The concept of working from home or dedicated remote development was reserved for the freelance community for the longest time, but the Covid-19 pandemic changed industry standards for everyone.
Stay-at-home measures around the world forced corporations into enabling their workforce to remain productive. It meant that the departments in a company that wasn’t used to out-of-office working environments suddenly had to adapt - including remote development teams.
Since the pandemic, however, most businesses have learned the benefits of remote working and have kept the trend going. This continuation exists due to the increase in productivity seen in remote teams rather than the much-feared decline that was anticipated.
Businesses have since decided to maintain hybrid or entirely remote working environments and no industry has seen this shift more pronounced than remote software development.
But deploying a company-wide remote development environment can quickly go awry if you don’t know how to handle its nuances. Fortunately, our blog post today will educate you on the subject and provide a detailed guide.
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to enable remote work for your development teams without compromising on workflow, deliverables, security, and software development timelines.
What is Remote Development?
Remote development usually refers to a type of software development where members of the same team are not working in the same physical location. It can refer to:
- Contractors joining a team
- Temporarily out-of-office employees
- Teams working in separate corporate offices
- Teams working from home for various reasons
- Developers working in a fully distributed workforce
How remote development is handled is a separate matter for most companies. Some teams embrace Agile development, deploying Scrum and true pair programming or mob programming practices.
Others may choose to develop with the waterfall method with each team member independently working on a feature. The waterfall method can also enlist the help of other teammates for the occasional design, functionality, mentoring, or troubleshooting session.
Why Should You Consider Remote Development?
The idea behind remote development is almost entirely down to the implementation of the company itself and the policies it has in place. Since the pandemic, most companies have resorted to hybrid working environments where team members only report into offices once or twice a week.
Other businesses have stressed the need to be flexible in their hiring process and consider fully remote employees to bolster their local development teams.
Regardless of the operation model, your business goes for, the utility of remote deployment cannot be understated. It is especially true in an increasingly well-connected world where Zoom calls, Slack messages, and Trello boards keep every member of the team collaborating.
But if you’re looking to go down the remote development route, what benefits can you expect from it?
I. It’s Cost-Effective
The biggest advantage most companies immediately experience is in the finance department. Every developer has a laptop for personal use that they can use for company projects, and most of the world is already online thanks to high-speed internet connectivity in most parts of the world.
Setting up then should be a breeze for everyone involved. And if they don’t, or you’re uneasy with your developers working on company projects on personal devices, you can always issue laptops yourself.
While the initial investment may be great, these computers will last many years and can be passed on to other developers you onboard after existing ones have completed their tenures.
Companies can expect to shave off hundreds and thousands of dollars every year in office rental spaces. Not having to afford a dedicated workspace is one of the biggest reasons why most businesses have decided to shift to a remote-only policy after the pandemic.
Just make sure you have a remote server that connects all employees to a single company-run database, so all information is accessible and stored within company “premises”.
II. Global Access To Talent
Companies in the remote development scenario aren’t geographically limited to hiring developers. With resources all over the world as potential candidates, the net for each job posting can be cast wider.
Talent can be offshore, in a different city, or in an entirely different part of the world and at a different timezone. As long as the resources have the basics to begin working for the company, they can be hired based on their skill and expertise level.
This way, companies can attract the best talent for development roles and have a much more skilled team at their disposal. Outsourcing software development to companies like us at Aloa is another great option.
We have a team of skilled developers for all programming languages that have been hand-picked from all over the world. We have hands-on development experience for all products and whether you’re looking to build a custom mobile application or want a website from scratch, the company has you covered.
III. Productivity Boost
As discussed earlier, remote teams aren’t considered workshy anymore. In fact, according to research, almost 85% of workers who are granted work from home confirmed that they are more productive than working in a conventional office.
The reasons for increased productivity are many. Developers save time from traveling to the office, and other daily expenses related to traveling and commuting are minimized. Most software engineers also find it difficult to adapt to a new office environment and can find more distractions at work than at home.
Not all folks are up with such challenges and there is no manager who is looking over the shoulder, hampering developers from working with passion. The micromanagement of in-house development teams is therefore largely avoided with remote setups and employees find that even after some time off, they are still being productive.
IV. Connect From Anywhere
Since developer workspaces are hosted in the cloud, remote development teams can connect from wherever they are physically located. Businesses can also ensure that teams work as securely at home as they would in the office with cloud IDEs and remote desktop solutions (VNC).
V. Use Any Device
Because the compute-intensive work like compiling and assembly is being done in the cloud, developers can use any device (even an iPad) to access their workspaces. You can even set up remote machines that exist virtually and can be connected to your company server and remain part of your business’ IP.
It is better than a local machine since it allows developers to sign into a computer from anywhere in the world and begin working, all with just an internet connection.
VI. Secure Source Code
Although this may not be the case for every cloud-based IDE, with most, the source code never needs to leave the security of the company’s cloud infrastructure.
It remains in the Git repositories and on the Kubernetes cluster (or on Docker) where the developer workspaces reside, away from developers’ laptops.
3 Best Practices For Remote Developers
Once you’ve decided to set up your remote development team, and arranged the necessary technological solutions to aid them, you’re going to have to follow a few best practices to reinforce the benefits of remote models while mitigating the challenges.
A. Monitor And Update Workflow
Tracking team productivity in remote environments should be done just as proactively as one would track code in a product. This isn’t a ploy to weed out the less productive in the team, but to explore and identify efficiencies, just as you would in your code.
Remote working is still a new phenomenon for most people and as companies and individuals still learn, it is important to spot potential issues early and be willing to adapt and experiment.
B. Find Ways To Remain Social
Remote teams do not benefit from the natural rapport and collaboration that in-house development teams have. It can be incredibly difficult to manage remote developers and they can easily fall “out of the loop” when you can no longer overhear conversations taking place in the office.
