If you’re one of the many companies who suddenly need to change work practices due to recent health concerns, you haven’t had much time to prepare and are likely weighing how to best manage a remote team.
Some remote software teams find it difficult to uphold agile practices and efficiently collaborate as they must juggle many tools, time zones, and backlogs of competing priorities. Lack of coordination and visibility causes software and product leaders to miss deadlines, and ultimately, delay or miss opportunities to meet customer demands. Luckily, we’ve gathered expert tips to help you quickly restructure, facilitate collaboration and ensure your organization is fully aligned and focused on the right goals. Hint: Allstacks can help!
Before we dive in, I’ll offer some context:
If you’re not familiar with us, Allstacks is the leading predictive forecasting and risk management solution for software development. We speak to mid-size and enterprise companies daily about their challenges in delivering value to their customers through exceptional software products. These are some of their common concerns, and with remote teams, they become even more critical to address:
- What can I do to improve reporting and determine the actual state of my initiatives?
- How can I make software delivery more predictable?
- How do I align software delivery with business goals?
- How can I foster communication and collaboration among individuals and teams?
- How can I refine and scale my agile methods?
- How can I ensure my team is motivated and productive?
With good remote practices, the right processes, and reliable technology, a distributed engineering team can develop and ship high-quality products to keep company-wide objectives on track.
Jump to the different recommendations or keep on reading:
- Recommendation 1: Use better, centralized data to drive informed decisions
- Recommendation 2: Use predictive forecasting to reduce risks and achieve more predictable outcomes
- Recommendation 3: Facilitate both autonomy and collaboration
- Recommendation 4: Use objective data to manage your team and drive continuous improvement
Recommendation 1: Use better, centralized data to drive informed decisions
In many companies, software development efforts depend on several parallel work streams— each with different processes and milestones. Leaders need a unified way to track work in progress with varying degrees of granularity—at a high level in aggregate, all the way down to the epic or sprint.
Some organizations attempt to solve their visibility and management issues by adding project managers, creating in-house reports, or using various tools. Often, these manual processes and cumbersome reports fall short, as they still only offer a fragmented view of the entire software development and delivery lifecycle.
“Building custom reports is time-consuming and resource-intensive, so at our organization, they were only generated sporadically. The Jira configuration and standard reports around sprint progress, velocity, and burndown were too low-level,” said ndustrial.io Founder and CEO Jason Massey regarding their attempts to build an in-house solution.
You and your team need accurate, comprehensive data to make informed decisions daily, with a clear view of how well you’re tracking towards your overarching goals.
Integrations are key
Your teams already have their preferred communication channels and technology stack. The easiest path is to leverage what your team is already using to work from one source of truth and always have the most up-to-date data. Other departments, like sales, marketing, and operations, have since overcome this challenge. For instance, sales, marketing, and operations teams use Hubspot to manage their customer data, sales activities, and marketing automation; they all have access to the same information at any given time.
Allstacks make it easy for you to keep your software team in sync without changing existing workflows or tech. You simply integrate with the tools your team is already using, like Bitbucket, GitHub, and Jira, and within a few hours, Allstacks’ platform is populated with your organization’s work initiatives.
Recommendation 2: Use predictive forecasting to reduce risks and achieve more predictable outcomes
Allstacks offers accurate predictive forecasting for software initiatives by analyzing the entire software development lifecycle—product scope, engineering velocity, and quality, code risk, and testing all the way through to delivery. Why continue to guess how your efforts are going when you can use our technology’s quantitative approach to determining actual work status?
The formula below shows the moving parts of your product and engineering ecosystem, where only some elements are in your control. Your product team drives the “what,” while your engineering functions drive the “how.” Your team’s ability to identify emerging risks as they happen and act on them before they cause delays is of the utmost importance.
Historical work data is sourced from the linked tools of your choice and analyzed by our AI and machine learning models to populate risks at the item level based on past work patterns. Our platform builds a predictive forecast per initiative and rolls it up into an aggregate dashboard of likely outcomes. This cascading functionality frees you up to focus on strategic-level planning. It gives your management team the information they need to proactively minimize risks and address off-track initiatives.
