How can a software development team maintain effective communication between their members when they are separated by different locations and time zone?
For some companies, managing a software development team to work from home is a new concept.
For others, they have the opportunity to quickly implement effective remote work processes.
But even for the latter, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a whole new degree of difficulty.
However, there are many problems challenging a remote software development team. And, how can they be solved?
At AgileTech, we found that applying agile project management helps us be more effective than ever.
However, rather than restricting our team to a particular strand of Agile, we combine different parts of Scrum and Kanban to get the best out of it.
In this article, we will give you 6 secrets to the remote agile software development team, which have worked well for us.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Table of contents
1. Tackle in short iterations or sprints
With our team, we break a large project down into small tasks, helping us notice all quick changes easier.
It also translates well to project management.
For example, we have a morning stand-up every day. It takes no longer than 15 minutes.
This is the chance for us to tackle which task for the day or anything help from other colleagues.
Working remotely helps us to identify problems immediately and prevent inevitable blockages.
2. Avoid context switching
Another area that every software development team might expose from working remotely is context switching.
When the team members are far from the office, it’s easy to get distracted with everything going on. It is also a lot easier for them to pull different directions and create a lot of waste.
Therefore, one simple way to maintain transparency is to create a culture where team members do not start a new task before completing a current one.
That’s why in our daily stand-up, we alert colleagues if they are holding up tasks for others. And if there are factors outside of their control, we can adjust their workload accordingly.
3. Trust the team members to do their job
Whether you lead projects or manage a team, so much of what’s happening is beyond our control.
Hence, we let team members lead on tasks and projects which match them best. They will feel more comfortable working on rather than handing out assignments arbitrarily.
For example, we have a project that requires Flutter, then the Flutter software development team will be first in line.
Rather than set the false deadline, this helps managers align with the natural time management freedom afforded by remote working.
After all, we have the best people to do their job, provide estimations, report problems as well as find solutions based on team concerns.
4. Choose the right tools
According to a recent Harvard Business Review article,
Communicate regularly even if you don’t have new information to share. Maintaining transparency through a crisis with frequent updates is the ultimate expression of good faith, empathy, and genuine concern for your team.
Then, we’ve searched for so many “best tools for remote work” on the Internet. Or how to stay connected when we are working remotely?
In our experience, the software does not matter that much. The more important is that every team members understand how they organize their tasks efficiently and conveniently.
Besides, there are thousands of options out there. Don’t waste weeks trying to find the right tools for your software development team.
So here are some of the communication tools for a remote team to stay connected.
At first, every software development team needs a team chat app. It is excellent for companies of all sizes.
Whether you organize a meeting or simply just having an informal chit-chat, Discord allows creating a number of channels to keep things focused.
We use Discord to brainstorm, ask each other questions, pass files back and forth, compare notes on new releases, and much more.
It also a place where we talk about anything, work-related or not, or even let off some steam.
Zoom is consistently excellent for both sound and video quality. We are glad that we did it.
It has many useful features that enable remote businesses to create meeting links, record meetings, and screen share with ease.
Video calls can also involve ‘Zoom rooms’ of up to 1,000 video participants in total.
As an outsourcing software development company, we often have video calls with customers from different time zone.
Then, we use Zoom calls for video conferencing with our partners as well as future customers. It also lets us schedule upcoming meetings or appointments.
Jira helps us plan ahead, track progress, and manage quickly and easily all of the complexities of agile project management.
For example, every team members has access to visualized real-time data including “in progress,” “to do,” and “completed” lanes.
Once the task is moved to “done”, we can revisit and review at any time to ensure quality.
That’s not all.
We use “time tracker” for Jira to stay on schedule, accurately calculate the estimated delivery date, and deliver software on time.
Then, the result is better coordination among team members, faster development times, and higher quality code.
5. Have virtual fun together
We are all humans. We can’t work, work, and work all the time.
We spend just as much time having fun together. At AgileTech, we often have lunch, break, and play games together.
However, social distancing can’t keep us stop to have fun. Here are a few ideas to get more creative about it:
- Create channels to share hobbies with each other. This is a great way to help your remote team get their mind off anything that’s stressing them out.
For instance, you can create channels for sharing pet photos, weekend/family fun, Spotify playlists, and common interests like Netflix movies, gardening, and even fantasy football.
- Schedule a virtual social hour. You all have a week full of tasks and stress sometimes. So why not organize just-for-fun gatherings at 4:00 pm on Friday?
Just ask everyone to bring their favorite drink and share their biggest joy of the week. It’s such a cool way to wrap up a week.
6. Focus on work-life balance
This flexibility sometimes comes increased pressure. If you can’t meet your team mates everyday, you might feel pressure to spend more time online and working than you otherwise would in the office.
That’s why we need a good work-life balance. Here are some work-life balance tips:
- Where you work matter. We really believe that a home office space separates life from work will be more productivity and more free of distraction.
- Keep yourself to a schedule. Give yourself a limit to a start and end time by which things have to get done, or it’ll have to be taken care of the next day.
- Don’t neglect your daily care routine. Do some meal prep ahead of time or come up with go-to lunches. From an office, it’s easy to just look for the nearest fast food spot. At home, you may not have that. But you still need to get yourself fed.
These are secrets of agile project management that help us create a connected remote team.
We hope you’re finding your rhythm with your daily work as people around the world adjust to new circumstances.
Don’t forget to give us your best tips and tricks for a remote agile software development team!