Remote Software Development amid COVID-19 Outbreak: Key Challenges and Best Practices

Remote Software Development Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world with turbulence, taking the life toll of thousands. Businesses have come to a standstill while economic headwinds continue to prevail. As lockdowns and social distancing have become prevalent globally, many companies have succumbed to work-from-home to prevent the wheels of the economy from stalling out. However, for IT companies, a more significant challenge is to pave the way for remote software development.

As per reports, interest in telemedicine- typically low activity rates, has jumped
616 percent since the COVID-19 outbreak began. While the demand for web conferencing applications is up 445% and video platforms up to 327%.
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Some would say – software development is a rewarding profession. Give the developers a computer, cutting-edge tools, steady Internet connectivity, and other necessary resources, and they can build software solutions from anywhere in the world. True. But
developing software is not one man’s job; it is teamwork where experts from different fields come together, brainstorm, and collaborate to build high-performance, robust, and scalable software products.

And when everyone is working from their homes, collaboration and communication seem far-fetched. Not every software developer is accustomed to working remotely – there are several impediments like improper work environment, lack of trust, and procrastination that can impact their productivity at home. As a team leader or project manager, it is your responsibility to identify and eliminate the bottlenecks by implementing remote software development best practices.

Critical Barriers to Remote Software Development

Developing software remotely can be challenging for most developers. It is difficult to stimulate the professional work environment at home, given the clutter and chaos typical to any house. Various impediments can affect your team’s productivity, directly impacting the final product’s quality and the cost of development. Understanding remote software development challenges will help efficiently address the same, ensuring your project is up and running.

1. Lack of Resources

Get it straight; despite the remote nature of software development, most IT companies do not equip their people with the right processes and tools required to work from home. Those who do, have a well-equipped remote team working on software development even amid coronavirus pandemonium. However, most software programmers, coders, and testers working from home lack the resources for fast and efficient development. While computers and internet connectivity at home are not new normal for a remote software developer anymore, some other tools and processes make the final product full-proof.

According to the Standish Group’s research, 10.6% of software development project failure was because of ”Lack of Resources”.
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These may include hardware or software installations, online tools, or setting up the entire infrastructure for software coding or testing. So, not having a proper framework is one of the most significant barriers to remote software development.

2. Poor Communication

One of the significant impediments to working from home is the lack of proper communication. Most software development companies do not have a strategic communication system in place when working on a project remotely. Virtual communication often lacks the professionalism and dedication of face-to-face conversation. Distractions are common when working from home, leading to miscommunication or not having a clear understanding of project guidelines and KPIs.

Poor communication at the end of the team leader or project manager can result in loss of control, lack of employee motivation, and not achieving the specified results. At the same time, over-communication can also hinder your team members’ spirit as they take it as a sign of distrust. Often, project managers seem to be calling up their remote team every 2 hours to get an update. It indicates a lack of cooperation manual, trust, and transparency in the process. Too many interactions throughout the day can cause your team members to lose focus and motivation.

Therefore, it is crucial to have an effective communication plan in place – not over-doing or under-doing the same, particularly to manage software development project remotely.

Remote Software Development Barriers

3. No Transparency in the Process

Lack of transparency mostly occurs because the project manager fails to set the KPIs straight and clear. It results in ambiguity among the team members. They are unable to understand what is expected of them, why, and by when. That can cause employee dissatisfaction. One team member often appears to be over-burdened with work than others because the entire process lacks the clarity of goals, roles, and responsibilities.

Trust issues may arise at the end of your team members because there tend to skip schedules or procrastinate when working from home. Are they working as scheduled or planning to do everything at the last minute only to impact the final product quality? Trust is not built in a day, especially when people are working from their homes. Here, effective communication, collaboration, and motivation can help.

4. Lack of Control

Poor control in remote software development is not surprising, especially when you repeatedly catch the news of COVID-19 spreading globally and businesses getting shut down. Under the pressure of getting the project completed on time and at minimal cost, you will get more nervous and start losing trust in your team when things do not get delivered as specified. Furthermore, getting all your team members together on the same platform and, at the same time, can be challenging. Continuous monitoring becomes difficult when working remotely, which will further make you lose control of the process.

5. Data Insecurity

When your team is working remotely, it is likely you would share ideas, innovations, and data with them as you would do when they work at the office. However, the difference here is the lack of network security and not fulfilling data security standards as laid by your company. The project manager and team members should be careful in sharing and accessing data in a responsible manner that does not hurt your company’s bottom line or the client’s.

6. Delay in Project Delivery

As discussed earlier, procrastination is one of the most significant loopholes of working remotely. The work environment at home is more laid back, and chaos is typical. Amid this, it is difficult for software developers to focus and complete the project on time.

So, these are the typical bottlenecks of remote software development that you can battle off by having an effective strategy in place. The next section will describe the best practices of remote software development to address these challenges efficiently.

Remote Software Development Best Practices

When your team members are all scattered around, it is crucial to have best practices in place. You can keep track of all stages of software development without getting frustrated or pressurizing your team. Discussed here are acceptable practices you should implement to streamline the process, build collaboration, reduce costs, and deliver the project timely.

