Remote product development team strategy
Written on July 12, 2017

Successfully running a business requires the consideration of a multitude of factors. To most outsourcing is a no-brainer. You tap into a worldwide pool of talent, at a lower cost. Of course, there are downsides, including the resource investment in the establishment of the outsource process itself. Yet, for most business operations that benefit from outsourcing, for most business owners the decision is simple and easy.

This is not so true for the software product development industry. While the inherent benefits of hiring a remote team are there, things are not as straightforward.

Development of a software product requires consistency throughout your workforce. What’s more, there should be an established workflow that allows you to seamlessly transition to a remote team. In case you want to hire a team to develop a product from start to finish, there will still be hurdles, yet the process will be easier. However, managing a streamlined workflow between an established local team and a remote one is that much more difficult. But of course, it’s not impossible. Better yet, with new and innovative automation tools of common processes like delivery and testing and the continuous advances in work management systems, such as Agile, you are able to easily achieve your goals.

Working as an offshore software development company and having successfully helped clients all across the world, we decided to create a short guide to help you out in the process of establishing a remote product development team. Here’s what you need to know.

Initial Preparation and the Importance of a Team Leader

The first thing on your list should be setting the proper foundation. Before you go about establishing a remote product development team, you should carefully identify your goals. Consider the goals you want to achieve and go from there. Neither you nor your team can work on a project, without a clear vision and definition of what the goals are.

That being said, make sure to also communicate your ideas properly. Identify the profiles of the people you are looking for and define the team culture. When outsourcing you are most likely to tackle working with people from another culture. Be familiar with how cultural differences might affect the workflow. Don’t forget that time zones also matter. In case the project is sensitive towards the work hours of the people involved outsourcing to a nearshore team.

Pick a Team Leader with the right set of skills!

You can’t establish a remote product development team without a team leader. Keep in mind that the best person to work with would be someone that can add better value than simple oversight on the team. If you are a business individual that doesn’t understand much about the intricacies of software product development, hire a team lead that is a technical person. On the opposite end, if you lack certain business skills, put as a team lead someone who has both software skills, but is also knowledgeable in the management side of things. Finding a team lead with relevant business domain expertise could be of great benefit, especially if there is need for completion of more than a few business related tasks. The team leader should also have experience with project management.

The team leader should be able to do the following.

  • Have good communication skills
  • Understand your Goals
  • Communicate your vision and goals to the team
  • Manage the consistency of the workflow
  • Help you move the project forward

Establish the Workflow Practices Based on Your Preferences

There are two major work management systems that are widely adopted by remote teams in the software development industry. They include Agile (Scrum) and Kanban.

Agile is considered to be slightly more popular and presents you and your team with a workflow that is based on coherence and ease of implementation. Scrum is a subset of agile that has mostly taken a life of its own and is also a great option for you to choose from. Kanban has its roots in supply chain management and is an inventory control system that has evolved towards a work management system in the software world. Make sure to learn more about both systems before making your choice and be certain in the implementation of the workflow practices presented.

Don’t forget that you need to define the technology stack!  

You are the product manager. To establish a remote product development team you must also have a clear definition of the different technologies that are to be used in the development phase. Some of the best technologies and frameworks used in software development today, like  AngularJS, React, Java, PHP, NodeJS and Python.

In order to have a very good collaboration with the team and within the team they should choose carefully the technology stack. Our recommendation is to use modular/ service-oriented architecture and RESTful design – separating the front-end and backend logic. A nice strategy would be to separate the entire team into smaller units called “squads” each focused on certain particular features or modules.

Define the Specialists Profiles

Once you’ve defined the technologies and the workflow practices you are going to use, make sure to create a technological profile for the different specialists the project needs. This is one of the most important steps that will help you have a clear understanding of the exact team structure and people you are going to need.

Keep the Timeline in Mind!

You will need to discuss the timeline with the team you hire and in most cases, the timeline will change and be firmly established once proper discussion with the hired team is held. Nevertheless, make a projected high-level estimation of the calendar dates, timeline and milestones for the project. The development won’t run as efficiently unless you have clearly defined the timeline, goals and milestones.

The Continuous Process of Working with a Remote Team

Once the workflow practices, the technologies, the timeline, the goals and the milestones are clearly defined, you can proceed with the establishing process. By now, you should already have an idea of the individuals that you want to be on your team, both as a skillset and as personalities. But don’t forget that above all you are hiring people.

Regardless of the differences in the culture and no matter how affordable the team might be by the standards of your own country, remember that above all you are working with real humans, real experts that do real work. Even though you are not going to physically see them, remember that they will help build the product you need and ultimately pave the way towards success for your company. That being said, don’t forget to check every once in awhile with your team leader and your team, not only as part of the review process. Help them understand and have a clear vision of your ideas and goals. Hire individuals that share the same vision for the product that you have.

The Test-Review-Implement Cycle

You’re almost there! To finish up the establishment of your remote product development team, all you need to do is set up a test-review-implement cycle that works best for you and the project. As the name suggests, such a cycle includes three phases, each focused on a particular project task that ensure the consistent flow of your project. You don’t want to have your team running with one code, while the remote development team works on another.

Continuous Integration (CI) and Automation

For a software development project, the best way you can go about working with a remote product development team is to automate the most common operations. Usually, this is done via tools and practices for continuous integration. By ensuring that the project has a trackline on which to move forward, you will be able to streamline the deployment and testing processes, ensuring a seamless workflow that will end up saving you resources.

Ensure a proper testing phase to avoid any bugs, review the given solution and implement it with the overall project. Once you do so, simply repeat the process over and over again. Of course, don’t forget to check up with your remote team and help them out in whatever way you can. Remember to also make any needed changes to ensure the consistency of the workflow, especially if this is your first time hiring a remote development team.

That’s it! All you have to do now is start working on the project with your newly established remote product development team!