Working with Remote Software Development Teams Effectively

Tim Manning

In recent years there have been significant changes across many business sectors which has driven an increase in the demand for software developers. This demand has not been met adequately by a rise in the locally available talent. Coupled with other labour market factors, this shortfall has been particularly acute in the UK, forcing many companies to scale back or postpone projects, or use expensive UK based contractors.

One attractive solution is to use offshore software developers which have the right skills and are less expensive than UK based contractors. Remote teams can complement or supplement an existing UK team, offer greater flexibility, scale, scope all whilst being a fraction of the cost of UK based employees. During the pandemic, business has shown that software engineering is an activity that can be carried out well, independently of employee location. However, many businesses lack the experience and knowledge to make this work effectively or are put off by the challenge of finding reliable and suitable staff in another country.

With some help and guidance, and following best practice, adding remote offshore teams can be an asset to any business and a source of competitive advantage, with well managed teams able to achieve exceptional results. This paper explores some of the principles for success in building up remote software development teams. 

Taking the first steps

Setting a project team on the right track from the beginning is critical to achieving the desired objectives within a predictable budget. Very often, there are commercial drivers which set desired timescales and this leads to an eagerness to get moving, but making the right choices in this early phase will often be the difference between success and failure.

Spending some time to refine the high-level requirements and defining a good technical architecture which will support the initial set of requirements and be flexible enough to extend in the future is worth the investment. More details can be elaborated through the fast development of prototypes or models which can then be evaluated in order to refine the understanding of the requirements and avoid the expense of high levels of change later on.

In the early part of the engagement, it is important to build trust with the new team. Getting to know the background of the team members and working together to achieve some short term targets builds confidence that the overall objectives can be met. As a previous client of Thinkpalm, this approach led to the delivery of all our requirements on time and within budget.

Team infrastructure

Many software development and management tools now exist which allow teams to work from any location. Ensuring that all team members have the same understanding of the direction of the project, along with access to the information they need to contribute is a big factor in the overall team productivity.

Working practices need to be established that are effective for a remote team. Establishing appropriate development practices and meetings structures is crucial, but for established teams, the informal practices that may happen locally to share information should be looked at and alternatives put in place so that the new team members may fully contribute.  Effective use of collaboration tools can allow distributed teams to be equally effective as teams that are co-located. Setting up appropriate infrastructure to have the right level of communication and information exchange will enable teams to reach the highest performance levels.

Choosing the right management structure

The management structure chosen for a project will be influenced by a number of factors, one of which is the existing team capability. If starting a development and team from scratch, then it makes sense to use the capabilities of a service provider to manage the development, but the product definition and vision should remain with the client. For existing teams where software management capability exists, then that capability can be leveraged to integrate a remote team effectively with an existing team.

One common scenario is that an existing team is weighed down by support of existing software and does not get time to develop the new products or features that the company needs. Augmenting the team with developers to take some of the support burden is a way to free up existing team members to work on new product development. Adding test and test automation resources can be another effective way to reduce the load on existing team members. This needs careful management to ensure the knowledge needed to support the existing software is shared well enough to allow all the team members to succeed.

Reaching your goals

Adding remote software development expertise can be an effective way to grow a company’s capabilities in a market where software talent is in high demand. Thinkpalm and Amboseli Tech have the experience and skills needed to avoid the common pitfalls and make it a success. If you would like to discuss your software development and test needs, then please get in touch.


Tim Manning has 25 years of experience in leading software development teams and has held senior leadership positions for several global Blue Chip and start-up technology companies including Nokia, Renesas, Broadcom, Seagate, Transition Networks. In that time, he has built and led numerous successful distributed development teams, enabling them to achieve world-class results. Experienced in change management, he has led organisations through a number of mergers and acquisitions to deliver the desired business outcomes.

ThinkPalm Technologies is a Product Engineering and Software Development company, equipped with a holistic approach and diverse industry expertise in Enterprise, IoT and Telecom sectors. With over 500 software professionals skilled in web, mobile and cloud applications, fintech, UX/UI design, automated testing, data analytics, embedded software and AI. They offer innovative bespoke software solutions enabling established and emerging businesses to deliver exceptional customer experience and measurable success in line with their corporate goals.

Amboseli Tech Limited is a UK based technology development consultancy business, specialising in assisting small to medium enterprises to grow their engineering capabilities through successful development outsourcing. Founded in 2021, the founders bring depth of experience in building technology organisations and bringing new products to the market.

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