How can you be in control of your projects, when working with remote teams

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The team

A great definition of the concept of “team“ is “an exciting mixture of qualities, abilities, and perspectives”. When it comes to teams spread worldwide, one can add to the definition “with different background regarding the culture and education”. The team can ensure the success or the failure of a project.

Research has shown that remote teams encounter some difficulties at the beginning of the projects as a consequence of misunderstanding the tasks and feedback. This is caused by the cultural differences, the language barriers or the novelty of the project, but can be fixed if some tactics are applied.

Language barriers are no longer a problem

Ensure a good level of speaking and understanding of the language for the team you work with. But also be aware that you should give people some time to acquire the communication style you are promoting

Set up a communication flow and a reporting style that encourages feedback. Even if you bring together the best professionals, they still have to set up as a team. They assume a common vision of the project and contribute to the improvement of the software, by offering feedback.

Providing face-to-face meetings at least with the leaders of the remote teams will encourage informal communication, team identification, and cohesion. This can be considered an investment in the project, with a large return when it comes to increasing productivity.

Moreover, researchers like Martin Hoegl or Holger Ernest actually revealed that remote teams can perform as well as the teams located in the clients’ office, and even better, because of this need of permanent communication and demand for clarifications.

Ensuring the control of the project

There are many tools available for controlling your outsourced projects. We mention JIRA and TFS, our favorites, but also Redmine or Trello. At a simple search, Google displays dozens of such tools.

These tools will ease your project management. They allow you to track and plan activities for multiple projects. Moreover, they can actually help you to better understand your team by monitoring the time they spend on a task or the problems encountered during the development process. So you get the big picture of what you want to do and then you start to set tasks and assign the persons responsible for each of them.

From this point on, you are able to see how everything works: you set the frequency of your online meetings and get feedback from your team via a video call software like Skype, Google Hangouts etc. You can also keep an eye on the ongoing tasks because every user has to set the state of his work. For example, one can pause a task because of some kind of encountered difficulty, but can also add a comment in order to clarify the reason why the task is on hold.

The person in charge of monitoring the progress of the project can always see how the remote team is performing. Moreover, you can improve your estimations for the tasks and for the next sets of periods of time needed for development.

Furthermore, if you want to protect the data, you can set your own virtual machine and the members’ of your remote team will connect via a secure network (VPN). You can easily set your own method for tracking the work done by using documents that divide the project into tasks. Actually, the logic is the same, just that you will need a separate bug tracker.

Lessons learned

1. Setting up a team means that people must adapt to a specific way of working and get the same picture as you do when it comes to the project. So one must be patient a few weeks before things just start to roll out!

2. Remote teams might be as productive as local teams. Their actions are tracked permanently and the scrum meetings allow solving issues and giving feedback. Different educational backgrounds mean a different approach that could actually improve your project!

3. Think about using software to keep a well-organized project and follow the work of your team. You can also make your own system, so in order to make sure that you are in full control of your project!

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