Remote Working Challenges and Mitigations in Product Deployment

With the dramatic shift for entire companies and industries to work remotely, we have identified some common challenges or pitfalls that may occur in product deployment. It’s important to realize the current situation is very different from team members working remotely occasionally or even part of a team working remotely. The undefined timeline of entirely remote workplace environments means we need to consider each aspect of the  development strategy from a new angle: from ideation, to agile work streams, to product deployment.

This article highlights some of the learnings we have found to be helpful at Valence and around the industry. Every product deployment situation is unique, so we recommend considering your team’s dynamics and working style.

Common Challenges Observed:

Unfortunately, a whole slew of challenges emerges during entire-team remote work, but in this article, we will focus on challenges directly relating to product deployment and progress.

At Valence, we believe that Distributed Development and Remote Collaboration require a proactive approach to keep teams and organizations aligned.

Suggestions & Best Practices: Product Deployment and Progress

Communication and Rapport

Communication is more complicated when we are all physically scattered, and it is much easier to get out of “sync”. Non-verbal communication may be lacking, and communication tone may be misinterpreted. Gaining consensus and iteration cycles may take longer. Since face to face meetings may not be easily accessible, we recommend the following:

The Valence Approach:

At Valence, we use a collection of tools. We typically align our tool choices to those of the clients needs, and we have found the following tools useful in our daily communications and digital work.

– Slack, MS Teams, Office365, PowerBI, Jira, Confluence, GitHub, Microsoft DevOps, Microsoft Power Automatic, Google Suite, Zoom, WebEx

Empower team members to share communication preferences:
Use different tools for different types of conversations:
Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Use Video on Conference Calls: It can be helpful to begin a conference call with camera video on to maintain rapport amongst teammates (or with clients!). Video helps in establishing comfort, as well as provides body language cues from employee to manager. Managers can lead the way to establishing this as a common practice by ensuring their video is active.

Slower Iteration Cycles

Teams may struggle to get feedback in a timely manner which in turn may slow development or degrade delivery quality. Preliminary research shows that coding teams are struggling in cycle times (according to LinearB, cycle times are up 45% — a significant increase). Slower email replies or a lagging internet connection may get in the way— but we have some suggestions to support iteration cycles and keep them as agile as possible.

The Valence Approach:
Balancing Workload / Productivity

A sudden shift in operational paradigms is likely to put an additional effort on some individuals more than others. Typically, the individuals that find themselves working harder are the ones that facilitate communications and manage the leadership of the teams. This is because communication is less impromptu and more intentional.

The Valence Approach: Plan, Plan, Plan for Meetings and Prepare your Audience:
Individual Isolation

Research from LinearB shows us that “92% of dev teams are writing more code since working-from-home” since theoretically employees can slot out uninterrupted blocks of time to focus on their work. However, this does not devalue the loss of team-connection that simultaneously increases. Without a physical space to travel to, employees may feel isolation and a lack of connection to the team(s). In an office space, there’s opportunity to move around, swing by a colleague’s desk, or catch up over a cup of coffee. In a remote working environment, it is tough to replicate that experience and feeling of community. We have a few recommendations that have worked well for our teams:

Common Best Practices and Tips:

At Valence, we’ve piloted: