Managing a large team of developers has its own set of challenges, but what happens when that team is fully – or mostly – remote? With a remote team, you can’t walk over to someone’s desk and see how they’re doing. Employees may be working from all around the world in different time zones, so getting together all at once might be impossible. The list goes on.
But it can be done! And lots of companies are successfully running a remote engineering team. Here are some tips from Engineering Managers and CEOs on managing remote employees.
For some teams, daily standups may not be necessary or could seem like a waste of time. For others, it’s a crucial part of their day and a way to check in on the status of the projects everyone is working on. Mark Tuchscherer, President of Geeks Chicago, says the biggest hurdle his remote team had to overcome was keeping everyone organized with multiple projects. He says, “Since we are an Agile office we have a daily stand with our project managers and their development team. This is a short 15-20 minute video meeting to go over what everyone is working on. This helps ensure everyone is clear on tasks and there are no issues that need to be addressed. It also makes everyone feel like they are in a more traditional office and team.”
David Mendlewicz, Co-Founder of Butterfly, also implements standups three times per week. They use these meetings not just for status updates, but also as a way to convey the company culture to the remote employees. He says, “We recently instituted thrice-weekly 'routines' in which all 15 of us gather and share our goals, progress, and successes. We utilize Google Hangouts for face-to-face interaction. While 3X per week stand-ups might seem like overkill, these 20-minute meetings help us build and bolster our unique culture. We point out each other’s' new haircuts, get to meet our teammates' cats, and set team objectives as a cohesive unit each week.”
Whether you prefer video calls, chat software, or good-old email, the tools you use to communicate with one another are crucial to managing a successful remote team. David Kearney, who works for a Japanese software company that is setting up a US office, stresses how important using the right tools are while working with two distinct remote teams. He says, “We use a number of the newest cloud-based tools to help communicate. We use Slack for our round-the-clock discussions. We use Redmine for managing the tasks and agile development process. We manage our source code with Github and use Jenkins to enable our Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment. Without these tools, we could not move as quickly as we do.”
Buffer, one of the first fully-remote companies that come to my mind, outlined all the tools they use on their blog. Their toolset includes HipChat for keeping in touch with the team, Hackpad for collaborating on documents, and Swiggle for video chats.
Zapier, another company with a remote team of 20, uses Slack for their group chat room, Trello for project management, LastPass to manage all their login credentials, and HelloSign for signing important documents.