The Top 5 Factors To Consider While Developing Products With Remote Teams
COVID-19 has compelled most economies to go into a lockdown since March. Companies had to shut their offices and enforce work from home policies.
Although the decision ensures business continuity and reduces the risk of contracting the virus, one cannot ignore inherent concerns in widespread remote working. Challenges such as cyber-security threats, weak internet connectivity, and disrupted communications between the teams are par for the course when teams work remotely.
Another challenge that product companies face is in being agile. The agile way of functioning requires teams to work in collaboration. Studies have shown that teams that work together in the same place demonstrate better collaboration than fragmented teams. They are more accountable and productive.
However, that doesn’t mean that companies cannot be agile when they work remotely. Companies such as Mozello have always worked remotely.
So, what should companies do to develop effective products with remote teams? We have been the remote team that has delivered hundreds of releases for dozens of products over the years. Perhaps our experience will help you get settled into your own remote ways of working.
Top 5 Factors to Consider While Developing Products
1. Skillset and Experience of Team Members:
Zapier is a fully remote company. It believes that there are three ingredients to make remote work successful – team, tools, and process. Tools are easy to buy, and processes can evolve over time and through use. The real challenge lies in managing a workforce that works in several locations, maybe even in different corners of the world. Companies like Zapier have overcome this challenge successfully by focusing on the skills and mindset of the people.
People with self-accountability are ideal for such remote working. Companies must ensure that their members take personal accountability and can work independently without requiring anyone to be perennially on their back to check progress.
Apart from personal accountability, companies should also ensure that they have the right people in their team. Distance could derail a project if the team members are not adequately skilled or have enough experience to be able to do their work alone. Ensure that the team members have the right set of skills and experience to manage their tasks without supervision. If upskilling is necessary, encourage and incentive the members of the team to take up courses so they can learn more. This will help them deliver better quality output. If looking for a new hire, ensure that the person is capable to work without being micromanaged.
2. Clarity of Processes and Road-maps:
Half the battle is won when everyone in the team is clear about the process and the roadmap to be followed while developing a product. It gives clarity about what is expected of each team member during the course of development. After explaining the complete roadmap, have a one-to-one interaction with each team member to gauge if they have understood the process and their role well. Conduct regular roadmap reviews so every team member knows the status of the product and their role in moving it forward. Also, remember to assign clear goals and define feedback sessions with every team member to improve transparency through the entire process.
3.Automation of Functions and Processes:
Agile companies do not need a large team to develop a product. It can be done easily with a small team too. However, the pressure to release can prove to be stressful for the team members. As is acknowledged, one way to solve this problem is by automating certain functions and processes that require less or no human intervention. Identify the functions that can be automated, so that the team can focus on the more important tasks and save time on mundane, repetitive tasks. This is not just about test automation. Automation to extend to other functional areas too, for eg. automating administrative tasks and reporting could ease some of the load on the remote developers.
4. Seamless Collaboration:
To ensure continuous communication and collaboration among team members, companies can use tools such as Slack for communicating, Trello or Asana for project management, and Zoom for video conferencing. There are plenty of collaboration tools available in the market. Some are free, and others are paid. Pick the one that’s convenient for all members and that doesn’t increase their administrative overhead. Keep an open communication policy so there are no misunderstandings or delays in project deliveries due to miscommunication.
5. Motivation Among Team Members:
Working alone from home can be a challenge for team members especially as we live in anxious times. Studies have shown that depression and anxiety are high among people currently due to being cut off from others. Mental pressure and a feeling of isolation can impact the overall morale of the team members and can also, obviously, influence the outcome of the project. The only way to fix this issue is by staying conscious of the morale of employees. Make this the responsibility of the team leads and the managers over them. Regular check-ins, weekly team bonding activities, even if only over Zoom are some ways to stay connected with team members. It’s important to keep an eye out for the members who are especially vulnerable and stay connected with them. Remember that it’s often harder for people to ask for help, technical or personal, when remote. A happy team will lead to a happy outcome from the team members.
Let’s face it. The situation is unlikely to change soon. Product companies may have to continue working remotely even after the lockdown ends. So, keep the morale high and choose the right tools, right people, and follow the processes correctly to build successful products within the desired time. It’s what we have been doing for years now, so there’s no doubt this works!