How to build software development teams remotely

By Maksim Kasinskij and Tanya Vaskovich, Client Service Managers at Godel Technologies.

Growing a software development team is a challenging task – one factor throughout the process which is easily taken for granted is face-to-face time with new team members. When this element is removed and remote working becomes the norm, team expansion gains a new set of hurdles. However, with the right tactics building software development teams remotely is completely possible and can even uncover hidden and unexpected benefits to ways of working.

Let’s look at two scenarios – first: remotely hiring a new person into a software development team, and second: how Godel (a nearshore software delivery partner providing Belarusian teams for UK companies) delivers remote onboarding.

How to help newcomers settle in remotely

The most important step to successfully welcoming a new employee to any team is that they are immediately surrounded by a support network. Software development teams often have roles in place that support this excellently – the SCRUM master, product owner, agile delivery co-ordinator and various leadership / mentorship roles make it their duty to support developers.

For remote work, it is more challenging to catch the small things in how a newcomer is settling in – their body language, confidence in their role, and how they form relationships with team members are all can all go amiss without direct contact. Extra care must be taken to monitor this in the onboarding stages – ensure they are welcomed to informal messaging groups, book regular one-on-one and group video calls with their Talent Managers to simply chat about their progress and ensure the team is getting to know the newcomer, and vice-versa. Actively encouraging new employees to get involved in team culture and casual conversation is the ultimate way to make them feel comfortable in their new environment.

How to onboard a software development partner remotely

In the second scenario, trepidation can occur in the face of bringing a new team to join your own without the option to meet them face-to-face. Godel always prefers to start any new partnership by having the Belarusian team visit their new UK clients’ office for a couple of weeks. However, when this is not an option, the entire visit is replicable via remote technology, and every possible extra touch is employed to replicate the business trip experience.

  1. Partnership kick-off. The first step is for the Godel team to remotely meet all key stakeholders from the client and dives into gathering knowledge about their roles, responsibilities and vision. Well in advance, Godel will co-ordinate these meetings to ensure each stakeholder is available and able to participate in group video calls, along with being able to use other messaging channels.
  2. Sprint Zero. The partnered software development team will begin to collaborate, defining a backlog, making estimations and prioritising tasks. Project tracking tools such as Jira are ideal for remote working – in combination with an ethos of constant team communication via all available channels, it is ensured that nothing slips through the cracks.
  3. Beginning work. The partnered team will begin by defining a backlog, making estimations and prioritising tasks. Project tracking tools such as Jira are ideal for remote working – in combination with an ethos of constant communication via apps like Slack, Teams and BlueJeans, it is ensured that nothing slips through the cracks.
  4. Team innovation. On a regular basis Godel will review the partnership’s current status and future direction. Within engagements, innovation and ideas can be the fuel to unprecedented success, so encouraging this in a remote environment is crucial. Apps such as online whiteboard Miro or Microsoft Whiteboard can provide sandboxes for innovative thinking. Milanote is another great resource for teams to visualise their ideas. Most importantly, ensuring team members have the time and the platform to share ideas from a remote setup is the key. Godel teams get stuck into hackathons, online meetups and engagement on social media to fuel new ideas and sharing with the team without fear is hugely valuable.
  5. Celebrate success. Ultimately, teams work best when they are friends. As a partnership forms, it’s important to build relationships that go past just work. Godel celebrates each year of partnership with its clients via a video party, it runs celebrations for important releases, and always has Slack channels or group chats dedicated to general conversation, jokes and stories. These elements help build trust between teams, which ultimately supports transparent and honest software delivery.

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