In this age of globalization, distributed software development doesn’t surprise anyone anymore. But what is surprising is that some of the best-performing teams out there are distributed ones. They are incredibly productive, sometimes beating the co-located teams of their competitors in this regard. With all the challenges of distributed software development, what does a distributed team have that makes it more effective?
We are used to the thought that company culture is cultivated via daily interactions in the office andinformal team activities outside it. A distributed team can’t afford that - not regularly, anyway - so how can it have a tighter corporate culture than a co-located development team?
The answer is in hiring. When you hire a software engineer to work in the office, you are limited by the area of your search. Only developers who live in your area or are ready to relocate are considered. With a distributed team, the whole world is the limit, so you can choose those who fit in your company culture well, even if they come from another side of the world.
The fact that in distributed software development programmers and managers have to work different hours and it’s more difficult for them to sync is not necessarily a weakness. Asynchronous work teaches the team to manage their time wisely and make the most of the hours when they synchronize. In addition, it means fewer interruptions and no meaningless chats, which take a share of the working time when the team is located in the same premises.
Obviously, communication is more difficult for a distributed team, because face-to-face chats are not available, and it’s only via technology that team members can reach each other. But effective distributed teams have turned this into their strength. The benefit of distributed software development is that their communication is more deliberate, and so is the use of technology to communicate. While co-located developers rarely go further than email and perhaps a chat, distributed teams are more tech-savvy in this regard, and know how to use each of their tools to fully compensate for the lack of face-to-face contact.
Distributed software development has its challenges, that is sure. On the other hand, it enables a team to organize their work in a more flexible, more efficient way, and ultimately become even more productive than some of the co-located development teams. The time difference and the distance can be turned into advantages, resulting in a focused and effective distributed team.
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