How to Manage a Remote Development Team: Hire, Engage, Plan for Maximum Autonomy

Development Sep 25, 2020

Global WorkPlace Analytics estimates that an employee who works remotely 50% of the time saves $2500-4000 per year in travel, parking, and food cost and 11 working days of time equivalent.

Many major tech companies, like Facebook, Twitter and Uber switched to a remote work model until summer 2021.

Whether the pandemic gets better or worse, one thing is clear: the office work ratio in work environment distributions will never get back to pre-pandemic levels.

If you are working on a remote software development team or if you are managing outsourced software development, the points below, viewed through the prism of our experience, might come handy:

  • What is the best way to organize remote teamwork for the highest efficiency?
  • How do you keep engagement strong when working out of the office?
  • What tools are best to keep your team motivated and focused?
  • How do you smooth out the negative impact of time zone differences?
  • How do you manage a software development project with a remote team?

Zoolatech has a digital mountain of experience on how to manage a software development company and we are thrilled to share our selected insights.

How to Work Remotely Yet Efficiently Across Time Zones

Time zones are a hassle that need to be put up with as globalization progresses and English is now spoken by most professionals – specifically in programming and software development.

Eastern Europe is fiercely competing with India and traditionally strong LATAM, while South-East Asia and the Middle East are also brimming with technical talent. Pretty much all of these regions are great places to outsource your development team from.

But they are all in different time zones. Here’s how you cope with time zone difference:

time zone difference

Use Standardized Technology Across the Board

Task managers, calendars, video conferencing, and document sharing have hundreds of brands. Make sure you have a list of technology that every newcomer to your remote development team gets access to. Everyone should be on the same page every time – digital or not.

If one of your team members has an urgent situation – make sure they use the "911" code as the first thing in the subject line. Instruct all employees never to abuse it, so as not to devalue the signal.

Use emojis for voting and communication. Some teams use specific emojis in Slack to render a specific message, like: “Agree, all in,” “Nay,” “In progress,” etc. Once they are standardized company-wide, emojis gain value, instead of being sentimental spam.

Be authoritative in terms of choice of technology while working on your projects: you cannot switch around for some geographically preferred tools, no.

Here comes the list of your project tech stack, partner.

Hire Remote Teams vs Standalone Professionals if Possible

While getting your hands on a few rare individual tech talents cheaply may save a lot of money, hiring an entire team from a cheap-rate destination will bring more ROI in the long run.

Remote Software Development Teams from Ukraine, India, Poland, and the Philippines come as a turn-key solution with minimal hassle. Even if you have to coordinate the work of your office with such teams, it's just a few time zones you have to juggle.

On top of that, a team comes with management of its own that can handle all of the coordination. That dramatically reduces the stress of logistics.

Get a List of Project Team Members Marked with Time Zones

Whatever tool or file you use for your contact management and task management, try to ensure there is a time zone tagged next to every team member.

Moreover, instead of GMT, you can use HO +3 or HO -5 for Head Office + 3 hours or – 5 hours respectively. This way everyone will be able to quickly calculate whether this person is OK to contact now or not.

You can also color-code team members from specific time zones if you have 2-3 major time zones on the same project.

Video Meetings: Same Time, Same Faces

Video conferencing is an efficient way to catch up on a project now and then. To minimize the time zones differences, ensure their regularity.

When people schedule a call weekly or biweekly, they tend to build their work so as to be in a position to report back in a timely way, fitting more into their week. Regularity also decreases the overall stress factor, taking the back-and-forth "convenient time" negotiation process out of the equation.

Needless to say, when you manage a remote development team, you only hold meetings that are unavoidable and irreplaceable to start with.

Cross-Over Hours: Known and Used

Each team member should be briefed about the Time Zone Difference and cross-over time as part of the onboarding process. This will minimize the stress for newcomers as well as the supervisors, who will not have to answer the same questions every time a new colleague joins the process.

Organizing meetings and discussions during the cross-over hours is the best way forward. Ideally, cross-over hours will exclude the first hour of working time and the last one for the best efficiencies. So 9-10 AM and 5-6 PM would not be considered the best cross-over times.

Communication Tools for Remote Collaboration

Having the same set of tools to manage remote developers is the only way forward. While we agreed that this will help to bridge the time zone difference, it will also help with prompt onboarding and efficient collaboration.

We at Zoolatech can recommend these software solutions to collaborate with the partners and inside the company:

Video conferencing:

Workplace messaging platform:

Task Manager:

Source Code Management & Tracking Software:

Issue & Bug Tracking Software:

Digital Product Design:

Password Management:

Document Sharing:

Document Signing:

HR & Performance Management:

Productivity App:

Business Trip Management:

Team building:

Micromanagement Is Not an Option

If you have to micromanage, you have the wrong team on board to start with. In all probability, the project will fail sooner or later, or you will burn out before that.

