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Distributed Engineering Teams: Best Practices

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Elena Besedina, Project Manager
Distributed Engineering Teams: Best Practices

Despite staffing increases to meet growing demand, 50% of executives consider talent attraction their primary internal challenge in achieving strategic goals. Surprisingly, 62% of managers feel unprepared to address the factors contributing to poor employee retention. It seems like building a distributed engineering team will remain pivotal for companies in the foreseeable future.

As an IT outsourcing vendor, Integrio will share its experience and discuss what advantages distributed engineering teams bring, what motivates them, and what best practices they use.


Distributed Engineering Team and Productivity

Distributed engineering teams have become a viable option for many companies aiming to tap into global talent pools. This model emphasizes direct access for clients and tech leaders to the software developers involved. It is essential for maintaining a clear understanding of project progress and direction.

Productivity is a key focus and one way to ensure it is through dedication. Many distributed teams promote full-time commitment from their developers — working five days a week, 40 hours per week, with 8 hours dedicated each day solely to your project. This approach underscores the importance of aligning the developers' efforts with your specific goals.

To address the transparency and control issues often associated with remote teams, the distributed development model employs a reporting system. This system allows you, as a client or tech leader, to receive regular updates daily, weekly, or monthly on the achievements of team members. This gives you the necessary insight to retain full control over your distributed team, fostering a collaborative and accountable work environment.


Communication in Distributed Teams

In distributed teams, effective communication is a pivotal responsibility for leaders. This demands a well-established process, enabling leaders to stay informed about team activities, interactions, and potential issues.

The bedrock of communication within a distributed engineering team involves regular emails, chats, and video calls. Also, you can use tools such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, G Hangouts, and Discord. For project management, such teams utilize tools like Jira, GitLab, Asana, Trello, and Redmine.

Monitoring progress stands out as a key management aspect. Highly motivated teams complete tasks on time, report problems promptly, and communicate regularly. However, supervision is necessary to ensure goal alignment and address emerging challenges.


The Motivation of Distributed Engineering Teams

Navigating the intricate dynamics of distributed engineering teams requires a keen understanding of motivation factors. They include:

Building close relationships. The cornerstone of successful distributed development lies in cultivating strong relationships within the team. It involves demonstrating support, appreciation, and active involvement in helping team members achieve their goals. At Integrio, we believe that direct access fosters an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust, yielding long-term benefits.

Creating connection. Vital to team motivation is establishing connections between team members and managers. The methods include:

  • Communicating the vision for future projects or the company, illustrating the role of the distributed engineering team.

  • Regularly updating the team on the overall progress of the project or company, highlighting their role in the broader context.

  • Reinforcing the idea that team members are valuable assets, not just autonomous units, contributing to the company's success.

Personalized communication of decisions. Effective communication of decisions is crucial to prevent time wastage and ensure alignment. Instead of relying on email or chat for important updates, the emphasis is on personal connection. This ensures the distributed engineering team stays informed and avoids potential delays or misinterpretations.


Best Practices for Leading Distributed Engineering Teams

Establishing a foundation for success in distributed engineering teams involves implementing widely accepted project management methods. Adopting these methodologies ensures proper workflow setup, control over the software and web development process, and outcomes characterized by predictability and transparency.

Agile

Agile, a dynamic and iterative approach to software development, thrives on adaptability and responsiveness to change.

Key principles include:

  • People and interaction. Emphasizes high value on human collaboration, recognizing its pivotal role in project success.

  • Working product. Prioritizes delivering a functional product over extensive documentation, focusing on tangible outcomes and functionality.

  • Cooperation. Places collaboration over strict contractual agreements, acknowledging the effectiveness of a cooperative and communicative team.

  • Flexibility. Favors adaptability over rigid adherence to the original plan, acknowledging the inevitability of change.

Agile includes various methodologies like Scrum and Kanban, each embodying these principles in their unique approach to development.

Scrum

Scrum is designed for small, cross-functional, and distributed teams. Its structure is optimized to enhance collaboration and productivity in these settings.

Key features include:

  • Enhanced communication. A primary focus of Scrum is to enhance communication and teamwork within the team. Through regular meetings and a structured framework, Scrum facilitates effective collaboration among team members.

  • Development speed. Scrum is particularly suited for distributed development scenarios, where speed is crucial. It achieves this by prioritizing tasks within short, manageable periods — typically two-week sprint cycles.

Scrum defines specific roles within the team, including the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team. Each position has distinct responsibilities to ensure efficient collaboration and progress.

Kanban

Kanban is a methodology designed to accelerate development processes while focusing on delivering high-quality outcomes.

Key characteristics include:

  • Workflow visualization. Kanban relies on using specific boards, providing a clear and visual representation of the workflow. This visualization enables teams to monitor progress and identify potential bottlenecks.

  • Limited tasks. A distinctive feature of Kanban is the imposition of limits on tasks within specific timeframes. This constraint promotes a steady and controlled pace of development, preventing teams from becoming overwhelmed.

  • Adaptability. Kanban is highly adaptable and particularly suited for dynamic projects characterized by volatile tasks and shifting priorities. Its flexibility allows teams to respond swiftly to changing requirements and unexpected challenges.

Kanban encourages a culture of continuous improvement. Teams regularly review their boards, analyzing metrics and performance data to identify areas for enhancement. This iterative process contributes to ongoing optimization.

