Distributed teams consist of employees working in different locations, be it in the same city, or all over the world; the team members rarely see each other, except for online meetings. Within Maxcode, we have the experience of both working with distributed teams, becoming embedded within our client’s team flawlessly, even from miles away, as well as becoming a distributed team for our clients, delivering smart and data-respectful solutions.
Although it may seem impossible, in the pandemic context, having experience of working with distributed teams and then being forced to work remotely gave us the possibility to implement a mixed setup, which proved very efficient. It resulted in higher flexibility, productivity improvements, reduced turnover rate, better communication through different channels, as well as having access to a larger talent pool, and becoming more Agile in our approach.
The advantages of a distributed team
Having all this in place, in time, we realized that working in distributed teams in multiple projects and with clients from different industries brought us challenges as well as benefits, which made us more aware of the context in which a certain product or service is built. The advantage of building and supporting a distributed team is threefold: it is great for employees, helps the organization grow from many points of view and the client gets a diverse, high-productive team.
Some of the benefits we have experienced:
- Increase coverage – Instead of having shifts to provide sufficient coverage, a distributed team in a strategic location solves the problem naturally.
- Develop a diverse team – One of our core values is to be inventive and one diverse team encourages everyone to think out of the box, accepting and adopting ideas that are new and this is how we effectively handle both legacy and modern systems.
- Reach high productivity and the ability to meet challenges on the fly – Amongst ourselves, we encourage taking ownership of all levels, from ideas to projects and teams, which helps us build around our goals and deliver on the promise. Also, an employee who is happy in his personal and work life is more productive and has a greater sense of accomplishment on all levels. It is not only for the money that he/she gets, it is also for the work environment.
- Become closer to clients – Working in a distributed team, part of the client’s team, we use well-known online communication channels such as Teams, Slack, and this helps us organize all the Scrum ceremonies together, maintain a close relationship and have the feeling that we work towards the same goal.
- Build trust – We know that just because someone isn’t online at the moment, doesn’t mean that the work won’t get done or that they won’t deliver on time. We have really learned to trust our colleagues!
- Improve work-life balance – We realized that our team has higher morale because employees no longer have to make compromises in their personal life in order to achieve what they want from a professional point of view.
However, working with a distributed team brings forth its own challenges:
- Lack of in-person interaction – It’s extremely difficult to judge the body language, have one-on-one conversations or even stop by a colleague’s desk. In addition, it is not possible to read emotions, pick up clues, or even feel the energy inside a room beyond the scope of a colleague’s webcam.
- Cultural diversity – People come from different cultures and cultures differ dramatically, they have different work ethics, communication styles, values, and context.
- Language barrier – native English; some members of the team will be shy to speak up. This might lead to a lack of effective communication that might be costly to the team in the long run.
One of the most challenging aspects related to working with distributed teams is relationship cultivation. One way to soften this is to schedule regular check-ins through a communication channel. A daily or weekly meeting can really help curb unnecessary delays in communication or misunderstandings.
Within Maxcode, meetings, or ceremonies, are an important part of agile development. They help to disseminate timely information, bring common goal and vision, and share team progress with all members. Agile ceremonies create a cadence in which the team can maximize their productivity, promote collaboration, maintain transparency, and most importantly, inspect and adapt to the way they go so that they can continuously learn from each other and improve their knowledge and skills.
Working with distributed teams, you need to be aware of both positive and negative aspects – this is why we are constantly involved in improving the process of hiring, onboarding, and learning within Maxcode, to achieve optimal results for our teams and employees. The end goal is to ensure that the teams with which our clients work have a clear strategy in mind, their focus being centered on delivering smartly engineered software.
Learn more about our process of building and maintaining a productive team and workflow.
About Ilona Radu
Ilona joined the Maxcode team in the position of People and Organization Management in 2019. Her experience of over 13 years began in human resources, in recent years deepening the fields of organizational development, team management and coordination, training, and performance management. What motivates her the most is everything about working with and for people, the leaps of faith they take together, and the results and effects we can see when guiding others to their true potential.