Making the switch to managing remote mobile app development teams can certainly seem like a daunting task. In reality, the supposed challenges of managing professional software development partners is wildly overstated. Too often ignored is the impact that modern tools, technologies, and management techniques play in making remote teams just as (if not more) efficient than their in-house counterparts. With the right management your project may be able to be completed with only a couple of freelancers, let us help with our article on whether you should hire mobile app freelancers, or a remote mobile app team.
The resources available today go a long, long way to incentivize remote mobile app development. Nevertheless, it does require management skills and hard-won experience to most efficiently (and least intrusively) deploy such tools. In this article, we’ve distilled Pangea’s own insights dealing with some of the world’s top development companies into the critical dos and don’ts of managing a remote mobile app development team.
And if you haven’t yet found a remote team that fits your criteria, just tell us what you need and within 72h we’d be happy to provide you a free list of 5 companies that can help you out!
The distribution of a remote team may span multiple countries, cultures, time zones, and even continents. The challenge of managing developers on such widely varying schedules ranks among the key hurdles people associate with a remote team. In reality, even the most disparate teams can be relatively easily coordinated with regular meetings.
Scheduled meetings, held consistently, are enough to organize, orient, and set the goals teams and developers will work toward. The specifics of how and when to run these meetings is an area where office management experience pays dividends in a remote workflow. Held too regularly, these calls can impact productivity, interrupt tasks, and cut into valuable time. Too infrequent, and communication gaps can cause even larger issues.
Most experienced development teams are already familiar with operating within practical scheduling constraints. Teams that employ agile development methodologies have an in-built opportunity to schedule daily calls to catch up, reorient, and reset the focus from one day to the next.
The daily scrum, or stand-up, has already set the table for remote working. Done over freely available and commonly used video conferencing tools such as Google Meet, Skype, or Zoom—the daily scrum provides an ideal platform to ensure team members have their voices heard and expectations set.
This tip seems so trivial and obvious that it almost feels like it doesn’t need to be said. Yet, one of the most common complaints from developers is the hours spent on tasks entirely unrelated to software development. Tasks that simultaneously waste efficiency, frustrate developers, and stall progress.
One of the worst-kept secrets about developers is that they love to write code. It’s the role they’re best at, it’s what they entered the industry to do, and it’s how they generate the largest return on investment. Effective management aims to direct that passion into developing value, progress, and momentum for the company.
One of the best things you can do to utilize that value is to protect developers from non-essential time sinks. Interruptions, non-technical meetings, micro-management, and extraneous administrative tasks often fall into these categories.
In an ideal world, development teams would exclusively write code. Their time is best spent building, maintaining, and improving applications. Tasks beyond that may well be considered excess overhead to be trimmed down and minimized.
The daily scrum call and regularly scheduled communications are great at removing roadblocks, distractions, and other ‘big picture’ problems. They don’t, however, replicate the quick day-to-day communication available in a conventional office environment. One more technology remote teams rely on for improved close collaboration is instant messaging.
Close-knit development teams are experts in solving the immediate and unpredictable problems that arise during mobile app development. Small problems that become significant roadblocks are precisely the kind of issues instant messaging feels tailor-made to solve. A quick exchange between colleagues can wrap up in minutes what might otherwise take a day or more.
While email—used almost exclusively in the past—will always have its place in the communication hierarchy, instant messaging has quickly become an equally critical partner over the last decade or so.
Slack, a channel-based messenger application, is the most popular messaging app for offices and teams to communicate today. The app’s rich feature set, channel-focused design, and abundant plugins and extensions make it ideal for communications both within and between teams.
For management, Slack-based communication advantages include the ability to drop in and out of communications in real-time without interrupting forward progress. Combined with the ability to search archived messages and attachments, instant message-based office communication marks a notable improvement over informal office assistance.
The efficiency and availability of instant messaging, however, can be a double-edged sword. Both developers and management need to pay attention to the role instant messaging plays in day-to-day work. Just as undue distraction can prove toxic to the real-world office, an over-reliance on messenger apps and communication channels can cut into development time and easily disrupt invaluable concentration.
When asked, developers will almost invariably tell you that one of the single most desired traits in any organization is a management team that recognizes their abilities and trusts them to get the work done. In the details, there is a consistently shifting and impossibly difficult balancing act to be done.
The line between effective management and micromanagement can be difficult to find. It’s one which almost everyone will cross over from time to time. Constantly checking up on teams, requesting more than the fair share of ‘catch-ups’, and taking time to request excess updates on progress tends to hamper forward momentum.
Effective management turns the perceived weaknesses of remote mobile app development into one of its greatest strengths. Distributed working means that documentation, time-tracking, and formalized communications are that much more essential. The very changes which facilitate remote teamwork also allow management to avoid interrupting developers for regular updates. Add in improvements in project management tools too, and the result should be more time for development and less friction from project overheads.
