Your boss: “Remote development will never work…”
Despite studies from universities like Stanford that tout the quality, productivity, recruiting and morale benefits of remote coding strategies, CEOs often struggle when asked to approve plans for remote staff augmentation. The reasons for this resistance are many and varied, but it typically comes down to a fear of lost accountability, resulting in a never-ending money pit.
In our experience, the success or failure of remote development teams almost always comes down to scope and execution. If the person paying the bills, or the manager overseeing that project, sees a massive failure from the onset, then your chances for success are close to zero.
Here are our best tips for making remote development a hit with your boss.
Build on success. Sell a small project, keep scope under wraps and deliver on time. Nothing carries more weight than success.
Prevent the “haves” and the “have-nots”
Never treat remote and HQ-based developers differently. Demand the same hours, the same accountability, the same oversight from remote workers as you do HQ workers. If you do make a mistake, be harder on remote workers. Once resentment builds with HQ workers, the negativity can poison your projects.
Use technology to maximize communication
One of the most interesting arguments used against remote operations is that remote workers weaken communications.
Done properly, remote workers communicate far more effectively than HQ teams. One key reason for that is that teleconferencing is more efficient. Your meetings are recorded, and you don’t waste time walking around an office from meeting to meeting. When remote workers have those same discussions on Slack or in e-mail or via smartphone texting, everything is captured and transcribed. The group no longer needs to rely on sometimes faulty recollections.
Remote teams will have the best talent
A healthy chunk of recruiting problems revolve around geography (“We can’t get enough people who are willing to relocate to one of our offices”) and experience (“We find it hard to entice the people who have the experience and training our managers demand”). Remote strategies completely negate both of these arguments.
With a remote strategy, recruiters can bring on talent from anywhere in the world. A reasonable salary that blocks Silicon Valley recruiting might look far better to someone living in an area with a much lower cost of living.
Spared the pain of a long daily commute, remote workers are often willing to make other compromises for the team that HQ workers will not.
Treat remote sites like any other
Just like any other corporate effort, remote site strategies need to be thought through and implemented throughout every department.
Consider: Are HR and payroll prepared to deduct the appropriate state taxes based on where the remote site is based?
Accounts payable: When a remote site worker travels to a headquarters location for a meeting, don’t consider it an exempt commuting cost. The expenses need to be covered just as you do when a Los Angeles corporate campus worker travels to a corporate HQ meeting in Boston. Travel expenses apply.
Another thing to consider, accounts payable. Don’t maintain policies that assume everyone can take an elevator to get to accounting. (Had one employer who simultaneously insisted on original documents for expense reports and that originals never be snail-mailed or sent electronically. Yeah, good luck with that, remote staffers.)
Corporate communications: When preparing a newsletter that highlights accomplishments of various corporate sites, mix in some remote developer projects. Remote workers should never feel that they don’t count just because they aren’t based at a major facility.
Corporate: When memos go out, are they phrased in such a way to assume that everyone works at a major campus location? If so, that’s an excellent way to make remote workers feel like they’re second-class citizens.
Now let’s get back to this reluctant CEO. Once you make the case that this remote program will be executed properly and that all departments understand how it is supposed to work, he will start to see the light.
To close the deal, throw in that remote workforces benefit the environment due to having fewer cars on the road, and also mention the benefits to corporate for growing the workforce without having to pay for expensive office space.
The bottom line is that remote development is great for your company, and your boss will love the savings and results. Start small, deliver and pay attention to the details we suggest above and you will be off and running.