Thanks to COVID-19, almost all teams today are distributed. While remote collaboration unites talented people from around the globe, it also comes with its challenges.
When considering a major project such as the development of customized software, companies want to know, Are remote teams effective?
The short answer is absolutely — if you have the right team.
Today, we tackle the topic of remote teams and effective stakeholder management with our own Brindusa Duma.
Brindusa was the project manager for the creation of Entourage, a successful social network Tecknoworks developed in a distributed team environment.
Entourage is a social network that aims to connect people experiencing homelessness and people in need with locals and NGO’s through a social application.
Its motto is to “Spread Human Warmth” and goes beyond material help to establishing connections.
This includes taking a person in need for a coffee, an eye check, or offering a place for them to have a regular shower.
We received the project at prototype level with only professional users (NGO’s) being able to sign into the application.
Our main goal was to extend the capabilities of the application, improve the design, and support the application in going viral by enabling public users to join.
So basically, when we started, we were inserted in a distributed team, our role being to lead the development part of the application.
The project was very complex with multiple stakeholders and variables coming into the equation, and communication became a challenge in this distributed environment.
It was very clear that we could not just manage our small part without managing all the stakeholders involved and establishing a good communication flow.
A lot of projects fail because people don’t speak the same language.
And by that I mean the communication is faulty between the different levels — between the non-technical people directing and supporting the project (executives, sponsors) and the technical teams (prototyping, development, design, testing).
Expectations and risks need to be uncovered and managed because everyone is depending on the others, and the success of the project depends on this.
First of all, try to understand as early as possible not just what needs to be done, but the entire stakeholder ecosystem and the big picture.
Then, get a sense of the full expectations from the stakeholders, their vision, as well as what quality and success of the project means for them.
Establish good communication flow. Especially in distributed teams, there are extra challenges that need to be managed when it comes to remote communication.
Video conferencing and other communication tools such as Slack are ok, but nothing replaces face-to-face communication, especially when working with Scrum.
So, try to have at least one face-to-face meeting at the beginning of the project, once the pandemic has passed and that becomes safely possible.
Also, establishing good meeting rituals is key. Streamlining the daily meetings and making them more efficient was an important part of our learning process.
What is important is that everyone, technical or non-technical, understands what is going on, and are fully focused and in the loop.
Fifteen-minute daily meetings should be enough, if conducted efficiently.
And very importantly, act as a guide for the client.
Taking that step beyond pure outsourcing means doing more than just executing what the client is requiring.
It means navigating the client towards the project objectives and managing risks. All in a professional manner, across roles and seniority levels.
Yes, personally I learned a lot from working in distributed teams, even more than from working with local teams.
That’s because most often, you get to interact with people from different cultures, backgrounds, and mindset and learn a different way of doing things.
It will be very interesting to see where the product team takes the application in terms of going viral.
The application has already gotten a lot of traction by winning “la France s’engage”, a big contest that rewards social impact, created by the President of France.
Our mission will be to make sure that the features of the application are very easy to use and the application integrates seamlessly with the social networks so that it can be marketed properly.
Also, going viral means more feedback and insights coming from the users, and this will be very exciting to incorporate.
And yes, users are also among the main stakeholders in the project, if not the most important to manage.
Brindusa Duma is a Project Manger at Tecknoworks with an extensive experience in managing global project across industries. She’s the perfect person to answer the question, Are remote teams effective?
If you have any questions for Brindusa, please get in touch and she will be happy to answer.
Learn more about Entourage: http://www.entourage.social