This short guide comes out of our lived experience helping clients make the most of their SoftwareSeni extended team. The information is useful for anyone looking to engage an extended team or has an extended team and could use some pointers. If that last one describes you, some of this information might be arriving a bit late. Building a cohesive, high-performing hybrid local/extended team starts from day one.
This guide will touch on engaging an extended team and what processes you need to have in place. Following that will be tips on how to bridge the gap between local and remote workers and how to keep the team working smoothly.
Covid has radically changed experience and expectations
At the beginning of last year experience with remote workers was rare. Now it’s almost universal. But there is a difference between managing a remote team member and integrating a remote team member with a local team. Software development veers between an independent and collaborative process. Your processes need to be able to support both types of working while maintaining cohesion across an extended team.
We have seen the greatest success with remote teams from start-ups and scale-ups that have a mature Agile process in place. This maturity might be due to the business having a history with Agile or its developers bringing that experience. The Agile methodology works great with remote teams. And all the developers in the SoftwareSeni extended team pool are experienced in Agile.
The burden of hiring is on us
Hiring a new developer can take months. Assembling a full team — it doesn’t bear thinking about. At SoftwareSeni we’ve already handled the time-consuming part of the process — vetting, testing and interviewing. We operate in a market where we can be selective and our in-house culture has created high retention rates. This means the developers in our extended talent pool are capable, experienced and have helped multiple clients successfully complete their projects.
For you, our hiring process and experienced developers means selecting your preferred team members, conducting confirmation interviews, and commencing onboarding can be completed in days instead of weeks.
Making it work from day 1
Having a streamlined onboarding process for your extended team members can save a lot of headaches. We supply your extended team with workspace, a development machine and all the support they need. On the software side, which is your territory, the best practices we regularly see use an automatic process to set up the tools and repositories the developers need to start working. These processes have made use of scripts, Puppet, Ansible, and docker.
The worst practice is a specialised development environment with poor documentation that takes a developer days to get up and running. Don’t make the mistake of treating onboarding as a technical test.
Provide multiple avenues for communication
Think of onboarding as the time from a developer accepting their role and being able to complete sprints independently. At this point they are familiar with your business, the code they are working on and how your team operates.
They’re professionals. They’ll get there, but how long it takes to get there can be shortened by providing rapid feedback in the early stages. This is when they are learning their way around your codebase. A tool like Slack, with a channel monitored by a team leader for this purpose, will let them quickly get answers they need to skip over any roadblocks. Issues that require more than a few lines of chat can jump over to Zoom or Google Meet or other video conferencing with screen sharing to move rapidly to a solution.
Video conferencing, for stand-ups, code reviews, and even virtual team gatherings for social occasions, is vital for building the familiarity that bonds remote teams together and keeps them moving towards the common goal — your success.
The message here is to not treat your remote team as a black box – instructions in, code out. Integrating them fully into your team is key to achieving the benefits of investing in an extended team.
What happens if the extended team isn’t perfect?
Just like any team, there is a chance issues might develop within your extended team. SoftwareSeni has fully documented processes in place to resolve these. These processes remind us that we are dealing with people, not programming machines, and provide an ethical and supportive path to a solution.
If a problem with an extended team member becomes apparent in the first two weeks of working with you, we will work with you to find a solution. Sometimes the solution is to release the team member and engage another. In this case we don’t charge you for the hours already worked.
If a problem arises after the initial two weeks, we will put more effort into finding a working solution. This will be in consultation with you and will include clearly specified milestones and dates. Our goal is always to keep you on track. In the event our shared plan does not deliver the results you need, we’ll begin a new team member selection process.
This process is explained in more detail in our Performance Management Policy document that we share with our potential clients. Get in touch if you’d like to see it.
In the end it’s about the team
In-house team or in-house plus extended team, the collection of people still needs to be a team. Each member needs to feel a part of the team. They need to know where they fit in. They need to know their work is appreciated. They need to understand that they are part of your success. This comes from working together, overcoming challenges together, and celebrating the wins together.
It takes discipline and practice to achieve the cohesion of a purely in-house team when you move to an extended team model. By being prepared with your onboarding and focusing on regular, responsive and consistent communication, by being inclusive, and by addressing issues as soon as they appear, an extended team can expand what you thought was possible to achieve.
If you’re ready to achieve more, contact us to start building your extended team.