Managers and employees alike are adjusting to working managing remote team and communicating from their computers. For managers, awareness has become the number one challenge and key to managing remote teams, meaning remote performance monitoring, collaboration, morale, and more.
COVID-19 has forced more and more employees to work remotely. And while flexible working strategies have gained traction of late, for many teams the pandemic’s push toward remote working and collaboration for the entire team has presented a number of challenges to navigate.
Hence, agile development teams rely on largely in-person processes, leaving many team leaders mired in how to approach these facets in purely managing remote team environments.
The Example of Performance managing remote team
Eugene Granovsky, founder and CEO of Bella watt, has worked in both centralized offices and companies that had distributed teams. His current company specialized in software for the energy sector and which counts among its clients the United States Department of Energy, the Pacific Gas & Electric company and the Amazon energy services managing remote team, works remotely from the first day. “In an office, you can get by by showing up early, leaving late, typing away on the keyboard, and very often all of this is detrimental to the product,” he admits.
The simplest, and yet the biggest difference in his opinion, is to build on a remote workforce, set explicit outcomes, and measure performance based on how well managing remote team meet those outcomes.
Planning and communication are crucial
For distributed agile workforce, especially those where managing remote team members set their own working hours, planning and communication is paramount, say Granovsky. Just as managers can’t glance at a team member to see how they’re doing, developers can’t turn around and ask for immediate clarification if they’re not completely clear on their assigned task.
“In an office, you don’t have to give them all the information they need to do their job,” he says. “You can give him the 90% he needs to get started, and then he can come to you for the other 10%,” she continues. Consequently, “working remotely forces you to do things as you should do them, but sooner and better,” Granovsky concludes in this regard. In particular, planning,communication and managing remote team.
Tools for remote communication
For distributed workforce, putting together the right set of collaboration tools is critical. Daily meetings and other elements of this way of working can be difficult to replicate in managing remote team environments, especially across disparate time zones. In this case, tools that facilitate clear communication in often asynchronous workflows can help.
When it comes to choosing tools, Granovksy advises using the most standard platforms. “We learned from experience that the most popular tools are popular for a reason,” he says. For Granovsky’s team, that means GitHub for post and code management, Zoom for video conferencing, and Google Docs for knowledge sharing and white boarding.
The virtual task board
If there’s any tool that epitomizes the agile experience, it’s the virtual office dashboard: those collaboration space anchor points covered in sticky notes that team members can easily look at for instant insight into project progress. .
At Greenphire, a clinical trial payment company, “the agile development process is centered around those tools,” acknowledges its IT director, David Wallace. IT and engineering teams typically work together every day in the same office, he says, but as of March 19, as the Coronavirus took hold in the United States, the company activated its business continuity plan.
“We were entering uncharted territory,” he admits. And, particularly with the pandemic, it’s important to have financial systems in place to support clinical trials, he adds, so Greenphire couldn’t miss a beat.
“Physical walls are essential for camaraderie and team building,” he says. “But we always kept virtual boards as well and managing remote team. So today, we have the exact same teams using virtual boards.”
To keep their now fully remote team on the same page, Greenphire relies exclusively on Jira’s virtual table, without the need for Post-Its to exchange information.
A good use of the blackboard
For agile teams, whiteboards are essential for mapping out everything from project plans to tasks. Greenphire is a big user of whiteboards for story mapping, which is where teams plan and record user activities as part of the development process. “And usually it’s been done in person,” admits David Wallace.
However, the company’s remote team in Vietnam has been using the whiteboard tool built into the Zoom video conferencing system. “It was a lesson learned from another department that has been especially helpful now, and it helps keep the same feel and feel of our in-person brainstorms,” he says.
Other whiteboard tools popular with agile development teams include Miro, Mural, Trellis, and Weave.
The use of video conferencing for managing remote team
The Zoom video conferencing platform has become a valuable player during this work-at-home era. It’s easy to use, its basic functionality is free, and it includes built-in whiteboards, chat, breakout rooms, and easy screen sharing. For teams engaging in remote collaboration lately, Zoom has been a solution for meeting times.
But video conferencing options abound. Some companies use a combination of Microsoft’s Skype and managing remote team products. Then there’s Google Hangouts; and Sococo is another virtual meeting tool that combines video, chat, and screen sharing in a metaphor for office work.
“It’s about finding the right fit for your team,” says Emilia Breton-Lake of Accenture Solutions IQ.
Breton-Lake suggests that teams agree in advance how video conferencing tools will be used so that people know what is expected of them, and also to ensure that everyone is involved in the calls.
“With the last team I worked with, we didn’t care if the office was messy or your hair was done or your makeup was sloppy; what mattered to us was seeing each other’s faces”, she admits. “We don’t care if there’s background noise from your dog or your kids, the important thing is not to be quiet so you can hear little vocal reactions—like ‘ huh’ —that you would hear face-to-face.”
Making the most of remote face-to-face time
In addition to setting expectations around video conferencing, it’s also important to note that conducting virtual meetings requires different skills from the person tasked with developing and maintaining the virtual whiteboard, says Breton-Lake. In an in-person meeting, most people don’t want to be rude and open their phone or laptop and check emails
Creating a productive space at home
Developers require many tools to be productive and managing remote team in their home offices. To start, they need high-speed Internet access, virtual private networks, and multi-factor authentication. But there are a lot of little things that can make a big difference that your developers might not think about beforehand, and it’s worth having an open conversation among your team to help ensure each member can establish a productive space at home.