Managing software teams may look like a simple task. But actually, software product development in remote locations requires the wise use of teams. As well as infrastructure, software, and relevant assets to enhance speed to market under budget restrictions. In this case, there is a tendency to reduce indirect management influence. This goes for distributed and development models and forming offshore teams that report to managers located at remote offices.
This approach may be good for the very small extended teams of a couple of engineers working overseas on product support or generic maintenance tasks. The question is if this also works for the large offshore team as well? Many times, practitioners tend to encourage agile principles and recommend a self-directed team of offshore developers that can be managed onsite by the outsourcing contractor.
Of course, the option of software development team management by giving roles is half of the process. At the same time, the actual guidance of the staff and the process with software development management tools is the inherent part of this mechanism. The right combination of smart project management software and the Agile approach can be the ultimate solution for offshore project success.
Lists of the Content
- Software development management tools
- Managing software development teams with Agile
- Managing software teams with Scrum
- In conclusion
TOOLS FOR MANAGING SOFTWARE TEAMS
Speaking of how to manage the dedicated offshore developers isn’t enough if the managing instruments aren’t mentioned, everything must be considered in a complex. In the international project management setting, an online project management tool is fundamental. In the case of software development, such tool should have definite sections for reporting bugs, tasks, and questions. Learning how to manage a software team offshore, forming a routine around this online tool is essential. This starts with writing clear guidelines on how to use this system. Because if five people using the same thing but doing that in their own way – that’s where communication issues appear. Managing software teams should not only predefine such tools but also watch whether staff members use the system in a planned manner. And the primary rule here should be: ALL communication happens in the online tool. Management should outlaw emails and should ask everyone to upload a summary of any call (e.g. Skype call) to this online system. Such systematization of the overall workflow will turn into automated with some time. Paying attention to this at the beginning stage is crucial for the best outcome in the future.
JIRA, Trello, etc. are your ultimate helpers in managing software teams. These tools are designed with distributed development teams in mind. To be more specific, you can ignore some features for task management and tracking or performance measurement if you’re all in the same office. But if your offshore contractors are located overseas it is necessary to perform all the communication and task flow activities in the project management tool. The very first but not the obvious thing is that it will take some time even for your staff to get used to 100% communication in the software ecosystem. Another quite tricky aspect to consider while managing dedicated software development teams. It’s a common situation when in-house developers and managers are the ones who should learn how to get the most out of, let’s say, JIRA. The reason is that they no longer can go to the next room and describe their needs to others how they used to. At the same time, remote staff and project managers are very proficient with such techniques. You’ll be able to learn a lot about how to manage a team of software developers if you’ll be asking software development team members and, what is even more important, listening to them.
SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT WITH AGILE METHODOLOGY
Why do you need another manager at the offshore location when the main purpose of its existence is cutting down the costs. Is every extra member of the dedicated development center a step back in budget saving? Can’t you manage them offsite? Not exactly. Extension of the project team with onsite managers like PMs or Scrum Masters can make a difference between a development hell and an outsourcing project that serves its main purpose – delivering a high-quality code on a tight budget.
Let us explain this from the expectations we have of self-directed teams. In such cases, everyone handles asking questions, answering questions, owning up to situations, and resolving problems. But, it is very infrequent to see self-directed teams that go on a mission without a manager or a coach. Their manager is in charge of the context or contextual situations. This aspect involves real-time observations, interactions, and evaluations of situations for timely corrective responses. This role includes the consolidation of observations and events in order to understand if there are any issues that may impact the project goals. It does not stop here. This is a critical aspect that binds the members together and brings conflict resolution when required. Also, this role implicates the performance measurement to distribute the workload and tasks according to the developer’s skills and abilities.
With these thoughts, can you think of offshore agile teams that function without onsite project management at least at the outsourcing provider’s side (or a Scrum Master if you practice Scrum)? This is why we strongly recommend this role in managing software teams.
Software development is an intensive cooperative game. Every orchestra requires a real-time conductor. Every football game needs a coach as well as a manager. Every space mission has a leader. This is relevant to software development team management as well.
Software Architecture has two primary things – structure and behavior. Software Architects define the structure of any architecture depending on its expected behavior. That is, the behavior drives the structure, and the structure needs to deliver behavioral expectations. The same things hold good for distributed software teams. When you are structuring any software project team, try to identify the qualities and results that you expect from them. That will help you define the structure.
MANAGING SOFTWARE TEAMS WITH SCRUM
Let’s now proceed to the way how to manage a dedicated software development team by the roles. Scrum is the commonly accepted Agile technique for remote team management. Why is this approach so highly demanded and why its appropriate use is so important for the development project’s success? Here is a look at the three standard Scrum roles Team Member, Scrum Master, and Product Owner, and how they know how to manage a remote software team. Also, you may read about roles in the Scrum team in this article “Scrum Roles Demystified” by Scrum Alliance.
The Product Owner holds all the necessary information and key details on the project and provides a Scrum Master with this data who shares it with others. Scrum Master’s responsibilities are not limited to sharing information about the product vision. He contributes to the development process by working alongside offshore employees and encourages members to look for solutions. Hiring and educating is part of Scrum Master’s responsibilities too. He should lead the development process instead of simply controlling it. This approach will make the software project team almost a self-contained unit.
Another managing stakeholder is the Project Manager. Typically, he is accompanying Scrum Master in some areas though performing his unique functions. The Project Manager is a loaded role and includes both “asking questions” and “giving answers” when Scrum Master is “giving answers” only.
A common Scrum team has around 10 members in it. Each Scrum team has its Master and a Product, being a part of a team as well. The important thing, that the local presence of the Scrum Master is necessary, while the Product Owner may manage the offshore members at a distance. Product Owner provides Scrum master with PRD from the client’s side and thus makes Scrum Master responsible for understanding the product requirements and interpreting these requirements to the developers. This structure is recommended by practitioners in managing software teams. The main reason is that without a co-located Scrum Master, the offshore software project team will not have a coach or a mentor. In fact, on a need basis, Scrum Masters mentor their teams in implementing Scrum. As the Agile practice says, leaving the staff alone, placing Scrum Master in a remote location– is not the best practice of software development team management and achieving the goals. The Scrum Master will not see the staff in real time and understand when it’s time to intervene and support to remove impediments or resolve issues. His responsibilities stay the same relative to the team. But as for the Project Manager and/or customer, the Scrum Master, in this case, is the person responsible for the communication between the remote team and the in-house members at the customer side.
To summarize, let us revisit our question. Do you need a Project Manager in an Agile Offshore Team? Well, it depends on the expected behavior. For very small groups you may find a solution on how to manage a software development team with a remote Project Manager. But, in all other cases, you will need to structure everything in such a way that it gets adequate local leadership and managerial support to deliver the best. If you follow Scrum, you will need a local Scrum Master for every project. Else, you may need a “Project Manager”, or a similar senior role for managing software teams and delivering the expected outcome and behavior.
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Working with offshore service providers requires appropriate management and resourcing structure at both client and service partner levels. It is not a quick solution to cutting costs, but when managed, it can help to reduce delivery expenses over some period of time. Managing software teams mean clear communication and direction, including the developers in project communications and remembering, that out of sight is not out of mind.
The way of how to manage a software development team is the same as managing software developers in the local team, except for a few nuances as a distance, etc. Defining the structure of distributed teams, so that engineers at any location are not treated as augmented members reporting to a manager or a leader at a different location, is very critical to the success of distributed agile projects. Characterizing them as a part of your own existing personnel will help you not only to ease the management process but will ease the understanding of the team.
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