Remote Teams Management

By September 15th 2016 4:34 pm
Working remotely

The internationalization of Vox Teneo started in 2009 with the first company registered outside of Belgium. Today we are present in five countries, two continents and have clients from all around the globe. Like many other companies in the tech industry we are taking advantage of all the online tools available, that make it possible for development teams to collaborate, but we are also facing all the challenges of remote teams management.

 

We Do Write, Read and Speak. One language.

 

Well, as somebody once said – “this is common sense, but sense is not common”, that is why this common sense statement comes to the top. People forget to share what they plan to do, what they have done, but most often they forget to read what needs to be done and to ask about the things they did not understand. There are people slobbery to the language they leave in the chatrooms, comments and documentation that annoys other people, who stop reading. And this is where things break. Communication should be deeply rooted in the company culture  if you are planning to form international collaboration. Communication should be nourished, stimulated and rewarded.

 

We Meet Live

 

Remote is not Agile.

 

Like most of the contemporary software development companies, we are working Agile. The focus is on the working software and the developers, on the business value of the features and on the ability to change. Clean code, continuous integration, DevOps and communication is how we get there. According to the Agile Manifesto nothing replaces the face to face interaction, and having offices in two more destination makes it challenging to be “Agile”.

 

We travel a lot. When it comes to generating ideas, solving problems and organizing the schedule, written communication cracks. Video conference tools make it better, but still… Nothing replaces the physical presence.

 

That is why, to be really Agile and productive we make sure to plan sufficient travelling budgets. The impact only one meeting can have on the direction and flow of the project is in most cases is enough to justify an airplane ticket and apartment for a few nights.

 

Knowing your peers personally makes the whole process a whole lot easier too.

 

We Are Like A Coworking Space

The nature of coworking spaces is to inspire collaboration between individuals and teams who can function by themselves. This is what we are trying to achieve in Vox Teneo. We “modular” approach, where small teams are part of one big whole, but are not totally dependant on each other.

 

We use a web based project management application – Target Process. Everyone has access and everyone can see what is in the pipeline. It is there where people are assigned to teams. We have autonomous entities within the company. .NET, C&S, PHP, Java, WordPRESS, Drupal, Communication, HR, Administration Teams… One team is in the same office, so you know your peers and usually work with them. Being part of smaller groups makes the company culture pleasant to work in, but also easier to work in.

 

Having guests in the three countries from another office is almost a permanent status.

 

We are totally in line with the culture of Atlassian, the software development company that developed great remote team communication tools, check out their thoughts on Remote Teams.

 

We Look for Partners, not Human Resources

It’s been long time now, since the people in organizations do matter. The name “Human Resources” is outdated. If we look at the Factories and Enterprises from the past century, control was the method used to keep efficiency high. Today, rarely a highly educated Millennial developer would tolerate a Big Brother attitude from the behalf of his Manager. That is why in Vox Teneo we have a flat structure, where no one is really on top of the other. We have different roles with different responsibilities, corresponding to the professional maturity and talents of the employees.

 

Now imagine, that you have a flat structure AND remote teams. Achieving efficiency starts to sound like a dream, but there is a way. And the way is to have a company of responsible and self-managed people that match with the culture and high quality standards. Those people are more partners than employees or “resources”. People who are together in what they do and do it for themselves. This very same type of people who wouldn’t like their freedom to be sacrificed for less responsibilities.

 

Having a clear assessment process and clearly defined responsibilities together with a tight recruitment procedure makes an efficient company with flat structure possible.

 

We Are Honest, Not Politically Correct (well… try to be kind)

Many speak about the “cultural differences” that international companies working with remote teams face. Obeying the rules of political correctness, and being afraid that you might hurt somebody’s tender feelings may trigger bigger problems though. Open communication always suffer if things are left untold and this is the reason problems stay unsolved. The truth is that fluent communication requires honesty and this is what we are trying to inspire in people. Openly share their opinion, no matter if positive or negative. Check three short stories about miscommunication caused by cultural differences here.