To get around this issue:
- Introduce accountability
- Ensure collaboration and teamwork remain the priority
- Schedule regular dialogues between team members to build rapport
Also, ensure that everyone on the team has the same info. Be as clear and forthcoming with praise, as well as criticisms.
C. Lean Into Collaboration
Remote development is an opportunity for team members to work in different time zones and this should be seen as an opportunity to support or improve a product 24/7, without anyone working outside of their preferred schedule.
You’re also collaborating with developers from different backgrounds which opens you to different creative solutions. Embrace these nuances in your daily workflow. It’s an opportunity to truly work smarter, not harder – so don’t let it pass you by.
Can You Do Remote Agile Development?
Agile is an iterative approach to software development that follows principles outlined in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
It involves collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams. Its goal is rapid delivery of high-quality software, in an environment that allows teams to respond to changing requirements easily.
Remote development teams are Agile just as well as full-time dedicated teams. With tools such as Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, face-to-face communication can be maintained.
CodeTogether is a great tool for pair programming or mob programming and it allows IntelliJ, Eclipse, and VS Code users to host simultaneous coding sessions securely.
The different types of Agile implementations to consider are:
- Pair Programming
- Mob Programming
- Extreme Programming
Setting Up A Remote Development Environment
One of the most overlooked factors in remote development is security, and it can also be the biggest crippling factor for your company. The advantages of this work environment fall flat if security isn’t prioritized and your critical data isn’t secure.
Creating a policy that promotes best practices, ensures your employees know the policy and have a plan in the unlikely event of a security breach is very important.
Here’s how you can get started.
a. Create a Remote Access Security Policy
When you’ve decided to pursue remote development in your business, a comprehensive plan is required. Will you be providing devices or will employees use their computers with a variety of operating systems? Each option has its pros and cons.
If you allow employees to use their equipment, you’ll need a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. Ensure all changes related to remote work and that employees use the latest versions of both their operating system and antivirus software to minimize risk and data breaches.
Back-end permissions and authentications should also be available to your IT department in case you need access to the device. Minimize any dependencies you may have on your teams and guide them on how to keep their workstations secure.
To reduce risks from online browsing, employees need to use strong passwords and ensure both the WiFi used and the sites visited are secure. Setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or SSH connections with a dedicated SSH key can further reduce the risk in a remote development environment.
b. Create A Response Plan
Despite having a solid security policy for remote teams and ensuring they adhere to it, you need to have a response plan in case there is a security breach. You don’t want to answer that question after disaster strikes. Think of your response plan as an insurance policy.
While precautionary measures can set you up good enough, having a failsafe option is a great decision. Plan out your response to data breaches and hacks, or how you would minimize the damage that has already occurred. Not only will this help control the disaster, but can help you save your company’s face in times of difficulty.
5 Proven Techniques To Lead A Great Remote Development Team
After you’ve hired the best developers, you’ll want to get the most out of your team. Consider the following points to lead the team effectively.
1. Over Communicate
Good communication is a prerequisite for any development team to succeed, not just a remote one. When leading a remote team, clearly communicate team goals and be sure each team member is clear regarding their role in reaching that goal.
Overcommunication should be encouraged as this will help overcome the lack of incidental communication that typically takes place in a physical office.
Even if your team follows the DevOps or Waterfall method, ensuring that daily scrum meetings happen is great to keep the team on track, along with weekly progress reports.
Minutes of all meetings should be kept diligently too as this will help the team stay on track and is an effective method to get team members caught up when they miss a meeting.
2. Establish Work Schedules
Remote teams usually set their own work schedules, and as the team leader, you’ll want to set expectations for team members regarding their schedules. Allow some degree of flexibility to your employees and don’t fall into the trap of locking everything down.
Important aspects of productivity, such as meetings, should have clearly established and scheduled times. For flexible schedules to work, communication is key.
Use a good communication tool and have all team members update their status when leaving to avoid the misconception that they are slacking off.
3. Build Rapport
As the leader of a remote team, you may have to find creative ways to help your remote developers feel connected. Since teams don’t get the usual “watercooler” talk, include occasional unstructured time in meetings and solicit questions and creative thought.
Focus on ways to reward employees, from small things like praising them during a meeting, recognizing birthdays, or sending milestone gifts to big things like comp time after a big release or even cash bonuses. If this isn’t possible, get creative. Think outside the box, maybe host a virtual team party where food is delivered to the team.
4. Build An Ideal Remote Environment
Make sure your development team has the proper setup and tools they need to do the job well. The good news is that there is now a plethora of tools. But ensure configuration files, all hostnames, and any accompanying data related to the tools remain with you.
If your remote web developers are working in Linux or in newer developmental languages like Python, ensure they have all the tools and tutorials for proper setup and debugging. You want your developers to be sharp, so encourage team members to have a clean start and stop time to promote a healthy work/life balance.
5. Don’t Micromanage
Trust is the biggest component in any great remote development team. Managers have to trust that developers are doing their jobs and let their results speak to their productivity. Use code reviews to produce quality code and also gauge productivity.
They can also be used to praise a job well done or highlight areas where you can help developers with skills they are lacking. In a remote development environment, developers can become easily siloed.
Keep in regular contact with your team, even if it’s just a quick “hello”. Look out for issues they are having, especially when they “go dark” and stop communication.
Setting up a remote development team isn’t as easy a task as many would lead you to believe. Like conventional in-house setups, it has its fair share of complications and challenges. We hope with our guide. You have a clearer picture of what you would need to get started on your remote development team today.
If you’re looking for a software development firm to work on your next project with remote and in-house developers, Aloa is the best option. With our thorough vetting process, we have the right team for every developmental requirement.