1. Set Goals and KPIs in a Clear, Transparent and Concise Manner

It is one of the most critical stages of remote software development – setting the goals and expectations clearly and unambiguously—Breakdown the bigger plan into smaller tasks that are rational, time-bound, and easy to achieve. Ensure your team members’ roles and responsibilities do not overlap and are well-understood without any uncertainty.

At this stage, it is crucial to lay down the communication tools and channels, set up work schedules as per the availability of the team members, schedule regular meetings, and establish guidelines for monitoring, time tracking, and reporting.

2. Schedule Regular Meetings

For effective communication, you must conduct regular meetings with your team. Follow Daily Scrum meeting of 15 minutes each day to discuss project achievements and the backlog of the past day and plan for the next 24 hours. Regular, time-boxed meeting eliminates the needs for long-stretched, unwanted meetings at wee hours. Also, it helps build trust and collaboration among the team.

The Scrum meetings are to discuss what the team has done in the past 24 hours. The factors that impede their productivity or performance, technical questions and problem-solving, and what and how they would achieve the tasks for the next 24 hours. If the team requires detailed requirements or additional information, provide the same at the earliest to minimize delays.

For virtual meetings and communication in a secure and scalable manner, you can use remote working tools such as Skype, Google Duo, Google Drive, Zoom, Google Meet, Slack, Toggl, etc.

Microsoft has gained 12 million Team, Slack has picked up 7,000 new customers, Cisco Webex has logged 5.5 billion meeting minutes in the first 11 days of March (3.2 million meetings a day), and Zoom has added more members in Q1 than in all of 2019. –Forrester

3. Foster a Mindset of Communication and Collaboration

Working cohesively in a team that too remote can be challenging. Despite the availability of online tools to connect everyone virtually, it lacks the emotions and professionalism of face-to-face conversation. That ends up in poor communication and misunderstandings, affecting the overall quality of the final product. Therefore, it is a project manager’s role to foster the right attitude for teamwork and communication among its team members.

Remote Software Development Best Practices

4. Get Feedback

Any successful project depends on mutual understanding between team members and the project manager. This is more important when everyone is working remotely from their homes. Remember, it is not a one-man’s job. So you cannot always dictate and expect your people to follow. Allow them to provide feedback, share experiences, and help you identify loopholes in the project. It will make them feel more important, motivating them towards improved productivity. Also, you can gather valuable insights regarding the software from people who are working on it.

Feedback helps you clarify your understanding. It enables you to see things in new ways and makes you and your work better.

5. Team Building Activities Can Promote Collaboration

Working remotely from home can be stressful for many. Keep your team members always motivated; that will set the right mindset for effective collaboration. Do not ever call them up for project updates; virtually socialize with them whenever possible. Create digital spaces and celebrate special occasions with your team members. Get your team together to play virtual games like football tournaments, etc. This will help promote better team building and bonding.

A study concluded, Connecting collaboration to the motives of success-minded team members is what unlocks productive teamwork.

DON’T MISS OUT

6. Use Online Tools

Ditch the clichéd emails and bring all your people together on a single platform using advanced communication tools online. This way, you can set up meetings with all team members, foster interactions among everyone, track performances, and build effective collaboration. Use only tools that are supported, secure, and scalable, and everyone is comfortable with it.

7. Time Tracking is a Must

Just because it is advised not to pressurize your remote team members does not mean you will lose control of the project. Delay in project delivery can significantly increase your overall development cost and be detrimental to your business reputation. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that all tasks are completed on time as scheduled. Make sure your team uses tools like Clockify or Calendar to keep track of the deadlines. It is an important aspect you should discuss in the Daily Scrum meeting. Any backlog must be instantly filtering before moving onto the next day’s tasks.

8. Establish Reporting Guidelines

The reporting procedures must be communicated to and understood by all team members. Provide clear guidelines regarding the reporting format, timeframe, and other elements to ensure the software development project is on track and results can be achieved.

9. Allow Time for Relaxation

Do not be too stringent in your work schedules. Remember, people are working from their homes amid a crisis. Therefore, you must be humane and allow flexibility to your team members. Set up work schedules they are comfortable with. Overlapping programs can help. Allow time to relax. Do not over-pressurize them. It is unprofessional if you continue pestering your team members every second to get an update on the project.

Conclusion

Most of the remote software development company doesn’t know the technical know-how of remote software development. Therefore, Implementing the above practices will help you keep track of remote software development and achieve timely results without being overly assertive. It is essential to keep your team motivated, empower them more, foster trust and transparency, and provide a work environment they are comfortable working in.

Simultaneously, effective communication, time tracking, and reporting can help you have better control of the project. These remote software development practices and Software Development Methods has helped Radixweb deliver a high-quality product in a timely and efficient manner, reducing overall development cost and downtime for clients.

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Sarrah Pitaliya is a senior digital marketing manager at Radixweb to precisely navigate strategy for growth, build marketing capabilities, align the organization around customer experience and mentor teams about new digital, social, mobile channels and customer opportunities. Apart from work, she is a fitness freak and coffee connoisseur.