The purpose of our Portfolio Report is to provide a high-level view of how well you are tracking towards your company-wide initiatives. It solves your complex estimation issues where you’re guessing how unknown risks, unestimated work, and other external factors will affect your delivery date. Your product and software teams get improved forecasting accuracy and minimize time spent reporting with real-time, comprehensive views into your pipeline. No more complex spreadsheets or manual reports.
You can also use the Portfolio Report data to get buy-in for projects across your entire organization. Senad Biser, a business owner, and long-time software engineer, offers this advice to others:
“Try to communicate the overall picture to your developers and, together, set clearly-defined priorities. If you get the developer to understand the project as well as you do, the developer is likely to be more useful.”
Alfrick Opidi, a Full-Stack Engineer, offers a similar perspective, “Poor motivation in remote teams can be overcome by encouraging openness, honesty, and transparency. The goals and roles of each engineer and the team as a whole should be clear. This way, each member of the team can feel empowered with a vision and purpose to realize their stipulated objectives.”
Recommendation 3: Facilitate both autonomy and collaboration
Distractions and disruptions can keep your team from getting down to business. Several studies have shown it can take up to 23 minutes to recover concentration after becoming distracted. To combat this issue, you can implement some of the following tactics:
- Encourage “heads down hours” to promote focus. This way, individuals won’t feel the need to remain connected to online communication channels at all times
- Create an internal Wiki or another central repository to document and share information
- Give your team access to the data they need to make decisions
Allstacks was built to help members across your organization self-service and act autonomously. You can drill down into particular work items in the Allstacks’ Milestone Report to get more info on scope, contributor activity, velocity, and any related risks at any time. Avoiding distractions and getting the real-time data you need when you need it is invaluable.
Collaboration for Remote Software Teams
For teams that share work between time zones, stand-up is a great time to pass the baton so the team just coming online can pick up where the other team left off. Allstacks users can use the Work In Progress Report (WIP) to run efficient stand-up meetings and empower individual team members to take ownership over their own work.
“I like being able to view my own issues that are ready to be worked on. This level of transparency also helps me find potential bottlenecks and use the data to proactively bring up conversations about why a task may slip or needs to be addressed,” says Allstacks’ Lead Front-End Developer Aaron Mead.
The WIP gives you a snapshot of your team’s work status—including Stories, Pull Requests, and Commits—to understand where to take action.
In addition to the right tools, there are a few other considerations on building a unified development culture and ensuring workstreams run smoothly. Dan Radigan of Atlassian shares his recommendations:
- Overcommunicate decisions across all geographies
- Minimize the friction in setting up the development environment
- Clearly define the definition of done
- Create guidelines for filing effective bug reports
Recommendation 4: Use objective data to manage your team and drive continuous improvement
We know you have a lot on your plate, from resource planning and meeting deadlines to coaching teams and reducing burnout. Allstacks data can help you, and your team develop and refine processes over time, improve capacity planning, and check individual and team impact.
Our Individual Report provides objective insights for managers to run one-on-one and team meetings. This data-driven approach builds trust with your team and highlights any areas that need to be addressed. You can check on the impact of one contributor or an entire team for a desired amount of time. At a glance, you’ll be able to see if any new developers or remote team members are falling behind and need more training or guidance. For example, you can see how much of John Doe’s code making it into production.
You can also keep an eye on overtime hours and weekend workdays to combat burnout before it occurs.
As you refine your operations and run your meetings with your newfound remote team, agile experts offer this advice for your processes to be actionable and productive:
- Describe how the work is to be performed
- Set performance benchmarks
- Include a metric for measuring success whenever possible
These recommendations are by no means comprehensive; we’ve only scratched the surface of how you can make a smooth transition and how Allstacks can facilitate alignment and productivity across teams. We hope that you’ve found these tips helpful.
Learn more about Allstacks and get the help you need
Allstacks is committed to supporting our community during this challenging time. Consider our technology and experts as a helping hand during your transition to a remote software development culture. We invite you to demo our solution and contact us with any questions.