crafting projects briefs and creating all the documentation? And the list goes on.
Here’s the deal – great developers dwell where they dwell. Limiting yourself to hiring just on-shore teams or trying to trap the best talent in-house on a short notice isn’t gonna work all the time.
A lot of our clients had the same concerns when approaching our agency. Yet, so far all the parties left highly satisfied.
So what’s the secret to making remote collaboration work?
You need to invest into establishing an efficient communication funnel.
In today’s case study, we’ll show how to do that in 5 simple steps developed during our remote experience with Zoomlee.
Step 1: Gather Everyone In One Office
Hey, isn’t this guide is all about managing a remote team? Yes, however getting an initial in-house meeting is often essential for layering the ground for efficient communication since day one.
We believe that the ultimate first step is to schedule an introductory in-office meeting, where our UX Designer can exchange all the projects insights with the client. As a client you are the only one to possess all the data on the project – from the general business value and target audience to the key features your product should have. Hence, whenever there’s an option to meet in person for a few brief sessions, we’ll always choose to do so. Heck, we even flew our key personnel to the USA when the deadline was tough (but that’s another exciting story).
The initial face-to-face meetings establish the needed level of trust, generate the maximum productivity and result in less communicational mishaps and blunders.
Bottom line: even if you are planning to hire a remote team, do consider an opportunity to meet in person and discuss this option in advance.
Step 2: Create a Sync Call Routine
It takes less than a second to push you out of being productive and nearly 20 minutes to get back on track.
We are huge advocates of pre-planned and smart communication. What does that mean?
- There’s no need for overcommunication. There’s work time and there’s talk time. Once we have all the documentations at hand, we prefer to get our hands deep at work with no side interactions to stay on top of the productivity scale (and keep your bill moderate). Hence, we’ve established well-defined hours and channels for communication. Most designers work best when they are not interrupted 😉
- Create a sync call schedule a.k.a. the talk time when we get together and report on the current state of work, take new comments into account and make sure everyone is still on the same page with all terms.
- Resist the urge to bug someone instantly. Sure, we all have those burning questions on the tip of our tongue, yet everyone on our team prefer to jot them down and put on discussion during the regular sync calls, rather than shooting it straight to the chat or email. In fact, we create the project plans in such way that there are no bottlenecks and our designer can hop onto the next task while waiting for a confirmation on the matter.
Step 3: Plan All The Work Well Ahead
We break down each project into small bite-sized tasks and schedule them a few weeks ahead both for the team and the client’s to review.
What makes this approach uber productive?
The physiological factors:
Our brain feels discouraged when offered to crack a large task at once. In fact, that’s the main reason why we procrastinate in the first place. When we don’t know where to begin, we try to avoid doing the thing at all. To avoid this kind of discouragement, we break down the whole project into simple to-dos. Instead of: design the app’s UX our designers get a clear roadmap of preсise tasks to accomplish, one by one.
The more you do – the more productive you feel. Crossing to-dos off your list makes you feel more motivated to get things cracking further. We prefer our team to feel accomplished on a daily basis and celebrate even the small wins.
The managerial factors:
We avoid the common project bottlenecks. When creating our project plans, we make sure that different tasks don’t block one another a.k.a. the person can move down their to-do list while waiting for a confirmation/clarification from the client. Hence, no precious time is wasted in standby mode, especially when having significant time zone differences.
Less time is spent on communicating. Obviously, communication is essential. Yet, when everything is planned well ahead, less time is spent on figuring out what to do next and getting through the details instantly.
Smarter time management. Having a long-term plan laid out helps all the parties understand better when a certain part of the project will be completed. No messed up deadlines, no unnecessary worries!
Step 4: Basecamp and JIRA Should Become Your Best Friends
The truth is – neither email, nor Skype or phone can get you covered as great as JIRA + Basecamp when working with a remote team.
Email threads get messy, phone calls missed and Skype chats forgotten – it happens with the best of us. Those channels are great for sync calls and side-talks, but all the essential project information and overview should be better kept in other software.
- Help to track and understand the current project progress, especially when having significant time zone differences.
- Real-time updates and instant reporting features available. You see the current state of affairs at one quick glance.
- As a product owner you can instantly see who’s responsible for what and when that’s going to be done.
- You have all the project information at hand if you need to schedule a demo for an investor or potential customers.
We use Basecamp for all the product discussions during the Product Crafting stage. It’s an ideal place to store all the information, get timely updates on new comments and search the threads you need.
JIRA is our go-to project management tool. We use it to track the project progress, add tasks, analyze the team’s performance and so on.
If you are yet unfamiliar with those tools, no worries. Basecamp is rather intuitive and easy-to-use. JIRA may seem a bit intimidating at first, however we’ll set up all the reporting for you and can offer a quick consultation on how to access and interpret the data.
Step 5: Schedule Weekly Work Demos
We’ve adopted a weekly demo reporting schedule, as it proved to work just great both for the client and our team.
Obviously, depending on the project scale and complexity you can choose your own pattern.
The main reason why we insist on getting together and going through the demo in details is to avoid any miscommunication and misunderstandings.
Gaining feedback and product critic continuously at the development stage makes changes faster, easier and less costly.
The worst product owner’s nightmare is outsourcing development to a remote team and receiving a product done 100% wrong. That would never happen when you agree to having weekly work demos and providing timely feedback to your team.
To wrap it up, hiring and managing a remote team is easier than you think when you get things write from the very beginning. This guide should have given you some layering principles on how great teamwork really looks like!