The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way we work. The home office operation mode and companies working remotely are currently flourishing. Many people have loved remote work, and we can expect that it will shortly be a standard solution, especially in niches and industries related to marketing and IT. The software houses utilize this approach as well. However, there’s the other side of the coin–running a remote software development project can be effective, but there are some rules you have to stick to.
Until recently, remote work was perceived as something mediocre, by no means as efficient as typical office-based work. Today, however, it seems that such a way of thinking is a thing of the past. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced remote work in a multitude of industries and niches.
If you run a software development company, most likely, you utilize this operation mode as well. At Addepto, we are huge fans of remote work. In fact, many of our specialists, consultants, and subcontractors work remotely! That’s why we would like to share our tips and tricks that will help you execute your software projects remotely, the past-COVID-19 way.
Basic principles of running a remote software development project
If you want to operate as effectively as before COVID-19, you have to apply some adjustments and change a bit the way of thinking about remote work.
START WITH ANALYSIS
Before you start any remote software development project, you have to make sure you fully understand your client’s idea and expected results. Professional software houses never start coding anything before understanding the idea and the desired functions. You have to know what you want to achieve and how if you want to lead a successful remote project.
That’s why you should analyze the project thoroughly and share this insight with every team member. And that brings us to the second point on our list.
PAY EXTRA ATTENTION TO PLANNING
First of all, you have to plan your work as thoroughly as possible. The reason is twofold:
- Written establishments enable the entire team to be on the same page with the project’s scope and progress.
- You don’t leave anything to blind chance; hence–fewer things can go wrong.
Your plan ought to be as specific as possible. Include everything that’s relevant, i.a. client’s requirements, expected outcome, functions, layout, documentation, process flow, etc. In a word–everything. Your entire team should be well-acquainted with these arrangements and act accordingly. And that leads us to the next point.
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It’s a big challenge to monitor the progress of work, especially when more people are involved. You can’t neglect that aspect of the remote software development project; otherwise, you’ll end up in one big mess. How can you monitor work?
Use project management tools: You should utilize various PM tools that will help you track progress and assign tasks to different team members. Naturally, every team member has to have access to this tool. At Addepto, we use Slack, but you can check other tools and choose the one that fits your needs. The current market’s offer is very broad, and it comprises many programs and apps. The vast majority of them are based on a web browser, so you don’t have to install any additional computer software. Take a look at these apps: Active Collab, Asana, ClickUp, Hive, Microsoft Planer, Monday, and Trello.
When deciding which software would be perfect for you, take these criteria into consideration:
- Basic functions (assigning people, deadlines, UX, time-tables)
- Features supporting project management (planning tasks, budget monitoring, possibility to run several projects simultaneously)
- Advanced functions (integration with other tools, file sharing, customization)
- Meet regularly: Many companies arrange team meetings during which they decide what needs to be done next and by whom. Of course, these meetings can be conducted online, thanks to such applications and Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype, or Zoom. To make them effective, decide how long they should take in advance and prepare the meeting agenda. Don’t prolong meetings and don’t invite people who aren’t necessary during a given meeting. Today, time is one of the most valuable assets. Keep these sessions short and simple.
- Tell people to communicate regularly: You can ask each team member to send updates regarding their progress by the end of the day. Furthermore, you should set clear and specific rules regarding communication. Bear in mind that face-to-face communication consists of non-verbal elements, and phone calls or emails lack them. That’s why each team member should write clear and precise emails in order to avoid possible misunderstandings or even conflicts. Of course, some of them are unavoidable, but it is your responsibility as a team leader to reduce misunderstandings to a minimum.
USE ONLINE TOOLS…
One of the keys to effective remote work is the usage of online tools. Google provides you with a very usable and free solution. Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms is a free, online office package available within Google Disc. Thanks to this solution, you can easily share documents among your team members, they can add their comments, and everyone sees work progress. Thanks to Google Docs, your entire team can work on the same documents together.
You can also think about utilizing task-tracking software. Many of the aforementioned project management tools have that option. The idea is to monitor each team member’s progress. When another stage of work is done, you’ll be notified.
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… BUT DON’T OVERDO WITH THEM
The efficiency has to be a top priority. If you ask your employees to use tens of different tools, they will have to waste a lot of time dealing with them, and not enough time will be left for the work itself. There’s no place for the art for art’s sake here.
Your client pays you for the results of your work, not for filling out tables and forms!
LOOK FOR FREELANCERS A.K.A. BUILD A REMOTE TEAM
If you’re still at the team-building stage, you should look for freelancers, both in terms of web development and project management. Why? That’s due to the characteristic of this type of career. Believe us; a freelance career is not idyllic. A good freelancer has many wanted qualities at their fingertips, and that includes multitasking, organization of their own work, and a flexible approach to assigned tasks. They react quickly to any changes and adjust the implemented actions accordingly. Isn’t that exactly what you need when running a remote software development company?
Things look a bit different if you already have a team. In such a situation, you should take their personal traits into account. And that leads us to the next point on our list:
UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT
It’s just the way it is. You can’t do anything about it; you have to accept it. Some people might be a little more talkative than others. Most likely, there will be at least one introvert on your team. Someone will have to be additionally motivated, and someone will gladly lead the team. Your role, as a business owner or a manager, is to understand these differences and assign people to tasks that suit their work style.
Things get complicated when your team is spread all across the globe. Different time zones can be tricky. For instance, if your headquarters are in the United States and you have employees in Germany, when your working day starts (9 am), their ends (3 pm). You have to take that into account and schedule meetings at times that are most convenient for the majority of your team members.
TEST A LOT
This point is particularly important when it comes to remote software development. When running a software project remotely, you have to test the results of your work frequently and quickly. Don’t wait until the product is done. It may turn out that you have to implement tens of changes and adjustments. Early and frequent testing will allow you to avoid these problems. In order to help you with that, we advise you to adopt two usable approaches to remote software development–DevOps and Agile.
As researchers suggest, the DevOps approach should be defined as “a set of practices intended to reduce the time between committing a change to a system and the change being placed into normal production, while ensuring high quality”. Continuous delivery is a very similar approach. The main idea is to verify and adopt changes at every possible stage of development. DevOps and continuous delivery allow you to shorten the system’s development life cycle and accelerate your work.
In short, Agile is a method of project management, used especially in the software development sector. Agile is all about the division of tasks into short stages and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans. The agile approach “advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continual improvement, and it encourages flexible responses to change”.
Both of these approaches all about optimizing your work and delivering expected results in the shortest time possible. We advise you to get acquainted with these techniques and try to implement them in your everyday work. Who knows, maybe they will help you deliver results in a more organized and quicker way?
TRUST YOUR TEAM
That’s the last element on our list, but it’s still essential. When working remotely, you have to trust people you work with. You have to trust that they will do their job as best they can and do it within the agreed time limit. Without such trust, your work will soon turn into a nightmare, and every delay, every problem, every conflict will become an impassable obstacle.
If you’d like to use artificial intelligence or machine learning in your remote software development project – we are at your service. We willingly cooperate with software houses and other entities that produce web/mobile apps. We are also experienced in remote work, so you can be sure that we stick to this article’s rules. Drop us a line, and let’s talk! No matter if you’re in Europe, Asia, or the United States!
 Wikipedia. DevOps. URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DevOps. Accessed Aug 26, 2020.
 Wikipedia. Agile software development. URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development. Accessed Aug 26, 2020.