After the COVID-19 pandemic, distributed software development teams became instead a common phenomenon, compared to the pre-pandemic realities.
Despite the fact, that today such teams can be easily met during software project development, they are rarely talked about. Frankly speaking, some distributed teams' best practices show great results and can upscale your software product. However, in order to gain these advantages, it is worth dealing with the most common challenges, which are accompanying this specific software development approach.
To cut a long story short, let’s get straight to the point, and find out what are the advantages and potential drawbacks of distributed development teams, how they appeared, and most importantly - what are the best practices, help to increase efficiency by building distributed development teams and what are the secrets of distributed team management?
Let’s start with the basics, and find out what exactly a distributed team is.
Frankly speaking, the answer is easy. A distributed team is almost the complete opposite of in-house developers or dedicated teams. It does not mean, that they are not as experienced or as committed, as the foregoing. The main difference between all these concepts lies in the physical location of software engineers.
For instance, both on-premises developers and outsourced development teams are mainly working from the office space. While in-house software engineers are working directly with the business owner, staying at the original company office, the offshore developers are doing almost the same thing, yet instead of direct employment, they simply provide the client with specific services like DevOps or software development.
At the same time, distributed team management has something in common with freelance developers. Contrary to all the team alternatives, distributed teams consist of remote expert developers, who are working from home or other places, except for the office. They also differ from freelancers, because they work as a team, instead of a more individualistic approach, which is a well-spread practice among freelancers.
If we will talk about the nature of the distributed team phenomenon, then we have to admit, that they existed long before the COVID pandemic. Still, this event was a trigger for the popularization of such a working approach. Due to various restrictions and social distances, as well as the quarantine, most software developers were forced to relocate from offices and start working from home. So, we can assume, that during the harshest quarantine period, probably all software developers were working in terms of distributed software development teams.
To rephrase it, probably each software vendor has already experienced working under such conditions, yet might not fully understand the term itself. This working method become so viral, that some journalists and other experts from the field conducted various types of research, like “The Science Behind Managing Virtual Team” article by Andrew Mawson for Forbes.
Ok, so we, as business owners, are facing the idea of sending all our team members to work from remote locations like home. What are the most obvious thoughts, that come to mind?
For now, it seems, that building a distributed team of developers has huge drawbacks, which will directly impact the different working processes, endangering the whole development. But what, if we told you, that all the foregoing is not totally true and is rather an unreasonable fear, than actual danger?
Plainly speaking, these thoughts, that come to mind, when you hear “distributed development from home” can result both positively and negatively, depending on a few factors. One of the most important aspects, which directly impact the efficiency of distributed software development is corporate culture and engagement.
One and the most important practice, related to any kind of development, that defines all the potential threats and efficiency of your employees - is the way, you are treating them. For instance, hiring an outsourcing team is a win-win strategy for businesses, regardless of their accessibility and the possibility of directly and physically contacting the rest of the company.
So, instead of worrying about potential distractions or other similar factors, it is worth establishing a friendly and comfortable environment for each of the employees. Engaged and motivated developers, who are interested in the job, they are doing, obviously show much better results, compared to others.
In other words, the best possible strategy for building any type of software development tea, which shows great results - is to create conditions, where they feel valued. For a better illustration, let’s consider the previously mentioned worries, which usually appear when it comes to distributed teams, as well as the steps, usually made in order to deal with them.
Plainly speaking, various distractions and the need to perform other job-unelated tasks can bring both benefits and challenges for the job.
Clearly, it is impossible to somehow decrease the distraction of a remote employee. Instead, it is better to prioritize task completion over fixed working hours. When your remote developers will know, that completing the task is the priority over the rest of working routine assignments and schedule, they will show great results. For example, they will most likely start performing everyday tasks much faster due to the fact, that the rest of the time can be used for other more private purposes.
The first lesson is: “You can’t ensure, that the remote employee works efficiently all day long. However, you can be sure, that they can perform all the tasks to be done”.
Many different types of research like the previously mentioned one, from Forbes, show that despite all the predictions and expectations, the efficiency of distributed teams grows. Once again, thanks to the shift from the orientation on the work to the task completion, combined with fewer “working interactions” like small talk with other employees, chatting in the kitchen, smoking breaks, etc., the remote team member can concentrate more on the assignment. Therefore, such employees can show better results in less time.
This is probably the most crucial concern of building and managing software development teams.
Because the team is based on a remote approach, all the internal communications are narrowed down to the ones, possible with the use of third-party software solutions. Clearly, any work involves effective communication between the team members and knowledge or information sharing.
This creates intense security concerns due to the fact, that all these interactions are done online instead of through physical contact or mixed methods. Obviously, it also includes sharing potentially vulnerable or private information as well, like logins and passwords, other credentials, code reviews, and materials, used during the distributed software development process, etc. So, it provokes serious security concerns.
Nevertheless, it is possible to assume, that most of the possible security issues can be dealt with by using cybersecurity measures for software development outsourcing. As a matter of fact, both development approaches share a lot of the same issues, related to overall development safety.
Summing up all the above, it seems that most potential disadvantages and threats of distributed development teams were already resolved in other software development practices.
Therefore, the only aspect, that has no ready-to-use formula - is the team culture. So, instead of making excuses and inventing the wheel, it is worth taking care of your company policies.
For instance, it is always a good idea to increase the engagement of your employees. Giving the opportunities for each to speak and be heard, as well as proposing different extra activities, which allow improving internal communication with everyone. It is essential not only to give your developers tasks but create comfortable and supportive corporate culture, which will engage them and motivate them, boosting the teams performance.
Frankly speaking, despite the fact, that our priority and specialization is outsourcing, we still understand the needs of distributed developers.
To sum up, most distributed teams' best practices are similar to the outsourced ones. Regardless of the differences between these two concepts, they are very similar when it comes to managing software development teams. So, it is possible to use some of the well-known and widespread practices in both cases, regardless of whether we are talking about distributed team meaning or offshore dedicated developers.
For example, building a software development team is based on the same principles in any circumstance and narrows down to finding the right candidates, hiring a dedicated team, and setting up the working environment for them.
For more details and a better illustration of what results can software developers achieve, when all their interests and the team are just right, we propose you check some of our case studies. In case you have any further questions and are looking for answers - you are always welcome to contact us!
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A distributed development team is a group of individuals who work together on a software development project but are located in different geographic locations. This can include remote workers, freelancers, or teams based in different offices.
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