Remote mobile application development should mean giving developers more time to think, find solutions to problems, and more time to create high-quality products they can take pride in.
For management, maintaining a complete and accurate picture of a project’s status is vital to its success or failure. In a remote team, that picture is even more critical.
Indeed, a key benefit of outsourced mobile app development is consistent and reliable feedback on project management. Teams, already accustomed to tracking time against development issues, report results directly using widely used project management tools and solutions.
JIRA is one of the most widely adopted project management tools available today. It’s widely understood and frequently used—meaning the challenges and learning curve associated with its uptake are minimal. JIRA provides an invaluable boost to existing processes and teams. It keeps every person and task accountable for progress spent throughout the project.
There are a wide array of comparable options to suit too. Trello, for example, is considerably more lightweight and a lot less learning intensive for those unfamiliar with project management tools. Promoting itself as fun, flexible, and rewarding Trello is a task management tool that aims to provide full functionality at a reduced cost over a more heavyweight solution.
Ideal for small teams and projects which prioritize momentum over strict adherence to process, Trello integrates especially well with agile development methodologies.
Both solutions come with a wide range of plugins and extensions which interact with reporting tools, notifications, and Slack channels to maintain frictionless tracking and communication between teams and management.
At Pangea.ai we are a small team and everyone is involved in everything at some level. We strive for simplicity and to reduce the number of tools we use. For us, the best solution so far has been integrating Notion for both project and knowledge management. Their unique combination of features makes it a particularly useful platform to share information between internal and external community members, update our development roadmap, manage our tasks through multiple channels, and more.
One danger associated with abundantly available modern tracking and reporting tools is how easy they make it to focus on numbers over outcomes. An over-reliance on bare stats is a very dangerous thing.
Reports and statistics undoubtedly have their place, but it’s important to look at ‘big picture’ stories too. Solving road blocking problems is far more valuable than lines of code per hour or bugs closed per day, for example. Yet, it’s easy to be caught out.
There are as many tales of metrics-before-management out there as there are developers to tell them. One such tale, which has since become folklore, comes from the early days of Apple.
The story goes that management, wishing to find new ways to evaluate staff performances, implemented a system to record code-written lines and gauge developer performance accordingly. Bill Atkinson, lead UI designer at the time and not a fan of the changes, filled out the form after a week of improvements and fixes to existing code. The figure: -2000. Management was forced to find new metrics to measure shortly after.
It’s important to know that you’re both looking at the right picture and tracking the truly important metrics when you do. The best way to find those metrics? Ask.
Developers and teams with eyes and hands on the problems of the project will have a better view of its challenges and pitfalls than anyone else. The issues faced day-to-day are theirs to solve, and they’ll be the ones most capable of giving you the outline to a road map through them. Lean on that expertise and knowledge for real-time status updates. Only then will the reports of project management tools such as JIRA begin to really make sense.
The single largest stumbling block management foresees when considering a remote development team is trusting that continued forward progress will be made without active in-person management. After embracing outsourced mobile app development, many people are surprised at how simple solutions can be when you trust the experience of the remote team.
The truth is that developers are more eager to write code than do almost anything else. Developers love to develop. The work is going to get done whether crowded around a single computer or distributed across multiple continents. Management’s role is one of directing that work into being done in the most efficient way possible.
Developers, like professionals of any industry, take immense pride in their work. It’s up to management to tap into that, find out the roles and tasks that make a developer flourish and find a way to let teams work in a way that most benefits the company.
As with every other industry, you have to trust in developers’ professional expertise to use their knowledge, experience, and time to move the project forward. You can also trust that any developers listed on our Pangea platform have been thoroughly vetted and have our guarantee that they will provide the absolute best service possible. Simply tell us what you need, and within 72h we will provide you a list of 5 companies that we guarantee can help you out!
A practical, efficient, and highly performing team has the ideal amount of connection and communication to supplement knowledge and expertise. Those connections don't always happen organically and are even less likely to happen within a remote team compared to an office setting.
Setting effective working patterns—that should include breaks and off-topic discussions like those that would happen in a physical office—can go a long way to making better communication happen more organically. Some concrete examples of this are:
Managing remote development teams isn’t easy—but it’s not as complex or as difficult as is often imagined. The challenges commonly associated with remote mobile app development are over-exaggerated, and the benefits are undeniable, provided the outsourced team is properly understood and managed.
Indeed, facilitating a remote development team ultimately requires the same organizational focus as is needed to manage any team, regardless of location or working hours. Distributed or not, a team benefits from the same project management tools, formalized communications, and good working practices that promote effective and efficient functioning.
Following these strategies, you will find that embracing remote app development really isn’t that hard since outsourced teams are increasingly the best (and simplest) way to achieve a company’s digital vision, paying dividends well into the future. And once you’ve come around to the benefits of such remote teams, why not take a closer look at some of the best ones out there by exploring Pangea’s vendor list, we even help you get started with our comprehensive guide to hiring mobile app engineering teams.
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