Software Development Outsourcing Hub

Managing Remote Development Teams: A Complete Guide

January 11, 2024

Remote development empowers companies to access top pros worldwide – and at lower rates. With fierce competition for IT talent, it’s no wonder that hiring remotely has become the norm. In fact, a whopping 83% of developers today work remotely – whether partially or fully.

Yet, companies are still behind in updating their virtual management processes. It’s clear from recent surveys that traditional office strategies just won’t cut it. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2023, remote teams face unique challenges. Managers must tailor their strategy for these remote-related issues (loneliness, time zones, etc.).  

Start boosting your team’s outcomes by taking a remote-first approach. Our experts have pinpointed winning strategies to successfully optimize your virtual management practices. With these tips, you’ll be ready to build a remote environment that’s engaging and productive. 

1. Build Robust Recruitment and Onboarding

Managing remote development teams is easier when you start with a strong foundation. Hiring developers that you trust can help foster a healthy team from day 1. This is especially true given that remote pros will be far from view and work 100% independently. Double-check your candidates’ soft skills, including communication, problem-solving, emotional intelligence and more.

You should also adapt your onboarding process for virtual teaming. Keep in mind that great onboarding can improve new hire productivity by up to 62%. At the office, you probably wouldn’t hand your employee a giant handbook and expect them to read it all day. In the same vein, try to reimagine onboarding for the online space. Set up a digital onboarding “course” with activities and videos. You might also assign a virtual buddy for every new employee to show them the ropes.

2. Establish Clear Objectives and Expectations

Get all your developers from around the globe on the same page. Setting transparent goals helps everybody align with the company and avoid misunderstandings. 

Every remote developer should have clear objectives for their weekly productivity. In addition, it’s worth creating quarterly goals that empower your staff to look forward. For long-term projects, it’s particularly important to break down milestones and deliverables. 

At the same time, you should align team values. Some typical areas include code quality, deadlines, communication escalation, accountability and so on. Focusing on these areas can enable your teams to take initiative and flag issues. 

What’s more, you can cultivate efficiency when managing remote teams by incorporating: 

•    Regular check-ins and team meetings

•    Productivity tools (i.e. Evernote, Slack, etc.)

•    Well-documented processes

•    Cultural flexibility (i.e. asynchronous communication, etc.)

3. Navigate Communication Challenges

Communication is at the forefront of managing remote development teams. Establish effective communication by creating “open-door” virtual channels. Stay transparent with your teams by holding regular check-ins and town halls. When in doubt, always err on the side of over-communicating. 

Seeing your remote developers on video call can also help build connections. So turn on your cameras and allow for small talk! Some companies have had success with informal Slack channels, too. Just be sure that all team members have access to your tools so that everybody's able to chime in.

4. Adopt an Agile Mindset for Remote Development

Agile is a method based on a continuous cycle of development, feedback and iteration. Beyond a work mode, agile is a mindset that can boost results for your teams. For example, agile principles highlight the importance of close collaboration and constant improvement.

In a typical agile set-up, you’ll handle managing remote teams as they:

•    Create an MVP to define viable features 

•    Align with real user needs and business KPIs

•    Host daily/weekly stand-up meetings

•    Make regular changes according to feedback

•    Fine-tune collaboration for maximum efficiency

By adopting an agile mindset, you’ll take the first step towards product success. 

5. Ensure Data Security and Compliance

Managing remote development teams can also be a technical challenge. Often professionals are working from their home offices, where security measures may vary. 

In your supervisory role, it’s essential to reach a high security standard for all team members. To achieve this, you should establish robust measures, including:

•    Secure communication tools

•    Data and file encryption

•    Strong access controls

•    Regular firewall/software updates

•    Ongoing security and network monitoring

Although your IT teams may be more aligned with security practices, it doesn’t hurt to give a refresher. Set up a one-time training session so that everybody follows top security expectations. Key topics might include passwords, file sharing and personal device policies. 

6. Foster a Work-Life Balance

73% of developers have suffered from burnout at least once in their career. Burnout isn’t just bad for your staff’s mental health – it also leads to reduced engagement and code quality. Developers in these circumstances are also more likely to leave, lowering retention rates. 

Fostering a work-life dynamic is critical to your teams' health and long-term success. Flexible hours can go a long way to ensuring your developers can strike a work-life balance. Just consider that 88% of job seekers are keen for more flexible hours, while 80% desire more vacation time. 

Knowing how to manage remote teams’ individual schedules can be helpful. Let every developer work at their own pace. Be sure to protect their time outside of working hours, too. That means boundaries, such as no sending emails after hours or on weekends. 

Besides flexibility, it’s also important to create team harmony. Developers want to feel like their work makes a difference. Strive to build teams where every individual’s contributions are recognized and rewarded.

