The majority of the RubyGarage team is located here in Eastern Europe, while we work with the clients from all over the world. That automatically makes us a remote team and puts additional constraints on the way we communicate and work with our clients. In this blog post we’d like to share our experience of working remotely, turned into tips that you might find useful for your business routine.
Also, we’re going to drop the organizational advice like hiring proper people, build trust, use web tools for tasks management, docs sharing, meetings, etc., as these are useful for any type of company and generally obvious.
Automate and control
Working with a remote team is usually about making short meetings, writing status reports, providing feedback and so on. It may be much more comfortable for all team members if at least some of these processes will be expected and automated.
For instance, the weekly meetings can be scheduled in the corporate calendar (or even turned into a self-paced online conversation), the statuses can be generated automatically based on completed tasks, after code updates a development team can be informed by email, the discussions can be held and archived through tasks trackers or team collaboration software and so on. Of course, keep balance in the number of tools used for this matter.
Know your people
A lot of books about team management pay special attention to the team culture as the way to keep people involved and motivated, as well as knowing what they do and how they do it. A lot of practices focus on helping you find the people that fit your team, properly communicate with them, organize team building events and so on.
However, the basic advice is simple - know your people. Understanding their motivation and their duties is the best way to make working together as effective and comfortable as possible. For some people it is acceptable to skip all the team parties yet dedicate half of their life to the work, others cannot work effectively without getting any kind of appraisal at least once a week. Psychology is a great thing when it comes to building a super effective team.
This tip is directly related to the previous ones and is all about communication. First, ask yourself: how daily tasks could be useful and yet fun and engaging specifically in your team? Different companies answer differently, but there’s always an answer. Your team may take advantage of the funny gifs or emojis used in the right time, or have a separate chat about all things in life. The realization doesn't matter as long as the team encourages it.
Second, automate and make communication effective. Any discussion may contain useful thoughts, so use proper tools to make sure that they will be easily accessible even after some time. Also, different things should be discussed in corresponding places. For instance, comments on the code are better to read right in the code management software rather than in the email. Project documentation is better to keep in Confluence, and small talks are easier to hold in Slack or Skype.
A lot of our blog posts are related to the Agile methodology in development as the approach that keeps you ready for sudden changes. Not only the methodology itself helps to build proper communication with all these sprints, meetings, acceptance criteria and tight interaction between all team members, but the philosophy behind it can be easily applied to the remote team management as well.
The Agile methodology is all about checking hypothesis and adjusting to changes. In case of communication, if you think that it can be improved somehow in your team, don’t hesitate to experiment and apply new and creative methods that you have heard from other teams or simply read on the Internet. The more you analyze and measure the remote team effectiveness (in any possible yet comfortable for all way), the more chances are that you'll find a serious problem even before it becomes noticeable.
Being Agile also means being able to evolve and improve over the course of time. Tools get outdated, people get tired of repeated things, new practices arise each year on improving productivity. Just pay attention to that and your team will always be on top of its effectiveness.
These are our general tips on how to manage remote teams that we have collected over the last 5 years of working at RubyGarage. We hope they will be useful for you as well.
If you want to learn more the disadvantages of working with remote teams and how to fix it, check our dedicated post about it.