Management of Distributed Engineering: Raise Your Game

Engineering managers often cite management as the most challenging aspect of their jobs, and this is especially true when dealing with a global engineering team. Whilst managing a global team can be a challenge in any industry, the IT sector presents additional obstacles, such as the presence of offices in multiple countries and remotely-located engineers. Bradley Scott, Vice President of Technology Products at Works, a company that forms remote engineering teams for global technology enterprises, emphasises that “managing remote teams requires openness, consistency, and empathy.” The utmost importance lies in ensuring that every team member collaborates and remains visible to each other.

Works has implemented a management system and dedicated technical resources to encourage and incentivize collaboration. Among their most groundbreaking ideas are:

Implement an “open-door” policy.

As a team leader, it is crucial to exhibit successful and transparent communication. All information must be easily accessible to all team members, in the same format and at the same time. Employing online tools like Trello can help in task management. If a discussion among headquarters team members intensifies and turns into a whiteboarding session on the conference room wall, it is essential to involve remote team members by instantly forwarding a picture of the whiteboard via email.

Evaluate and recognize collaborative efforts

While metrics like code quality and commits are critical, it is equally vital to monitor metrics pertaining to teamwork and communication. Evaluating “soft skills”, such as how frequently a developer switches off their camera during video conferences, can help determine how efficiently and promptly information is being exchanged, and whether a team member is disengaged. To ensure complete transparency and comprehension, it is crucial to clarify what is being measured and why it is important. This prevents any unexpected outcomes during performance evaluations.

Promote Knowledge Sharing to Empower Developers

Over 500 engineering managers were surveyed, revealing that 80% of them struggle with sourcing and retaining talented programmers. To tackle this problem, organisations must create an environment where programmers can thrive, regardless of their location. However, for office-based teams, collaboration and creativity can be fostered by serendipitous moments. For instance, an offhanded conversation between developers about a new technology in the break room may inspire a team lead to assign them to a related project. For remotely-based teams, deliberate planning is required to ensure that developers have both formal and informal channels to communicate progress. Managers can use tools such as Works to search for developers with specific skill sets required for their projects.

Highlighting the Advantages of Remote Computing

Numerous top-level executives are hesitant to fully integrate remote teams, often due to concerns regarding their productivity. To help management better understand the work carried out by developers, it is crucial to implement tools that foster transparency and accountability. These may include chat rooms, shared documents, and other forms of online collaboration that effectively illustrate the global distribution of work, as well as the quantity, source, and cost of code being committed. This approach provides senior management with a clear, real-time view of the accomplishments of remote teams.

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