7. Cultivate a Unified Team Culture

Team spirit often seems like an abstract concept. Yet there are real steps you can take to boost trust with your remote developers. For example, successfully managing remote development teams might involve:

•    Shared experiences. Plan virtual coffee breaks or happy hours. Set up informal Slack channels. Host after-hour experiences such as game breaks or yoga sessions. 

•    Collaborative processes. Let everybody’s voice be heard. Create a space where developers are encouraged to share their ideas. Set up regular, collaborative meetings and foster peer-to-peer feedback. In turn, this will help reduce issues such as internal resistance

•    Well-equipped with tools. Try out new tools that make team unity easier. For example, Miro is great for whiteboarding ideas online. Loom is also helpful for streamlining asynchronous communication. 

•    Mission-driven recognition. Engagement is key to boost developer productivity. Recognize your team members’ efforts, focus on your mission and champion personal projects. 

•    Trust in practice. Give your developers the opportunity to rise to the challenge of autonomy. Resist micromanaging and trust your professionals to take ownership of their work. 

Incorporate these tips to strengthen your virtual teams and manage them seamlessly.

8. Identify Individual Needs and Opportunities

Beyond team unity, you should also emphasize individual needs while managing remote teams. Plan a regular cadence of reviews and 360-degree feedback cycles. During sessions, you can better understand every developer’s goals and needs, too. 

At 49%, growth opportunities are one of the most cited factors for IT job satisfaction. Be sure you’re providing support to move your professionals forward in their careers. Some crucial resources include training, mentorship, promotions, etc. 

Every developer is unique, so work closely with them to grasp their interests and needs. Setting both team and individual KPIs will help you drive progress over time. 

•    Team goals. Such as code quality, bug resolution time, project completion rate, customer satisfaction, etc. 

•    Individual goals. Such as certifications, new technologies/programming languages, leadership, soft skills, personal projects, etc.

Strategies for Managing Hybrid Development Teams

As remote work has become the norm, so have hybrid teaming arrangements. Today, 46% of UK employees and 28.2% of U.S. employees currently work via a hybrid model. 

It’s simple: companies maintain an office HQ but allow for some work-from-home. Businesses with greater talent needs may even hire 100% remote developers. In some cases, a full virtual team may supplement their in-house group.

Managing remote development teams within a hybrid mode can be challenging. You must act as a bridge between at-office and virtual employees. Some key outsourced management strategies in this scenario include:

•    Foster cross-team transparency. Make sure nobody is left out of the loop. Communicate across your teams and establish clear workflows. Everybody should feel confident about next steps. 

•    Bring together hybrid teams. Hybrid teams may have some adjustments to align as a group. Undergo early team building to connect developers. In addition, use ongoing communication channels that go beyond email. 

•    Put together a hybrid workplace policy. Set the ground rules for all areas, including cybersecurity, flexible schedules and more. You may also want to encourage cultural aspects, such as meeting-free times. 

•    Focus on results. Stay on target by worrying about results, not hours clocked. Outcome-based methods for hybrid teams are especially useful. Every employee can create their autonomous schedule as long as they get the work done. 

•    Reduce isolation through celebrations. Hybrid teaming can be lonely if your developers aren’t well-connected. Try to get in some face time by celebrating targets and organizing special events.

Finally, managing remote teams is all about figuring out what works. Don’t be afraid to make changes and try new ways of doing things. Over time, you’ll identify the management strategies that work well with your team.

Not sure whether to choose in-house or outsourced teams? Learn more about your options in our robust guide.

Succeed at Managing Remote Teams With Netcorp

Managing remote development teams requires rethinking old approaches. Virtual teams have unique needs and you should adapt your strategy for best results. Leverage our remote-first tips for communication, work-life balance, team culture and more.  

By nature, remote work demands staying nimble and adapting to new trends. As virtual teaming evolves, you can benefit from having a remote-based IT partner at your side. At Netcorp, we empower companies through our virtual-ready business values. Contact us to learn how our elite pros elevate transparency and efficiency every day. Get the advantage of having IT experts like us who are seasoned in remote best practices.

Paavo Pauklin
Executive Board Member

Paavo Pauklin is a renowned consultant and thought leader in software development outsourcing with a decade of experience. Authoring dozens of insightful blog posts and the guidebook "How to Succeed with Software Development Outsourcing," he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. Paavo hosts two influential video podcasts: “Everybody needs developers” and “Tech explained to managers in 3 minutes.” Through his extensive training sessions with organizations such as the Finnish Association of Software Companies and Estonian IT Companies Association, he's helped numerous businesses strategize, train internal teams, and find dependable outsourcing partners. His expertise offers a reliable compass for anyone navigating the world of software outsourcing.

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