In a remote team, communication is key - if it is not effective or something causes an interference, things can go wrong quickly. In this blog post, we will discuss some tips for managing communication with stakeholders in a remote IT team. We will also take a look at some of the challenges that come with distributed teams and how to overcome them.
Dispersed, remote teams - a characteristic
Dispersed IT teams have existed and produced excellent results for years now, which means that the community has had the time to establish common pitfalls and best practices. The different roles in remote IT teams (usually project manager, product owner, designers, developers and QA experts) come with their own sets of skills that must be managed carefully. Because of different specializations, it is easy for teams to divide into cliques or silos.
When working with a dispersed team, it is important to remember that communication is especially important in order to ensure everyone is on the same page. This means that a communication schedule should be established from the beginning and maintained throughout the project. It is also important to sometimes talk about things other than work - this promotes team bonding and will have a positive effect on relations between the members of a distributed team.
Finally, someone who works remotely is constantly barraged by new information and various distractions. Aside from multiple emails, chat messages, video calls, and so on, a remote worker also has to handle whatever is happening around them, often at home - a barking dog, a package delivery, maybe laundry that needs drying. Because of this, attention and focus are crucial factors for remote team members, which cannot be achieved without respecting team members' need to rest and work life balance.
The challenges of dispersed teams
One of the main challenges in managing a dispersed team is ensuring that everyone has access to the same information. This can be difficult if members are located in different time zones or if there are language barriers. People that come from different cultures also need to learn to collaborate well with each other, often through team building activities. Another challenge is maintaining engagement - remote team members are often juggling multiple processes at once, so it can be hard to stay on task.
Finally, communication can be difficult in dispersed teams. It is important to make sure everyone is aware of the expectations and deadlines that have been set forth by the client or project manager. In addition, remote teams should establish who is responsible for what, so that everyone knows who to go to with their questions or concerns. This is particularly helpful for stakeholders, as it saves them from going through a chain of people before they reach the right team member.
Project managers, product owners, designers, developers or QA experts in a remote IT team know that there are different techniques and tools available for efficient collaboration. However, understanding the needs of stakeholders and ensuring that everyone remains on the same page can be more tricky - there is no single app for that.
Stakeholders need to be able to trust that their project is on track and that their needs are being addressed. They should also have a clear understanding of the timeline, so they know when results will be produced and what milestones need to be met along the way. If they are to be reliable sources of crucial information, a process for sharing this information should be established. Additionally, stakeholders should have access to each individual member of the team, even if most of the time they will be speaking to a representative.
Communication tools & styles for remote team members
There is no one solution that will fit the needs of all dispersed teams. Each person and each team develops a unique communication style and chooses a set of tools. The most important thing is to make sure that everyone understands the available tools and knows how to use them. This means making sure every team member has access to video conferencing, chat applications or specialized software like Trello. It also means setting up processes, such as daily updates or weekly check-ins, so that the entire team is aware of the progress being made.
While it is important to be aware of different communication styles, it is more valuable to establish a common baseline. For example, some team members may be content to wait for others to provide them with necessary information. At DEVTALENTS, we encourage proactivity and agency - in our opinion, it is always better to ask for something rather than passively wait. This way, we are much more likely to discover problems ahead of time and come up with effective solutions.
Additionally, not all team members may be comfortable disagreeing with stakeholders when conflicts arise. However, as specialists in their respective fields, they have to be able to clearly communicate when something is wrong, explain what solution will be the best fit for a given situation, and establish trust. At DEVTALENTS, we do our best to provide the support our team members need to build rapports with stakeholders and set themselves up as trustworthy experts.
The software development perspective
At DEVTALENTS, a remote-first company, we have been dealing with the challenges of communicating in a dispersed team for years. We have developed efficient tools and processes that enable us to communicate quickly and effectively while keeping stakeholders in the loop.
We use platforms such as Slack, Trello, Google Docs and Jira for task management, as they help us maintain transparency and keep a forward momentum. Because our focus is on team augmentation, we have also learned to quickly adapt to the environment and culture of each client's team. We provide our remote team members with the tools they need to stay focused and productive, and we encourage everyone to take ownership of their work.
Tips for managing communication with stakeholders in a remote IT team
To ensure that everyone is on the same page, establish regular meetings with stakeholders. Have a clear agenda for each meeting and document all decisions or changes that have been made. This will help ensure that everyone stays on track and accountable for their tasks.
In addition, make sure to provide feedback regularly to keep everyone informed about progress. Utilize video conferencing and chat applications, as well as other platforms that are available for collaboration. This will make sure everyone is in sync with one another and can communicate quickly and effectively.
Establish a clear communication structure, which should include tools and processes. It will also help if clear expectations and deadlines are communicated from the start.
Do not forget that one on one meetings can be crucial, both to save the team's time when most of them are not required, and for discussing more sensitive subjects.
Finally, keep the communication channels open. Encourage stakeholders to actively participate in discussions and provide feedback or suggestions that can help improve the process or product. By doing so, everyone will benefit from the collective knowledge and experience of the team.
Proactivity - from all team members
Proactivity is key to making sure that all team members are informed and up-to-date with the process. By being proactive, we can make sure that any issues or discrepancies are addressed quickly, allowing us to move forward without delay. We can also exceed stakeholders' expectations. Proactivity and a sense of ownership help create a culture in which everyone is deeply invested in the project's success and can work independently, at least for a while.
Recommended communication tools
Scrum methodology - Scrum is a project management framework that can help remote teams stay on track. It helps with task planning, assigning roles and responsibilities, and tracking progress.
Real-time collaboration tools - we use cloud services such as Google Docs for information sharing. This way everyone can be aware of changes in real-time and stay on top of the project.
Jira - Jira is great for tracking and managing tasks. It is a powerful tool that can help remote teams stay organized.
Virtual meeting platforms - video conferencing tools such as Zoom can ensure that everyone is able to join a discussion. This way, people can remain engaged and have their questions answered more quickly.
Clickup / Trello - these two tools work very well for task management. They can help teams stay organized and on top of the tasks at hand, as well as provide visibility into how the team is progressing.
Effective communication with stakeholders in a dispersed team
Communication is key to the success of any project, but it is especially important for remote teams. With a clear plan of action and consistent communication, you can ensure that every stakeholder remains informed and involved throughout the entire process.
Managing communication with stakeholders in a remote IT team can be challenging, but it is essential when it comes to ensuring successful outcomes. By establishing clear structures and processes, utilizing available tools and encouraging proactivity from all team members, you can ensure that everyone can contribute to the success of the project.