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How to Build a Successful Distributed Software Development Team

Distributed software development is quickly gaining popularity especially in the recent years due to lock down times.  The IT sector isn’t an exception, the number of businesses that switch to remote working style has drastically increased. Along with that, the shortage of software engineers on local markets made companies turn to various locations for required resources. It means that developers can be working for one and the same company but can be spread across multiple countries or even continents. They may never meet in reality though they can effectively deliver long-term, large, and complex projects.

There are many ways to go distributed like hiring freelance developers or engage with a software outsourcing company, staff augmentation agency or outstaffing provider. Each engagement model has its own peculiarities and may be aligned to one business but not fit another. If the project is small-scale and requires 1-2 developers then hiring freelance developers can be a good option. There are thousands of remote developers working worldwide at quite low rates. If the project is complicated and long term then turning to an outsourcing provider is a better option. They can provide you with a dedicated team of developers whom you can fully delegate the development of your product. This team has a wide range of advantages for a business looking to expand their current team or has no in-house team.

In this article, we look into the most effective techniques on how to build a distributed 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.
building a successful software development team
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 Teams be Agile?

Distributed teams easily adopt Agile software development principles and continuous development practices.
building a software development team
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 distributed 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

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

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, Redmine, 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.

Advantages of Distributed Development Teams

If a project manager can competently handle all the emerging distributed software development issues, this type of working format can be highly advantageous for software development. Here are the benefits of distributed software development teams:

  • cost-effective – software developers’ rates often depend on their location. With distributed software development customers can hire developers from countries with lower rates while keeping their products’ quality high. For example, hiring software developers in Poland can help cut down the development costs twice and for some countries even more.
  • worldwide access to talent pool – distributed software development allows customers to expand their teams with the needed specialists. In case they lack some expertise or tech stack in-house, they can hire software engineers from another location. For example, if a company needs Blockchain developers or DevOps engineers, it can turn to the international market and hire them from another software development provider like SCAND.
  • flexibility and scalabilityhiring software developers in the international markets allows fast scalability in tight deadlines. Software development providers offer fast team ramp up and onboarding process as well as adding extra resources when the project is growing. They are quite flexible in scaling up and down while the project requirements change;
  • increased productivity– distributed software development teams work remotely and extra time to in-house team accelerating the development time. With a larger team companies can deliver their products to the market faster than their competitors as well as free their internal teams for more business critical tasks making them more productive.

Common Challenges with Distributed Development Teams

Along with a number of advantages that distributed software development  teams provide there are still some challenges that a company might face.
how to manage a software development team
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.

Conclusion

Hiring distributed software development teams has become a norm in software development practices nowadays. 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 all types of businesses from start-ups to large enterprises looking for custom software development. If you are considering building your solution or scale up your current team, then Scand can offer its best specialists to gather your own distributed team.

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