Working with distributed teams is a much smoother activity than you might think – if you take care of the preparations. This is how we do it, and how our Swedish customers benefit from the development and quality assurance competence in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A distributed team is a group of people who sit together in the same place and work on an assignment for a customer in another country. The team is not a group of freelancers. They are employed and loyal to the same employer. A customer often chooses to work with a distributed team to get access to development and/or quality assurance competence that is difficult to find in their home country. Another reason is to reduce costs for consultant services.
We have developed our concept of distributed teams since many years, and we can without exaggeration say that we are good at it. Our customers work with teams in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Sarajevo office space is completely renovated in 2019 to facilitate the best possible working conditions for your team including secure rooms, separate WLAN, UPS and high-speed internet. Depending on the size and timeline of the assignment, we arrange visits in Sweden at your site or at our facilities in Sarajevo.
So, how do we make the onboarding quick and smooth? Let’s go through some important steps: The Knowledge Transfer, Your Way of Working and Clear Communication.
Knowledge about purpose and goals
To do a good job, it is important for the team to understand the purpose and goals of your business. Learning the technical things such as tools, code and applications is of course important, but with knowledge about the bigger picture the team can be proactive and innovative. Therefore, our people are trained in learning new systems and businesses fast. They know what information they need and what questions to ask. Your regular onboarding process should be applied also for your extended team, and we support you through this process if needed.
Laying out the joint rules
Start the assignment with an introduction meeting with your new team members. We recommend that you communicate directly with your new members. The purpose is to get to know each other, introduce your way of working, your tools and other team members. It is very important that you are clear about what you expect from the team and how you want the daily communication to work.
Some bullet points for the first meeting:
- Socializing – personal introductions
- Company presentation – your vision, values and what you wish to achieve with your remote team members
- Project meetings – frequency and agenda
- Introduction of tools and how you use them (Slack, JIRA etc.)
- Presentation of where and how the developer get his/her tasks
Clear communication is key
Clear communication is of even greater importance when you work with a distributed team. Running an office in Sarajevo for over five years has taught us some very valuable lessons. We have listed a few takeaways, lessons learned and tips.
- Don’t conflate brief communications and clear communications. In our efforts to be efficient, we sometimes use fewer words to communicate. But such brevity can mean that the rest of the team wastes time trying to interpret your messages. Don’t assume that others understand your shorthand. Try to be ultra-clear.
- Don’t bombard your team with messages. Do you normally follow up on a task by email, text and phone? Or ask people if they got your previous message? Abusing those access points can be a form of “harassment” and using all of them for the same message is ineffective. Choose your digital tools wisely.
- Establish communication norms. When you work with a distributed team you need to create new norms that establish clarity in communication. There are examples of companies that have created acronyms for their digital communications, like “Four Hour Response (4HR)” and “No Need to Respond (NNTR)” that bring predictability and certainty to virtual conversations. Individual teams can also establish their own norms — e.g., to use or not use Slack, Google Docs, or Whatsapp groups. We can help you establish those norms.
Easier with interactive whiteboards
We have a close cooperation with the Swedish company Flatfrog that develops world class interactive white boards. The screens are of such high-quality that you get the feeling of being in the same room as your distributed team. Together with Flatfrog, we have developed a customized solution for remote teams that give you the opportunity to work on the same scrum board in real-time. This make your daily standups productive and fun!
Time to celebrate!
Last but not least, never miss an opportunity to celebrate! Birthdays, professional achievements, International Women’s Day, the Friday Cake – anything can be a reason to celebrate and those moments are important for distributed teams. Creating virtual spaces and rituals for celebrations and socializing shortens the geographical distance and strengthen relationships.