Setting Up Remote Teams During Coronavirus: A CTO’s Cheat-Sheet
Long before coronavirus outbreak disrupted the lives on earth, remote working had penetrated into the basic working style of many companies. It was a way of working, especially for the IT and tech giants like Zappier, Buffer, GitLab, Groove, etc. But today, no matter what the industry, working with remote teams has become a norm.
With the COVID-19 making companies shut their office doors to encourage social distancing, remote working or working from home is the sole way to ensure continuity during these testing times. The world has gone online and adopting the digital means to get work done by employees sitting in remote locations is the only way to survive.
And this has certainly challenged the CTOs. Ones who were meeting their teams daily and conducting meetings in conference rooms have suddenly found themselves handling newfound remote teams or work from home teams.
If you are also faced with a similar situation, here is a cheat sheet that can come in handy here. It tells you the best ways to manage remote teams and has insights from top CTOs of bigshots that have been practicing all-remote teams since years.
Make Smart Hiring Decisions
There are two situations- one, you have set your in-house team to remote working (that eliminates this point) and two, you are employing a new remote team to keep your operations running. The first thing that you need to do when you are setting up remote teams is to make smart hiring decisions. While bringing together the best talent from across the globe is one of the biggest advantages of setting up a remote team, finding these talents is a challenge. People won’t be coming for in-person interview for remote working, so assessing them only through virtual platforms on the basis of tasks performed is the only way left.
Whether you are a web development company or an organization in any other industry, the goal is to look for self starters who can handle the majority of the tasks themselves and do not need someone always on their back. Check out the projects individual have worked on, the library & languages they’ve used. If you are impressed by the technology they know, it would be wise to hire them right away.
Platforms like LinkedIn, Hacker News, GitHub, and similar places where talented individual congregate can be used. Also, utilizing a good ATS (Application Tracking System) can also work wonders for you.
Bryan Helmig, CTO Zapier says, “You know, I’ll find things on Hacker News, I’ll find things on GitHub, on Twitter, like really any place where people congregate. And it’s not that hard, we say – that person is great, he clearly takes some insight into the Python module systems, so let’s go see what that person has done.”
Adopt Reliable Tools
Collaboration and communication are the soul of successful remote working. You need to invest in reliable remote working tools that can help with the kind of work you are doing. How would you expect your remote teams to work if you are they are unable to view the files, share their ideas, video conference? You cannot do remote working without some great remote working tools.
With the right tools in place, you can make your remote teams even more productive. Don't make them feel baffled every time they want to collaborate for some work. Let them find one source of truth that is accessible by all.
There are many tools like Slack, GitHub, Basecamp, JIRA, Upwork, Zoho etc., that you can use to leverage to collaborate.
Astin Wang, CTO Grooves says, “On the tools side, we rely heavily on Slack and Zoom communicate, Google Drive and Quip for documentation and collaboration.”
Overcommunication Is The Key
The biggest hurdle when you are working with remote tech teams without any face-to-face interaction is miscommunication. There are various instances where your remote team might feel that there is a gap in communication. Misunderstanding might creep in at any moment, and you might see your teams working as opposed to what you expect them to.
Keep this mantra in mind- ‘Anything that is worth saying is worth saying a dozen times.’
Remote working is not like your regular workspace, where you can convey any information as it ticks your mind. You need to make use of various online chat software and tools like Slack, outlook, etc. Make sure to jot everything down at the very instance to ensure there is no information missing out.
Slack, Outlook, etc., allow you to have separate channels for formal as well as informal conversations. While formal would be for all the work-related stuff, informal ones can act as watercoolers.
Joe Conley, CTO at BuySide says, “We spend a good chunk of our day in Slack, and the understanding is that the engineers will be reasonably responsive and active on Slack during the afternoons so we can have impromptu design meetings, communicate any company updates or wins, work through JIRA tickets, etc.”
Put Your Expectations Out There
In continuation to what we have talked above, it is very important that you put your expectations out there from the very beginning. Tell them what you are expecting. Assuming that your team would know certain things and work on them would be a big mistake.
Do not base your work on assumptions. State even the obvious. There might be chances that even they might overlook on certain things. Stating everything ensures that nothing is missed out. Also, you can set out KPIs or key performance indicators for them to know what is expected off of them in the next one month, three months or so.
Brie Reynolds, CDM at FlexJobs says, "You have to be proactive about your communication and, as a manager, really set the stage for people to be able to communicate openly so that people don't shut down and assume that they shouldn't bother other people," Reynolds said.
Set-Up Daily Short Virtual Meets
When there are no face-to-face interactions of working in office, the only way to keep things going is by setting up virtual meetings every day. These need not be super long video conferences with all the team members together. As a CTO, it is imperative that you know what is on each remote member’s plate. What better way than greeting them in the morning.
Like daily stand ups in Scrum, no matter what process or approach of development you are following, checking on your remote workforce to ensure they have no doubts, confusions, or any other issue is imperative.
CTO of Groove, Austin Wang shares, “On the process side, we have daily stand-ups for the engineering team as well as annually we do company offsite where everyone can meet in person and get to know each other more intimately.”
Have A Knowledge Repository
As discussed above, there needs to be one source of truth for all. When you are managing a team of remote workers, it is not that easy to get in touch with their teammates or even you when they need some information. Also, it might waste a lot of time of both the persons. So, it is imperative that you have a knowledge repository. This is where you can keep all the permanent stuff, any special codes, access permissions, tool kit, image repository, scope, and many more.
All the remote workers should have access to these items.
While many large organizations create a separate portal for themselves where all the information is kept at one place, CTOs of startups or smaller to medium organizations can use inexpensive tools for this.
Basecamp allows you to get keep a knowledge repository for all the members in different teams. Apart from that, Kanban boards are also a good way to create tasks and assign them while all other members can track everything.
While those were some great tips, they were certainly not all. Here are some bonus tips for all the CTOs and managers to manage their remote workforce and ensure productivity.
- Trust but Track Their Work: While it is imperative to trust the employees despite you not being able to literally see them working, you can also keep a tracker at hand to ensure they are working as expected. Convey the main reason so that they do not feel being monitored all the time.
- Celebrate Victories Of Remote Workers: As you would always appreciate the success and achievement of your in-house teams, you should also appreciate the remote teams. Send out treats to their places on successful project completion.
- Focus On Goals Not Activity: Ensure that you are not forcing to work as per your guidelines. Set goals for them and track the goals and deliverables instead of seeing the time spent on tasks.
- Foster A Community Culture: Away from office, remote workers might feel a lack of a company culture. It is important that CTOs create a community and company culture virtually. Celebrate events through digital interactions.
This coronavirus outbreak has ensured one thing- the future of work lies in flexibility. While the majority of the companies have shifted their in-house teams into remote working environments (at their homes) many organizations have set up new remote working teams.
No matter what the case, the CTOs and managers are certainly faced with the managing of the remote teams. This cheat sheet would certainly be very helpful for all of them.
Remote and distributed team will go strong in the world even long after the coronavirus pandemic recedes. It would become a way of working for all. So, it is important that CTOs and project managers keep this cheat sheet handy for seamless collaboration with their remote teams.