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BLOG: Cornerstones to creating a successful distributed development team

Jason Smale | March 12, 2013
Four core principals to follow to help make it a success.

Much has been written on the pros and cons of distributed development. Overseeing a team of people who work across countries and cultures is certainly not cheap and from experience, it's also certainly not easy. But the results it can deliver are outstanding. Because by breaking down your borders and building a global team, what you create is a group of highly talented, like-minded experts who work together to create something quite exciting and unique. If you are thinking about distributed development, or are about to embark on it, here are four core principals to follow in order to help make it a success for your business:

1.      Building the right team

Building a cohesive and productive team is difficult at the best of times. Add multiple continents, cultures and timezones to the mix and it becomes incredibly complex. Remembering that Rome wasn't built in a day is the key here. Take it slowly. In fact, the most successful companies using this method of development actually focus on growing their customer base first and then wrap the development team around it.

It's also worthwhile remembering that commonality breeds familiarity, so remove challenges such as language barriers by hiring a multi-language team that has one overarching language in common. It's only natural that in a distributed team you will encounter cultural differences. It's important to embrace this diversity while at the same time ensuring the company culture transcends throughout the team. A good way to achieve this is by bringing all new hires to your company HQ so that they feel they belong and get to live and breathe the culture, first hand.

2.      Building the right product

The driving force behind building a distributed development team is building a beautiful product. Getting the best people from across the world is the first step. Next you need to get them to work seamlessly together. The most effective way to achieve this is to get them on duty from day one. New hires should be ticket solving and bug fixing from the start. Buddy them up with old hands and they will learn even more quickly. For seamless delivery it is important to introduce a fix-as-you-go mentality so our ethos has always been to introduce it from day one.

From experience, introducing and maintaining a private, in house development channel is also vital. It is the central portal for contact and communication that everyone inputs into. It also means you then extract output which constitutes another vital ingredient in building the best product - measuring success and monitoring issues on a daily basis.


3.      International mindset, local delivery

If you are managing a distributed team from the centre, then (and this may seem like an obvious point to make) never assume that everyone has the same culture or time zone. You need to adapt your communication style to take in a team that runs around the clock so you will need to get used to communicating more frequently than normal.


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