When most people think of small businesses, they think of local shopping and dining destinations or the occasional small professional services firm. But not many people think of software developers. Despite that, the reality is that 99% of software and IT firms in the US are, in fact, small businesses.
And as those companies now look back at their results over the last few pandemic-shaped years, there’s a consensus emerging. It’s that the wholesale shift to all-remote operations turned out to be a good thing for their bottom lines.
That’s because software development is a task that’s well-suited for all-remote teams. But supporting their work requires some reorganization and a shift in procedures. To elaborate, here are the key lessons small businesses learned about managing remote software development teams over the past two years.
Flexible Time Management is Essential
One of the most important lessons learned during the pandemic about managing remote software development teams is that a great deal of time management flexibility goes a long way in terms of productivity. This is likely because software developers — even when working as part of a team — often focus on compartmentalized tasks.
That means working hours and work synchronization aren’t as essential as they might be in other lines of business. For software developers, what’s necessary is to have a strong project management system in place to keep the team working toward the same goal while providing the individual developers a wide latitude as to how they get there. This helps each team member to maximize their strengths and work in the way that makes them most productive — instead of according to a one-size-fits-all scheduling approach.
Workforce Visibility is Key
Although businesses learned to give their developers a wide berth concerning how they structured their daily work schedules, that didn’t mean they found it best to take a completely hands-off approach. On the contrary, they found it necessary to go to greater lengths to maintain visibility into how their workers were performing.
For many companies, this meant rolling out workforce analytics tools that helped them to gather productivity and efficiency data. And others turned to management platforms that gave them the tools necessary for monitoring remote employees at a more granular level. Those solutions often included web and app usage monitoring functionality that provided insight into how employees were using their time. In either case, the technology allowed for effective team management and higher productivity in the all-remote setting.
Collecting Feedback at Arm’s Length
Under normal circumstances, software development teams work closely with stakeholders as they iterate their products. This cycle of feedback is an important part of quality assurance and is how developers keep their revisions in line with the needs of end-users. But in an all-remote setting, some of the traditional feedback methods required some modifications.
So, businesses increasingly turned to digital platforms to collect product feedback throughout all phases of software development. That allowed them to replicate — and often improve on — traditional feedback mechanisms that were previously relied upon. In many cases, the shift to all-remote work even pushed companies to begin the creation of user communities online to collect user feedback.
Such communities are a staple for larger software developers but were something smaller businesses didn’t always deem necessary in the past. But as they recognized that customers faced the same limitations and struggles imposed by the pandemic, they found that constructing direct bridges of communication between their remote developers and end-users was critical to driving positive outcomes.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the pandemic will likely be the catalyst that pushes software developers in the small business space to fully embrace remote operations for the long term. And by applying the lessons they learned over the past two years of working with all-remote software development teams, they can continue to innovate and drive better bottom-line results in the future.
The added advantages that small software development businesses can derive from remote operations aren’t insignificant, either. They should be able to use it as a springboard to improve overall efficiency and compete with larger rivals on a more equal footing. And that might spark something of a renaissance for small software developers — helping them to grow and play an ever-larger role in the global technology sector going forward.