Lessons learned during the pandemic and how distributed engineering can be one of the takeaways

Distributed engineering is a flourishing industry. And it’s easy to see why. Despite variations in the specifics of different projects, markets and clients, the one thing all startup technical leadership teams want is the best talent in the right places. Advancements in collaborative working practices have provided access to augmented teams of highly-skilled individuals from across the globe. Remote engineering means you never have to settle for average again. 

Dedicated teams of remote engineers with the specific skills you require can be brought in to bring a new product to market rapidly and successfully. There is no need to spend valuable time, money and resources on recruitment and training. By outstaffing with Agile Fuel, you can have the best talent working for you without having to recruit and train them. That’s a fully trained individual with the necessary skills and experience and let them get on with turning your vision into reality - just without the hassle of recruiting them.

Of course, distributed engineering brings its own challenges in terms of management. But rather than allowing that to put you off outstaffing to obtain the best dedicated teams for your next project, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of tips and tricks to make sure you remain in control of the project and get the best results out of the best remote engineering teams.

Learning the lessons of the pandemic

2020 saw nearly all industries forced into some form of remote working. While this may have been frustrating, it can be turned into a positive. A year ago, very few managers were in a position to know the pitfalls of remote working. That is no longer the case. Experience is key to growth and understanding why and how problems with remote working occurred puts you in a far stronger position to plan for future remote working conditions.

Getting the right remote engineering team in place

The first step to getting the right people in place is being clear in your own mind what your requirements are. Once you fully understand the skills required, you can start to look for the right talent with experience in that field. Portfolios and reviews are an important part of the selection process. Ideally you want to select fully vetted remote developers to give you confidence in their ability to deliver and this is where a local outstaffing agency has a key advantage to support you.

Focus on onboarding

We’re all used to interacting with one another virtually these days so this shouldn’t cause any problems. Make sure everybody involved in the project has access to the tools they need to complete the task and communicate with the team from day one. These early stages are crucial. Everybody involved must understand the project, the processes and how communication and collaboration is to work. It can be tempting to rush into getting on with the work, but building a solid foundation is key to success. 

Try to be clear in your explanations, keep up to date documentation, and always invite questions. Ask people to clarify things if you are in any way uncertain about their level of understanding. This is the stage during which the dynamics of the team are established. If each individual is clear on their role and how it contributes overall, they are more likely to feel part of a team. A good working knowledge of the overall process will keep people engaged as you move forward. Open communication at this stage will establish a protocol of two-way feedback and should give you confidence in your distributed engineers. 

Use synchronous time well

Depending on where the various components of your distributed engineering team are located, you may find that there is a difference in usual working hours. This time that your teams are working at the same time is called ‘synchronous time’. Use it for parts of the work that require it most. This could be team meetings or daily/weekly reviews. This time is crucial and how you fill it should be carefully planned.

Be clear with your expectations

Dedicated teams made up of outstaffed resources are chosen for their experience and expertise. So, they won’t need you looking over their shoulder all the time. But they will need to know exactly what you expect from them and when. Make your instructions and deadlines clear. Ask your remote team to clarify that they understand your goals and remain open to questions and suggestions. It’s important to check in from time to time too. You’ll be able to monitor progress towards KPIs from your desktop or mobile device but the occasional one-on-one call or message will help build that team element which is critical. When you call a meeting or a catch up, make sure you know what you want to get out of it. Adding an agenda in advance has shown to be the best way to improve any meeting efficiency (online or offline). Physical meetings are notorious for ‘padding out’ a day to make the journey seem worthwhile. Used properly, online communication is far more efficient and allows people to get on with what they do best.

Stay connected with distributed engineering teams

Communication is crucial to teamwork. Fortunately, modern technology allows you to contact someone on the other side of the world just as easily as you can shout across the office. Emails have their place in business, but this is not it. Use a platform that allows for easy sharing editing etc with a clear audit trail of changes so you can keep on top of developments.

When you need to get everybody together, Zoom is actually far more efficient even than dragging  everybody to a room big enough to accommodate them. So, embrace this innovation. Zoom calls are a great way for people in different locations to put a name to a face. They also allow people to read body language and can help avoid those awkward moments when you read a message and can’t detect the tone it is supposed to convey. Think about different ways you can get people interacting via tools such as Zoom or Slack. An ‘Anything else’ Slack channel for chatting about things not associated with the work can help keep people from different locations connected. One way to help build a team spirit is to create your own emojis to capture specific events such as Crunch Time or Emergent Bug Fix etc.

 

Outstaffing development projects to dedicated teams of experienced professionals is the future of agile working. By harnessing the best talent available, you increase your chances of delivering on time and on budget. 2020 prepared many technical startups  for managing their existing teams remotely and has given them confidence to spread their wings and see the benefits of distributed engineering.

If the last 12 months have taught us one thing, it’s that we can overcome any challenge. But only the most innovative and industrious emerge from tough times with a clearer vision of what the future holds. If that’s you, get in touch today and let’s talk about how distributed engineering can be the future of your project management.

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