Let’s face it: every year is bringing more and more changes.
For instance, could anyone expect remote work to become quite a common thing in 2018? I bet, you couldn’t even fancy that ten years ago.
According to the Freelancers Union, 35% of the U.S. workforce - 55 million people - were freelancers in 2016, which is an increase of two million from 2014. And the numbers are even increasing in 2018.
There are two main reasons that make remote cooperation a growing trend, and they are really simple:
- Customers benefit from significant cost reduction with the same (or even better) results gained, and access to a larger pool of talent;
- Teams like to have the opportunity to work remotely, which means they can collaborate with teams or customers from all over the world.
Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, and David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails framework and CTO at Basecamp, are famous for setting up and succeeding in the virtual workspace. They went even further in their book Remote (which is rated №1 in three business categories on Amazon.com), and declared that “Office not required”.
I personally think that the truth is somewhere in the middle and offices will be present in our life for a long time.
But the fact remains: remote work tendency will grow according to global market size of outsourced services. Furthermore, according to researchers, 31% of companies outsourced IT services in 2017.
And, all business owners operating nowadays admit: Outsourcing is already a significant competitive advantage.
Still, how can it work for your business as well?
When you start thinking of this, you may have a lot of questions, for instance:
- Will I get the desired results with outsourcing?
- Can I trust my remote team?
- How can I be sure they are as productive as my employees in the office?
- If I start outsourcing, how can I run this team successfully?
- And so on.
Let’s look at it this way: if working with remote teams works for so many companies, it can surely work for you!
And we will show you how.
Some more figures: according to Future Workforce Report, 63% of companies have remote workers. The research also points out that 61% hiring managers with remote workers and work from home policies (52%) admitted that hiring has become easier over the last year.
In this article, together with general recommendations, we will share Codica’s tips on successful remote cooperation, which help us bring great results to our customers.
1. Set up clear communication process
I bet you understand that your team - either in-house or remote - can’t guess what’s on your mind.
I am sure you know that communication has a direct impact on your team’s daily performance. It’s obvious that communication rules and frameworks set the tone of the working process. At the end of the day, the interaction with your remote team affects the quality and comprehensiveness of the project.
1.1. Share your project vision and key message with your team
Showing people the full picture at the very start of the project is a crucial thing. It will help them stick to a single approach and contribute to a better understanding of the project.
Explaining the purpose and the principal target of the project will enhance the team’s efficiency. When people know what they are doing it for, they can plan the best way to achieve the goal.
Trust me: this is vital for your project’s success.
At Codica, we believe that sharing common vision accelerates the overall development process. That’s why when starting a project we always discuss with the client their expectations and ultimate goals of a project.
1.2. Provide regular feedback
Regular feedback is one of the crucial components of the cordial working relationship. Getting feedback from remote managers, team members level up their expertise, since they understand what they do right, and where they need improvement.
Equally important is the fact that managers should initiate the feedback themselves.
Furthermore, it’s desirable to define a particular time period for the feedback and do it on a regular basis, preferably via video chat.
Even negative feedback, which no one really loves giving, is important and expected by your team:
Be sure: your team members will feel your interest in their work, which will result in better performance.
1.3. Appreciate your team
Show your team members that you see how hard they work, and let them feel how important their work is. Appreciation leads to mutual respect and understanding.
A manager can show appreciation in many different ways: be it a personal thank you letter, a reference message to the operational chat or even a small present. Any of these ways will show team members they are valuable for the business and make them deeply involved.
You should also respect your team’s private time. I guess you wouldn’t like to receive a message with work questions on a day-off. So keeping boundaries with your team will strengthen mutual respect and desire to cooperate.
2. Implement workflows and guidelines
When starting out, it would be reasonable to implement particular workflows and guidelines.
They will help build a precise structure and a clear line of the operating process. It’s reasonable to say that rules, even gently introduced, give the proper direction to the work. Thus, each team member knows how everything is supposed to function in the company.
2.1. Define clear roles and responsibilities
Who is responsible for what? - this question seems simple, but you’d better answer it beforehand, to avoid any misunderstanding.
Clearly set responsibilities for each member of your team. This will make sure that everybody understands who they should communicate with any questions.
Also, when team members understand their roles, they know what their further steps are and are able to estimate the progress themselves.
2.2. Create step-by-step workflows
Establishing workflows is another integral part of the stable operating process. It helps distribute areas of responsibilities and sequence of the development steps. As a result, the whole process becomes more efficient.
