Methods for Resolving Common Issues in Distributed Software Development Teams

At Works, where I am employed as a Technical Delivery Manager, I have had the opportunity to supervise the efforts of hundreds of engineers on projects for a varied selection of clients. In this article, I will be exploring some of the most common communication issues I have observed amongst engineers who are working remotely on software development projects, and I will also be offering some advice for improving your own remote communication abilities.

Most often encountered challenges by engineers when working remotely

In engineering, communication issues are often at the heart of the most difficult tasks and processes.

Adapting to a remote working environment can take some getting used to, but eventually remote workers can achieve the same level of effective communication as their in-office colleagues. No longer is it possible to simply tap a colleague on the shoulder to ask a question, and this can lead to difficulties for software engineers who are new to a remote team and feel hesitant to ask questions or seek assistance. Unfortunately, this can cause further complications.

Organisations highly appreciate inquiries that are thoroughly considered and based on research. This is because many businesses have intricate systems that they do not anticipate customers to have knowledge of immediately. It is normal for customers to experience difficulties in understanding the system, and if they do not make an effort to ask questions and familiarise themselves with the system, it may be a red flag.

As such, I’ve prepared some communication advice to help you deal with communication issues at your current or next remote engagement.

Here are three suggestions for improving your interactions with your superior.

  • Communicate in a way that is most comfortable for your management.. Seek out their preferred method of communication for updates and queries, such as Slack, email, Jira, or another tool, and use it.
  • Use status updates on Slack to keep your boss abreast of your movements. It is important to be mindful of the length of time away from the office and to keep colleagues informed. If you are going to be away for more than a few hours, kindly notify your supervisor via Slack or a direct message; this courtesy is greatly appreciated by the team.
  • When you find yourself in a bind, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you remain silent and try to address the issue by yourself, you may end up making an error that could delay the completion of the project. Therefore, I strongly suggest that the engineers under my supervision let me know if they have been attempting to resolve a particular aspect of the project for more than half an hour without making any progress.

The best way to get your point across to teammates, and two other ways to do so

  • Be empathetic while you listen. It is plausible that you may gain a better comprehension of the issue at hand, as well as the most efficient approach to tackle it, if you attempt to visualise your teammate’s circumstances. Furthermore, establishing a good relationship is essential when working collaboratively with your team to deploy code or meet a product target. This can be achieved through being an understanding listener.
  • Give us some specifics. No one finds unstructured criticism to be beneficial. If you have any qualms about the work style or performance of a colleague, it is better to provide them with specific advice and recommendations on how to enhance their current practices, instead of simply criticising them in a non-specific manner.

Being proactive pays off in the end.

Proactive communication is the most effective strategy to ensure that misunderstandings do not arise during virtual software development projects. It is important to ask pertinent questions and to provide input where necessary. It is preferable to be overly communicative, as this will help to avoid any potential issues. It is important to remember that any criticism should be seen as constructive and can help to improve the outcome of future projects. If you are working on a Works engagement, the Technical Documentation Manager (TDM) is available to provide additional support.

Related Article: 4 Ways to Make Remote Team Communication Easier

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