It’s a problem of either they don’t have the discipline and skills to organize themselves to deliver work by the deadline or you are not assigning tasks in a clear, well-recorded manner. If you seem to have the same problem from project to project, you could be at fault with unclear deadlines or too much control. If it’s not you – deal with the team before it’s too late.

Another problem with the need to micromanage is that even your in-house manager may end up burning out.

No.

The issue is that if you need to micromanage, you probably cannot rely on the quality of work delivered either. On top of that, it’s highly likely you don’t have the qualifications to adequately control the quality of work either.

In this way, the need to micromanage symbolizes mistrust in the ability of your hired remote software development team to deliver the job as contracted. Let's agree that this is never the case if you deal with a tried and tested outsourcing company with an impressive portfolio of completed work.

Default Setting: Over Communication

While micromanagement is not the path to follow when managing software developers, lots of communication is a must.

First things first: written communication is the preferred method, as it is recorded, concise, traceable, and available anytime to go back to and double-check.

Establishing a document flow that is familiar to the team from project to project helps a lot. Each team member should be able to refer to a specific document or tool and pick up from where a colleague left off with ease. Detailed written communication helps the process.

If you are a project manager or an in-house manager in charge of a software development project outsourced to an offshore team, communication is never too much. Not only do you ensure both teams – onshore and offshore get the myriad of messages you need to deliver when you repeat, but you also safeguard yourself from omitting to mention an important detail in the heat of the process.

It’s not only about the mere mission of making sure you communicate the task correctly and in plenty of time. It’s also about team engagement. As per Gallup, remote workers are three times more likely to be engaged if they receive feedback from their manager a few times per month.

team work from home

Establish Processes for Remote Teams

Rules of play are important in any working environment, but they become vital for survival in the offshore team’s operation.

Just as it is advisable to equip the entire team with the same communication channels and tools, it's recommended that you also have a concise manual available for all newcomers to read and follow when managing programmers.

Setting the pace is not only great for newbies and employees who work for the first time in such a mode. It is even more crucial for people who have been part of other remote teams, as they bring along their ways, habits, and preconceptions.

Be specific about expectations, goal setting, and task assignment procedures. Ensure teams from different parts of the world have 24/7 access to WIP documentation that demonstrates the progress of the project at any given time.

Have an organizational structure hierarchy available in the onboarding manual, where each line of the report is clearly stated with respective contact information and time zone for each of the supervisory positions.

Keep updating your manuals all the time with questions you get from newcomers, so that in a few months, it has an exhaustive set of info in your shared FAQ.

Technical Team Remote Management: No ROI without Investment

The old adage has it that a CEO of a company was asked by an HR manager: “We are investing so much in our team’s training, what if we pay all that money to educate them and they leave?”
The CEO replied: “I will be more concerned if we don’t pay that bill and they stay.”

94% of employees agree they would stay with a company longer if it bothered to invest in their growth.

You can keep 9 out of 10 of your expensive, well-trained employees longer if you show them a perspective of growth and create a learning environment.

It’s 9 and a half, to be more exact, but we are talking humans, after all…

Do you remember the last time a talented dev left your remote software development team and you paid through the nose to replace him and faced losses from a project deadline breach?

You could have avoided all that drama and expense by sending him to a conference or two. It’s that simple.

In the IoT world, things change by the minute.

New frameworks emerge, trendy programming languages get developed. When your team learns new tricks, not only are they more inspired to hang around with the company for longer, they also bring more value to the team’s results.

Software Development Team That Doesn’t Need Much Managing: Zoolatech

software development

If you need an offshore development company but don’t quite like managing an outsourced software development team, Zoolatech would love to discuss your project’s needs.

Our level of autonomy is enjoyed by our clients from the USA.

We thrive in an environment in which our team gets to drive all the work after a clear mission is articulated and thoroughly planned out with the client. We deliver on our promises within contracted budgets and timelines.

All of the software development team members speak good English and enjoy above-market remuneration, so your wish is our command that will be understood and implemented.

With roots in Silicon Valley and a dev team in Kyiv, our clients exult at the value-for-money index they are getting with Zoolatech.

No matter what stage of the remote team hunting process you are currently at – if you are looking for a replacement or if your company needs to hire a brand new vendor – give us a chance.

We will be delighted to provide you with our best quote for the scope of work described in your RFP.

Not sure what you are looking for? Ask a question and our devoted retail software development team will be delighted to provide you with a few possible implementation scenarios and relevant estimates.

Contact Zoolatech for more insight on your project, a free consultation, or further specifics for managing a remote software development team.

Zoolatech Team

We are a team of technology addicts eager to transform our clients’ needs into efficient and innovative solutions through high-quality service and reliable customer support.