At Codica, our regular workflow on developing a new feature usually looks as follows (of course it’s a short version):
2.3. Set clear tasks and deadlines
Blurred lines are not suitable for building a project. Let’s determine what we can do here:
- Setting clear objectives will help everyone follow the path you’ve chosen.
- Setting time limits is another essential thing. When the timeline is undetermined, the performance extends for a potentially indefinite period. Having the end time point means that you have created a structured framework for your team to act within. It gives additional strength to achieve objectives and not to get lost in the process.
2.4. Design evaluation process
Performance assessment is an equally critical element of the operating process.
When evaluating a particular member or the whole team, you can help improve their both hard and soft skills. Accordingly, you have to create your own evaluation formula so that your team would know what criteria you will use to assess them.
2.5. Define project milestones
We all understand that tracing the process and results achieved is absolutely one of the key points for the project success.
A division into milestones is here for you. There are several reasons why it will help you.
- Your team proceeds smoother. When people run huge distances, they come to finish exhausted. Smaller pieces are easier to accomplish.
- The whole process is structured to achieve the goal. Therefore, you can define the bottleneck of your project and find the right way to overcome it.
- Your project becomes transparent, and you will know for sure that everyone is moving in the right direction.
2.6. Pick a time for regular updates
With different time zones and the tendency to flexible working hours in some businesses, the main point here is actually setting the hours when everyone should be available to discuss any work issues.
With the introduced process and regular time for updates, you will make the development process more precise and clear, and will know where the project is and will know of any possible issues long beforehand.
At Codica, to keep agile, we hold daily scrum meetings. We discuss a project and each team member answers 3 questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What is blocking progress?
This approach helps us track the process and identify challenges if any.
3. Select the right tools for your team
Technologies exist to make our life easier, and operational issues are no exception. So there are important tools assisting to handle the development tools. So, for work with remote teams there are few basic types of operational tools.
3.1. Project management
You will definitely need a workflow management system. A stable work process is a solid base for a good project. To make it smooth, you can choose one of the Agile methodology approaches - Kanban or Scrum. There’s some similarity, but they have a critical difference as well. For instance, Jira, Trello, and Asana were named among the Best Project Management Software 2018.
3.2. Tracking performance
Implement reporting or tracking system. It’s not about distrust. It’s about team members’ possibility to trace their results. For instance, they may send you daily reports, weekly or monthly. Basically, you can even introduce all of them.
3.3. Messaging and calls
Bringing communication worldwide is quite important. It’s crucial that you could connect to your team members from any point of the world.
When video calls and conferences are necessary, you can use good old Skype. Zoom.us is a relatively new software with some complemented features. And Slack is always a good solution for chatting about many different projects and subprojects, as it allows creating a broad workspace.
If you have several communication tools, defining the communication means for each situation is also important.
At Codica we apply the most suitable methods of communication depending on a situation, issue importance, and urgency.
For example, this is how we decide on the right way to contact our teammates:
- When a question is too complicated or needs an extensive discussion, we schedule a Skype call or talk in person.
- When a matter is really urgent, we use Slack to ping team members.
- When an issue is less crucial, we send an email or assign a task in the tracking system.
3.4. File Sharing
Here are some more that you may find handy:
If you have a need to share big files, check these tools from TechRadar.
At Codica, we of course have our beloved set of tools. All of them are quite common and popular all over the world and usually work for our customers as well.
- Project Management: fundamentally, we use Jira and Trello.
- Time-tracking: we have developed Timebot, our own Slack bot written in Ruby.
- Instant messaging: we prefer Slack, as it allows creating many channels for various projects.
- Voice calls: Skype and Hangouts help us make calls as well as text when Slack is not enough.
- File Sharing: Google Drive is our principal assistant.
At the same time, we do not limit our clients to use our preferred tools: we are flexible and open to any others which will work best and which our customers prefer. So basically before starting a project, we define the set of tools we will be using together with the client.
To tell the truth, the above-mentioned tools are not only used with distributed or remote teams. This is something that any company needs nowadays for easy and convenient work.
I hope that our small tips will help you.
Of course, it’s up to you which of these tips or solutions to choose. You may discover your own ways to enhance your workflow.
We at Codica understand all the principles of remote work and apply them while cooperating with our clients from all over the world. Codica can provide a stable working process at a distance as our team has significant experience in this area. It would be a pleasure for us to share our experience with you.
Do you want to see how we transformed this philosophy of telecommunity into successful results for our clients? Follow the link to go to Codica’s case studies.