Lean

Lean development is a methodology that centers around optimization, aiming to achieve more with fewer resources. It focuses on efficiency and the elimination of unnecessary processes.

It addresses three dysfunctions (3M):

  • Muda (Wastefulness). Lean development targets the elimination of non-value-adding processes, ensuring that every aspect of the process contributes to the overall value of the product.

  • Mura (Irregularity). Lean aims to prevent costs from deviations from the standard process. This involves maintaining consistency and reducing variations to enhance predictability and control.

  • Muri (Excessive workloads). Lean emphasizes evenly distributing tasks to prevent overburdening team members. This ensures a balanced workload and prevents burnout, promoting sustainable and effective work practices.

Lean principles are often integrated into Agile and Kanban methodologies, reinforcing the importance of efficiency and value-driven development across various approaches.

Waterfall

Waterfall methodology is characterized by a structured and sequential approach to project execution. It follows a linear and predefined path from initiation to completion.

Key aspects include:

  • Comprehensive planning. A fundamental principle of Waterfall is the comprehensive planning of the entire project at the outset. This involves detailed documentation of requirements, milestones, and the overall scope.

  • Step-by-step execution. Waterfall follows a strict sequence according to the initial plan. Each project phase must be completed before moving on to the next, ensuring a linear progression through stages like design, development, testing, and deployment.

  • Limited flexibility. Waterfall allows minimal change flexibility once the project is underway. The rigid structure aims to prevent deviations from the initial plan, ensuring a clear and predetermined path to project completion.

Waterfall places a strong emphasis on documentation. Each phase requires a detailed record of project specifications, design decisions, and testing results.


Advantages of Distributed Development Teams

Let's explore the factors motivating startups and larger enterprises to embrace the remote engineering approach.

  • Lower Expenses

    • Distributed development allows companies to take advantage of salary variations globally. For example, countries with lower living costs may offer skilled professionals at a fraction of the salary required in higher-cost regions. This contributes significantly to budget savings.

    • Beyond salary savings, distributed teams eliminate the need for extensive physical office spaces. This reduction in overhead costs, including office rent and utilities, results in a substantial financial economy for companies.

  • Better Productivity

    • Access to a global talent pool means more professionals to choose from, allowing companies to build teams with diverse skill sets. This broad expertise improves problem-solving, efficiency, and overall project success.

    • Remote employees often exhibit equal or higher efficiency than on-site workers. The flexibility of remote work, combined with reduced commute times, can contribute to increased productivity levels.

  • Optimized Time Zones

    • Having team members in different time zones enables companies to extend their daily working hours strategically. This expanded time coverage ensures that at least one team is always available, fostering continuous progress and faster response times.

    • The ability to work across different time zones accelerates project timelines. Tasks can be handed off seamlessly between teams, ensuring progress continues around the clock.

  • Flexibility for Job Satisfaction

    • Distributed development teams offer flexible working hours, catering to individual preferences and work styles. This contributes to improved work-life balance and job satisfaction.

    • Shifting the focus from physical presence to results and effectiveness allows employees to concentrate on delivering quality work rather than adhering to rigid on-site expectations. Therefore, distance workers may experience lower stress levels than their office counterparts.


Conclusion

The rise of distributed engineering teams has revolutionized how businesses approach software development and project execution. As companies embrace remote work and global collaboration, the need for efficient and reliable outsourcing partners becomes paramount.

Integrio, with its proven track record in project outsourcing, dedicated teams, and AI staff augmentation services, will help you navigate the complexities of distributed engineering. Our commitment to excellence, skilled professionals, and adaptable solutions make us a reliable partner in achieving successful outcomes.

Contact Integrio today to unlock new possibilities, accelerate innovation, and stay ahead in a competitive market.


FAQ

A distributed development team is a group of software professionals working on a common project but located in different geographical locations. Members of a distributed team collaborate remotely, leveraging communication technologies to coordinate their efforts. This model allows organizations to tap into a global talent pool, fostering flexibility and collaboration across diverse locations.

Scaling your distributed engineering team involves strategically expanding your talent pool while maintaining effective communication and collaboration. Start by identifying key roles that need to be filled, considering both technical expertise and cultural fit. Utilize scalable communication tools, establish clear processes, and foster a strong team culture to ensure cohesion as your distributed engineering team grows.

The most significant challenge when scaling distributed engineering teams is often maintaining effective communication and collaboration as the team expands. Ensuring remote team members stay aligned with the company's goals, processes, and each other becomes increasingly complex with growth. Managing diverse time zones and cultural differences can also challenge maintaining a cohesive and productive team environment.

At the top, the enterprise level uses automation data in business processes via systems like ERP. This ensures unified operations from the factory floor to business management.

On-site teams work in a physical office, promoting face-to-face interactions and immediate connection, while distributed teams operate remotely, relying on digital tools for collaboration. The on-site model provides direct supervision and a shared physical workspace, fostering a strong sense of team culture. In contrast, distributed teams offer flexibility and access to a global talent pool but may face challenges related to communication, time zones, and building a cohesive team culture.

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Distributed Engineering Teams: Best PracticesDistributed Engineering Team and ProductivityCommunication in Distributed TeamsThe Motivation of Distributed Engineering TeamsBest Practices for Leading Distributed Engineering TeamsAdvantages of Distributed Development TeamsConclusionFAQ

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