How to Build a Successful Distributed Software Development Team
In uncertain times of Coronavirus pandemic and well-developed technical means of communication and collaboration, many companies switch entire departments to a remote working style. The IT sector isn’t an exception, distributed software development teams are quickly gaining popularity there.
Distributed development teams represent two or more IT teams that work on the same project but from different locations or even time zones. Members from these teams may never meet in reality though they can effectively deliver long-term, large, and complex projects.
These teams have a wide range of advantages, however, they require some more strategic developer team management.
In this article, we look into the most effective techniques on how to build a remote dedicated software development team and properly manage it with various collaboration tools.
Building Trust, Interpersonal Relationships
Project and team managers know that building trustful relationships in a team allows to quickly boost up its productivity. In united teams their members have low anxiety levels – they aren’t afraid to ask questions, discuss emerging issues, and propose their own ideas.
Establishing close interpersonal relationships in distributed development teams may appear quite challenging, especially for those managers working with these teams for the first time.
To make team-members interact with greater confidence and timely reveal any internal tensions in the group, team managers could:
- hold face-to-face meetings with team participants – this practice helps to define any hidden conflicts and resolve them at early stages, estimate general socio-emotional processes and tendencies in the group, and clarify each participant’s role in the project;
- inspire technical collaboration – gathering a project team for brainstorms, daily standups, task reviews, knowledge exchange, pair programming, and other work-oriented activities help to establish positive communication faster within a group;
- organize after-hours communication – team managers should check if it’s possible to gather their team members in one location for team-building activities. It can greatly facilitate communication in teams. Also, they could encourage their team participants to have small talks and chatter, just by sparing 10-15 mins for a friendly conversation before working meetings or establishing a stand-alone chatroom for non-related to work discussions.
Creating Clear Roadmap and Roles
Each team member should realize their value in the project. Also, they need to know who to refer to in case of any emerging issues, and who to ask for any particular information. Therefore, it’s important to clearly identify and elaborate on team members’ project roles and responsibilities.
Work with a project team isn’t limited only to team members’ introduction to each other and their role allocation. Team managers also need to make sure that the team understands the long and short-term goals of the project, its major milestones and deadlines, aims and objectives. For this, project managers have to create a clear project roadmap and hold an introductory meeting with a project team and project stakeholders to discuss the organizational matters.
Can Distributed Software Development be Agile?
Distributed software development teams easily adopt Agile software development principles and continuous development practices.
There is a wide range of collaboration tools that can help team managers establish Agile development practices in a virtual environment. Therefore, distributed development teams can work as effectively as in-house teams. They easily adjust to fast-changing customer demands and are aimed at early time-to-market and continuous app delivery.
Moreover, Agile practices ensure transparency in distributed development teams. One of the Agile principles the Agile manifesto states that “The most efficient and effective method of information to and within a development is face-to-face conversation.”
When each team member has face-to-face meetings with a team manager, team lead, and customer project manager, it enhances overall teamwork. Project stakeholders can quickly identify project bottlenecks and prevent possible software development challenges.
Tools for Collaboration
Building a successful software development team involves much communication. It can be done in various modes, including:
- face-to-face meetings;
- video conferences with virtual or physical whiteboards;
- audio conferences;
- instant messaging;
- email communication;
- work commenting in collaboration apps.
All these modes require various communication and collaboration tools. Let’s have a look at the most effective apps for distributed software development team management.
Communication tools include apps for:
- instant messaging, like WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, and others. They are used for sending urgent messages or for informal group chatting. Besides that, instant messaging includes apps for video meetings with the project stakeholders, like Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Slack, and others;
- postponed messaging like emails for notifying team members about the upcoming events or issues that don’t require immediate answers. The most wide-spread tools for delayed texting are Gmail, Microsoft Teams, or corporate email.
Collaboration tools can be divided into:
- project management tools are used for updating all the stakeholders with the current work, project deadlines, and milestones. In these apps, team members can track their project development, project issues, and other entities. The most popular project management tools include Jira, Slack, Trello, Basecamp, Asana, and others;
- software development tools help team members to fulfill their project work or find answers to the questions related to work. These tools usually include TeamCity, Jira, Jenkins, Github, ProGet, and others.
Distributed Development Challenges
As with any type of working format distributed software development has its challenges.
Here are the main issues project managers can run into when building a distributed software development team:
- communication – it’s essential to establish strong communication within a project team as it may affect product development speed, its quality, and general project outcomes;
- group awareness – group awareness in distributed development teams is the most challenging yet one of the most critical issues. If a team manager fails to pay much attention to group communication, team members can start to feel isolated and indifferent to the project. Team managers have to always keep group communication in focus and raise its awareness by providing full information on the project, constantly updating their team with the current events, and allowing project participants to express their critical view once something goes wrong in a project;
- software configuration – distributed software development teams should be well-coordinated and synchronized. Therefore, before starting a project, team leads have to make sure that software development tools are well configured and are ready for work. Poor configuring or any lack of coordination may result in average or even negative project outcomes.
Advantages of Distributed Software Development
If a project manager can competently handle all the emerging distributed software development issues, this type of working format can be highly advantageous for app development. Here are the benefits of distributed software development teams:
- cost-effective – software developers’ salary often depends on their location. With distributed software development customers can hire developers from countries with lower salary expectations while keeping their products’ quality high.
- motivated – searching developers in the international markets means a wide choice of professionals. This generates high competition among software development companies. To get customers interested in their services these companies are ready to provide customer-oriented services, gather on-demand teams with experienced and dedicated professionals, and constantly improve their employees’ education level;
- higher employee satisfaction – work in distributed software development teams allows team members to work flexible hours or remotely. It means that software engineers have freedom of choice where to work from. This results in lower stress and anxiety, higher satisfaction with the work, better retention, and improved productivity;
- wide access to talent pool – distributed software development allows customers to expand their search capacity. They don’t have to hire software engineers from one location. Instead, they can turn to international markets and find the needed specialists to develop their apps.
Hiring distributed software development teams is a new norm in software development practices today, especially in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. More and more businesses opt for distributed software development as it’s highly beneficial. It allows companies to search for experienced software developers specialized in various software development spheres worldwide for attractive prices.
Distributed development teams suit great for custom software development. If you are considering building your own app, then custom software development company Scand can offer its best specialists to gather your own distributed team.