Remote Engineering Teams – What We’ve Learned

By Albena Krasteva 16 March, 2020

At Zartis.com, we’ve been operating a remote-oriented business with 100+ engineers. The article below is an overview of the main takeaways from our experience and interviews, conducted with our engineers.

We live in a time where working remotely is a necessity, rather than a choice. This applies especially to engineering teams, be it as a result of current events, due to difficulties hiring onsite or to match the demand of an increasing number of engineers, looking for flexibility and possibility to work remotely.

The faster a company adapts to it, the bigger its competitive advantage will become. That advantage is equally true now, as it would be long-term to adapt to the changing markets.

At Zartis.com, we’ve been operating a remote-oriented business with 100+ engineers. The article below is an overview of the main takeaways from our experience and interviews, conducted with our engineers.

 

What are the challenges?

 

The dissemination of information. // Creating good communication processes. // Building trust.

You want your team members to be able to ask questions and get answers as easily as if they could get up and ask a friend at another desk. This is not always possible if that colleague and that desk are thousands of kilometers away. 

This is even trickier at the very start, during the onboarding process and first months of working together with a new engineer or team. The first few months of a collaboration are a period of adjustment to working styles and building trust around decision-making.

 

What are the solutions? 

 

Using the right tools.

>>Slack or another similar messaging platform is essential, as it has add-ons for source code sharing and it has both mobile and desktop versions across all operating systems.

>>Zoom, Highfive, Microsoft Teams – any reliable tool for conference calling and screen sharing will do.

>>VPN and centrally-managed equipment as security measures.

Setting up a good communication process. // Transparent decision making. // Inclusive atmosphere.

>> Public and outspoken communication of changes and a nurtured public and digital forum where everybody is allowed to ask questions and answer others. E.g. Slack and online meetings.

>> Ensure discussions involve all the team and the decision-making process is transparent. E.g. meet online in a virtual room to discuss a problem, demonstrate potential approaches to solving it or demo the final solution with the screen-sharing feature. 

>> In cases where someone cannot attend a meeting, or a decision has been made between 2 engineers 1-1, make sure to disseminate the information to the rest of the team.

>> Onboarding to and continuous training on the knowledge-based tools.

>> Look out for overcommunication. Not every decision and every online meeting requires everybody to participate. Consider involving the representatives of teams only. They can relay the information on to their teams.

>> Team building events. For a team to work remotely effectively in the long-term, it’s still highly beneficial to make sure each member has met the others in person. This is very good practice for onboarding, as well as at least once per year.

Choosing the right partner.

> Building remote teams comes in many shapes and forms, whether it’s hiring directly or setting up a team through a provider. We’ve been building teams for our clients in all shapes and sizes and will be happy to guide you through the process. To have a chat: albena@zartis.com