Collaborating with a team far from your office may seem challenging because of cultural differences, distance, different time zones, and many other factors. How can you take full advantage of remote collaboration with a software house?
According to the Computer Economics 2019 report, both large and medium-sized organizations have spent more on IT outsourcing in 2018 — from 6.3% to 8.7% and from 4.7% to 6.5% respectively. So, remote collaboration is here to stay and this is why you should arm yourself with knowledge of how to successfully run a remote project.
At Studio Software, we’ve been remotely collaborating with companies based in different time zones for years now, and our clients value the communication skills of our team. Here’s how we do it.
Getting to know each other
Remote cooperation should start with planning so that both you and the software house you work with would know the procedure and you would always be on the same page. The goal is to define the main principles before the project runs.
This is why we recommend a kickoff meeting that helps us establish common goals. It’s the first meeting between you and the dev team, so it will give you the opportunity to get to know the project team better and agree on what the work will look like. You’ll have a chance to share as many details about your project as needed to build solid ground for collaboration.
You’ll also get familiar with the software development process and know your role in it. Later you’ll be engaged in specification writing, requirements acceptance, product testing, and feedback sharing.
Face-to-face meetings set the course for the project. Bearing this in mind, you should expect meetings in person organized regularly if possible, for instance once a quarter, every six months, or yearly if the software house you work with is oceans apart.
Regular meetings with remote clients
There’s no question that knowing each other positively affects collaboration. But what about staying up to date when a project is in progress? Does it always have to be a meeting in person?
It all starts with so-called sprint planning that determines the product backlog, so you know what will be delivered in the upcoming sprint. So, we’ll schedule a video call (through Google Hangouts or Zoom) with you at least every two weeks to present our work, get your feedback, answer all your questions, and plan the next steps.
During these sprint review meetings the project is assessed against the goals set at the planning meeting. You can discuss the highest priority features and next steps. We encourage our clients to talk to the team, share ideas, visions, and needs. Believe us, it keeps all the team members engaged in the project and can be as effective as brainstorming in person.
Our experience shows that there should be no such thing as a last-minute meeting. It’s better to schedule them so that everyone can prepare. It’s also important to have a product owner on your side — a decision-making person who joins meetings on your behalf and is up to date with the project. With a person who is involved in the project and understands the goals and objectives you’ll be sure that things are running as planned. Of course, any other member of your team is also welcome.
You can pick the most convenient communication method, but video calls make things easier. Facial expressions and body language say a lot and help to determine common goals.
Daily meetings are optional, so if you have time, you’re always welcome!
And what about time differences? Several hours’ time differences can be difficult to handle, but not impossible. We always share our working hours with you and do our best to find time convenient for both you and the dev team.
Project management tools to make remote collaboration more effective
Luckily, remote collaboration is greatly supported by modern technology. There are many tools that enhance the quality of communication and make collaboration faster and more productive. And most importantly, you always know the current stage of the project.
Let’s see how we do it.
Jira is one of many project management tools that make you see the work status at any time. With well prepared backlog and clearly formulated tasks you’ll always be on the same page as the project team.
Not familiar with the tool? No worries. We start our collaboration with training you to use Jira with confidence. You will know exactly what Jira is and how it should be used to make work more efficient — everything to make our remote collaboration smooth.
We’ll also get you through the Agile methodology, so you’ll know why we work in sprints and what’s your role in the project. The next step is creating a product backlog, prioritization, and a user scenario. Then the fun begins — we’ll show you how to leave comments on tasks or features, report bugs, or assign issues to a certain developer.
If you want to know more about how we use Jira to manage IT projects, read one of our latest blog posts: Software development company without Jira — is it possible?
What also helps are instant messengers such as Slack used for both in-house and remote communication. You have access to a shared channel (workspace) created for your project, so your team can discuss the project with developers in real time.
Even though this tool enables sending direct messages, we recommend sharing comments in the workspace where everyone can see them. It will streamline the process, as it keeps everyone in the loop.
What we really like on Slack are channels such as #adminpanel and #feedback, so that the whole communication is organized. Guess what? It can be more effective than emails in some ways.
We use cloud-based storage systems such as Google Drive so that you have 24/7 access to all the materials related to your project.
Transparency and keeping everyone updated
Keeping everyone updated can be challenging, so it’s important to choose a software house that is transparent about how it works. Naturally, you need to know the project status, so sharing the details on Slack or a drive and over video calls keeps you updated all the time and ensures you that your money is spent well.
This is also about unwanted surprises and problems the project team can face. If you’re not involved in every phase of the project, you may be missing issues for a long time, so imagine how it can impact your final product. Ask the team for providing you with all the project details, challenges, and risks so that you can react quickly if anything goes wrong.
You also have a right to know who from the project team plans holidays in the near future and anything that can impact the project. The more you know, the better control you have over the IT project and the easier it is to plan the next steps.
We always encourage our clients to share feedback regularly to keep things moving seamlessly. Ongoing communication helps us identify areas for improvement. It’s not only about the project. We appreciate honest feedback about the quality of our communication or how satisfied you are with individual team members.
Prepare for effective remote collaboration
As you can see, distance and time difference are not obstacles. The most challenging part is effective communication. With trust, proper tools, and regular meetings remote collaboration will pay off for both you and the software house. Follow the given tips and you’ll be surprised how smoothly the work will go!