Distributed

Is it Time to Add Remote Experts to Your Software Team?

By Arpan Jhaveri

According to research by The Predictive Index, 76 percent of CEOs say they plan to allow remote work full-time for all or most employees in 2021 and beyond. At the same time, 51 percent of these CEOs confess their top challenge is working well remotely.

Innovate and Grow

While 2020 may have been a year of survival for teams forced into all-remote work, in the future, it will be critical to getting remote-work right so that businesses can continue to innovate and grow, not just tread water. 

“Sure, it was critically important to pivot instantly to enable working from home in the first half of this year,” InformationWeek said of CTOs and IT leaders. “However, the strategic longer-term moves that senior leaders make today are what will help their organizations emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis.”

Hire Remote Engineering Experts

CTOs can improve remote development by hiring developers and managers that are experts at remote work. Hiring remote experts can serve two functions–improving productivity by implementing proven best practices now while laying the groundwork for a more productive hybrid office-remote model for the future.

Ed-tech company 2U was able to do just this at the height of the pandemic. At first, according to CTO Justin Johnson, the software development team of 50+ engineers was looking for answers. “Everyone—leaders, staff, all of us were asking the same questions,” he said. “How do we do this? How do we run standups? How do we do pair programming? How do we do code reviews? And most importantly – how do we keep our team culture and rhythms?” 

Increase Productivity

Johnson and team found an invaluable resource already embedded in some of their teams–remote developers hired through Andela. Andela is a staff augmentation firm specializing in providing businesses with globally distributed long-term engineers who work as full-time teammates. It’s a software outsourcing model that helps teams quickly and cost-effectively add hard-to-find skills without the time and cost of recruiting, onboarding, and managing employees. 

The Andela engineers and the 2U teams they worked with had already established norms for distributed software development, and 2U quickly replicated these norms throughout the organization. 

“Working with Andela has raised the bar for what remote teams can deliver, and has helped us increase productivity before and during the shift to all-remote work,” engineering director Nafisa Chowdhury said. “We had playbooks that we could implement with teams that were new to all-remote work.”

The 2U technology team standardized processes for collaboration, documentation, and communication that accelerated development. “Because of our work with Andela engineers, we know how to do remote engineering,” she said. “This knowledge enabled us to increase productivity during COVID because we had fewer communication barriers.”

Meeting Ambitious Roadmaps

How do you move from adapting to all-remote work and get back to accelerating development, improving product performance, and setting and meeting ambitious roadmaps? Augmenting engineering teams with veteran remote engineers can be a valuable asset. These engineers bring with them proven processes for successful distributed software development. While most teams are now familiar with online collaboration tools–instant messaging, video meetings, etc–there are best practices for how to use these tools most effectively to boost productivity. 

With most businesses planning to be all-remote for the foreseeable future, hiring has less to do with geography and more to do with enabling and sustaining high-performing software teams. 2U began perfecting remote teamwork years ago with Andela, and the experience has enabled the company to turn all-remote software development to its advantage.

To learn more, read the case study: “2U: Raising the Bar for Remote Engineering.”

Written by
Arpan Jhaveri