How to Successfully Manage Remote Development Teams: Top 5 Leadership Skills

In 2020, one thing is for certain: companies and business owners have learned to make remote work—work, and the information technology sector is no exception. In fact, tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have all allowed their staff to work remotely into the next season, through the end of 2020 or even on a permanent basis, according to Cat Zakrzewski, technology reporter for The Washington Post.

This current influx of remote IT and DevOps employees, combined with the need for digital transformation across all industries. An estimated 73 percent of IT operations and DevOps leaders report that they expect to accelerate or maintain their digital transformation initiatives and projects, according to recent data from OpsRamp

That means that leaders must optimize, adjust, and rethink their management styles to ensure productivity and morale stay high. If you’re in charge of a remote development team, here are some tips for maximizing innovation and managing your employees in the midst of this unconventional business landscape. 

Adapt to a Larger and Heavier Workflow

As other industries and corporations look to the tech space for direction on how to digitize their systems and processes, which means your team’s workflow is bound to increase if it hasn’t already. The management in this uptick has to go from the top-down. As a leader, it’s your job to determine which operations require the most time, resources, and attention.

“Even with this huge rush to transform how teams work, there are still only so many hours in the workday and so many IT professionals on staff. Companies will need to determine what to prioritize and what parts of the transformation to push to the back-burner,” suggests Elena Carstoiu, COO of Hubgets.

Be flexible, agile, and make your priorities clear. Without an office for employees to visit, it’s easier for priorities and projects to be miscommunicated.

Automate Whatever Functions You Can

Free up your team’s time to work on those important projects by automating the basic, lower-priority functions. More than 50 percent of the global workforce feels that productivity would increase if more tools for automation are in use, according to a 2019 survey from Automation Anywhere

This could mean you provide team members with access to AI-based tools that make their lives easier. Better yet, let them build the automation tools that will be most helpful to them. This Quora thread shares a wide range of ways developers have used their skills so automate their work.

Make your employees’ lives easier so they can focus on the company priorities and not get lost in the weeds.

Keep Your Information Platforms Simple

Remote work requires a centralized, secure database that all team members can log into. This is where you can store, view, organize, and share relevant information, so it must be easy to navigate. Instead of a complex system with numerous branches and applications, migrate your data to one robust cloud infrastructure. 

“Centralized entity data increases the opportunities for collaboration and problem-solving across the organization because each division is equipped with a shared foundation of baseline knowledge,” says Kerie Kersetter, director of thought leadership at Diligent.

You had to make a quick transition—but don’t let communication fall to the wayside. Prioritize this as a leader; invest in a tool that does what you need it to so everyone can stay connected. If you already use collaboration tools, inquire about storage features that may be available to you without learning a new product.

Reinforce Cybersecurity

Since the onset of this pandemic and the shift to remote business, IT-related cyber attacks have escalated by 23 percent, according to the COVID-19 Cybersecurity Pulse Survey. The main reason for this is the haste in which companies have transitioned their entire workflow from onsite to remote. 

While company-wide measures will need to be taken, you can start with your team. A few simple ways to minimize risk with your employees include:

  • Require all employees to update the antivirus softwares of their mobile or web devices.
  • Install a two-step login authenticator for all platforms benign used.
  • Set up a simple process for reporting phishing or scam emails so you can be in the know, regardless of where employees are located.
  • Set rules about using personal email addresses for business communication, file sharing, etc.
  • Avoid potential future threats by learning more about past threats. Share these great examples of cyber scams with your staff.

It can be hard to make organization-wide shifts quickly. Starting with your team, and working the kinks out first, is a good place to begin as everyone adjusts.

Maintain Strong Communication

While it’s not helpful to micro-manage your developers, you need to ensure the whole team communicates on a frequent, open, and thorough basis. If your organization is big, consider a virtual call center to show support whenever needed. “Email alone is insufficient. Remote workers benefit from having a ‘richer’ technology such as video conferencing that gives participants many of the visual cues they would have if they were face-to-face […] Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication,” explains Harvard Business Review

Remember, however, not to overdo it. Keep it simple, but sticking with a few key tools. In, Building a Tech Stack to Equip Your Newly Remote Team, experts at GetGuru recommend: 

Be available for video calls as often as possible. Employees may have questions, concerns, or fears, and face-to-face conversation is critical in some situations.

Become a Great Remote Manager

As a leader thrust into this new business landscape, your development team is looking to you for direction and confidence. This might be the first time you’ve managed remote workers, but now is not the time to lose momentum. These leadership strategies will keep your whole team aligned, connected, focused, productive, and efficient—even in the midst of such unpredictable circumstances. 

Written by
Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels is the author of, 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions, podcast host of Mindset Reset Radio and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. She also contributes to Glassdoor, Fast Company, Outbrain, and more. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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