Managing both a remote and in-house team can be challenging if you haven’t cracked the code on what effective communication means within your engineering team. Getting everyone on the same page can be a nightmare if there aren’t any solid work processes in place. To manage without structure is a big no-no. But thankfully, you aren’t that type of manager.
Nonetheless, how can you create better harmony between your teams regardless of whether they are remote or in-house? Better yet, how can your remote engineers have just as much of a voice in the day to day culture of your headquarters? The answer is deceptively simple, communication, or better yet over communication.
Yes, it’s really that important to keep everyone on the same page and today I will be sharing with you 5 tips that will create the harmony and productivity you’ve been looking for within your team.
Once you truly internalize the importance that communication is everything, the next question is how often should our team communicate. The answer is every day.
Experience has taught us at Trio that conducting daily stand-ups are an essential ingredient to keeping everyone up to date on everyone else’s work. It also doubles as an excellent team-building exercise.
Daily stand-ups are meant to be very quick and efficient because let’s face it, we are here to get stuff done. It’s not a watercooler session. If you are managing both remote and in-house teams, then you will need to conduct your stand-up through applications such as Zoom or Google Hangouts.
SIDENOTE: All of your in-house team members should connect to the video call individually. No need to gather your in-house team in a room together to share the call. This will create an “us vs them” dynamic that is not needed.
Each member should answer the following 3 questions:
- What did they work on yesterday?
- What they are working on today?
- What issues did they face that prevented them from making progress?
We’re talking about a 15-minute meeting at the very most. Given that a development team can be anywhere between five to nine people, each team member should have about 90 seconds to address the 3 questions.
As a manager, there is no need to give long and inspiring locker room speeches at the beginning and end of the meeting.
Weekly Sprint Planning Meetings
Good software teams value their time, and sprint planning reflects that. If your team is entirely in-house, then weekly sprint planning is done together in a room. In the case that your team is both remote and in-house, then ideally you will want them together in a virtual room.
Remember that the sole objective of sprint planning is to come up with a plan of action for handling backlog tasks in a way that matches your team’s ability to meet their objectives.
One of the marks of a good manager is understanding and keeping some track of your team's velocity and capacity. Velocity refers to the speed in which tasks are completed based on previous sprints. Capacity is essentially each member’s ability to work, i.e total number of hours available and the percentage of time they can dedicate to each task.
It would be nice to know what’s been working and what isn’t, right? Retrospective meetings can offer you just that. While sprint planning typically occurs at the beginning of the week, retrospectives are held at the end of the week. They are reflective and provide an open, honest, and constructive atmosphere to share ideas and opinions.
Retrospectives can also be feedback sessions, small unveilings of a prototype, and even problem-solving sessions. They are meant to help your team improve their process and catch roadblocks as early as possible, resulting in less friction.
Do not overlook the value of retrospectives.
SIDENOTE: Agile is a great methodology to adopt for your development team if you haven’t already. Check out our article on how to build an agile development team.
Create Requirements Docs and Engineering Tasks
Weekly sprints work even better when they have supporting documentation outlining the requirements for what needs to be accomplished.
Requirement doc is something as simple as a Google Doc that team members can access to gain information about what needs to be built. You can segment your doc like so:
A little background on the feature that is to be created. This is a great place to explain why the feature is valuable to the product.
Core concepts can be a bit misleading, but essentially this section is where you explain what the feature is supposed to do. Usually, this is done using bullet points.
This section is pretty self-explanatory, any questions or concerns regarding the feature should be listed here for other members of the team to comment on.
The requirements section is where you put in all of the details regarding the functionality (i.e requirements) of a particular feature for it work properly. For example, if you were working on building out an authentication feature. Requirements could be the different kinds of platforms a user can sign into your product with. Another requirement could be SMS and email validation.
Using a cloud platform like Google Drive is really all you need to manage these requirements and allow team members to comment for everyone else to see. This creates a focused conversation without the need to schedule more meetings.
For each requirement is another doc called an engineering task that describes possible technical approaches to solving the requirements defined in the weekly meeting and requirements doc.
The benefit of keeping information organized in docs is that they can easily be accessed and edited by both the remote and in-house teams. This isn’t rocket science, it’s simply communication in practice.
When a developer changes his or her thinking regarding a specific task, they must actively update that document in order to keep the rest of the team on the same page.
Invest In Project Tracking Software
Project tracking software can make the difference between teams that get things done and teams that don't. Any manager worth their salt will understand the benefit of being able to organize and activate your team in the most effective and efficient way possible.
The primary reason you’d want to invest in project tracking software is for collaboration. Since we are talking about better connecting remote and in-house teams together, we want to give them every resource we can to optimize their workflow. Project tracking software, such as Jira, allows the team to have a single source of truth for what’s going on and can keep the team updated. It is also based on agile principles that interface well with those weekly sprint planning meetings and daily stand-ups.
When it comes to building solid communication within your team, you will often find yourself using 2 to 3 different project management tools. At Trio, we use Slack, Google Docs, and Zoom to connect our teams together. After that, it is up to you how you wish to implement the techniques listed above to manage your team.
So there we have it, 5 tips that can bring your remote and in-house teams closer together. You’re free to cherry-pick these techniques or use them all together as a foundation for your process. Some of our best teams at Trio implement these techniques and have found great success when building products.