While most businesses are still operating remotely, CTOs and Product Managers are facing the increasing difficulty that making the shift to remote working brings. While it may be straightforward to scrape through on Slack and Zoom calls for a couple of weeks, as enforced remote working continues and temporary measures start to show their cracks, more permanent solutions may be called for.
This post is going to focus on the performance aspect of managing a remote team and how to ensure team members are still producing work on time to a high standard.
Why might this be different in a remote working situation? Regular, personal check-ins are easy to manage in person. Asking your co-worker to help with a difficult task can be done in minutes when they are at the next desk. But when you’re all isolated in your own office, it can be easy to feel like you can’t reach out. Scrums and stand-ups might not be as effective in getting around all members of the team when they are done remotely. Despite the best efforts of everyone, performance levels can drop if not managed effectively and compassionately.
So, what can you do if you’re forced to manage the performance of a remote team for longer than you had originally planned for?
Briefs and Communication
Ensuring the clarity of information everybody requires to do their job effectively is always a challenge. When working in sprints, you need to have a colossal amount of information ready to enable the team to do their job, and often it can be difficult to get everybody the information they need on time.
In an office situation that isn’t always the end of the world. As long as the developers have 90% of the information they need to get started at 9 am, you can always get together later in the day to finish the last pieces. But when working remotely and faced with back to back calls, it’s not always possible to do this in a remote situation. As a result, work slips and deadlines are impacted.
As a Product Manager or anybody overseeing the timeline, getting accurate and complete information to the wider team is crucial if projects are to stay on track and deadlines are hit. While remote working brings a whole host of additional challenges, clarity of briefs and ensuring the correct information gets to the right teams on time will save slipping deadlines adding to these challenges.
Taking the Sticky Note Board Online – Best Scrum Tools
Despite the prevalence of online task management tools out there, the agile development experience is still dominated by the office scrum board covered in sticky notes that the team relies upon to get quick updates on project progress.
Taking this online is key to driving the continued performance of your team and your project. But with the amount of choice on the market, how do you know which is the right virtual scrum board for you? Chances are you’re already trialing one, but if it’s not really working out, here’s a list of some other tools on the market that you might want to try:
Cost: from $30/user/month
- Super powerful with a huge array of features and integrations. The Rolls Royce of project management systems
- Huge learning curve and range of features demands someone to manage it if it is to be used correctly
- The high price means you will need to be across all of the features to get value for money
Cost: from $11/user/month
- Clean, visual and easy to use software for daily task management providing a wide range of integration possibilities with other apps like Slack
- Complex features require a more experienced project manager. An additional issue can be that Asana only allows you to assign project tasks to one person. For many, this might actually be a good thing.
Cost: from $10/user/month
- One of the most widely used scrum tools for agile teams, this has a great track record and does everything you would need in an agile environment
- The project setup is highly customizable and you can even build custom reporting tools using their API.
- Tracking time and sharing access to the projects with clients is very simple, so we have been using Jira for years now at Vacuumlabs
- It’s not the easiest tool to use for beginners. It is MUCH better than a few years ago though. People that have used it for years will be used to its quirks, but if the team is new to it, there may be options with a slightly better user experience available
Cost: from $5/user/month
- A huge amount of functionality for the price
- Good integration with platforms such as Asana, Trello and over 50 more platforms
- This goes beyond being a scrum tool, so you might not use all functionality. The low price ensures you will still get value, however.
Cost: from $8/user/month
- Great range of features in the free version, makes this ideal for low budgets
- The free version is easy to use
- The more advanced features of the platform will require time to master
Peer reviews are a valuable way of utilizing the different levels of skill and experience within the team and check the quality of work. As well as look for mistakes or just lend a hand with a problem that arises during development. This is fine in the office, you can call people over when you have a problem and you may well find a team of engineers crowded around a computer screen trying to come up with a solution.
When you’re working remotely, there are the obvious logistical challenges to contend with, but there are also cultural hurdles as well. In an office, you can tell when someone is busy. You can leave people alone when they are plugged in and take opportunities to ask questions when they are obviously available. Slack as a channel is intended to replicate this conversational atmosphere remotely. But nobody wants to be bombarded with a ton of notifications when they are busy and as a result, important questions or requests for help or reviews may not be communicated.
Encourage the team to use the status functionality within Slack. When they are busy, get them to change their status and kill notifications. Also get them to make it clear when they are available and create an atmosphere where people feel empowered to seek help, assistance, and reviews from their peers whenever there is the opportunity to do so.