Coupling staff augmentation with in-house and remote teams has become standard practice in many companies. Yet, leaders and managers often see the remote units as an addition to their “main” workforce and forget about proper communication and team alignment. This is where many problems stem from.
The absence of corporate alignment will influence the outcome of many tasks or projects. A Fierce, Inc. survey proved that poor communication between decision-makers and employees heavily impacts human capital ROI. In turn, it slows down team productivity, impacts deadlines, and results in poor client retention.
And it’s not just about accelerating work. Addressing this gap is critical for enhancing trust, reducing uncertainty, and boosting workers’ productivity. But how can you build well-aligned teams who only communicate online? And how to ensure in-house developers and outsourced developers work as a unit, following the same product vision and goals? Edvantis lined up several insights to help you sharpen your team alignment model.
How to Keep Your Remote Teams Aligned with Company Goals
Business IT alignment does not happen on its own, even among teams that share a physical space. It not only requires a common understanding of company values and objectives but also a grasp of how current actions help achieve long-term goals. The key to success is hidden in how you build touchpoints, manage communication, and maintain transparency across your teams. Here are a few tips to help you accomplish just that.
Tip #1. Create an Alignment Plan
As obvious as it sounds, everything begins with a plan, and team alignment is no exception. It is a continuous process that cannot happen in a few quick steps. Turning your alignment efforts into an actionable strategy takes time, patience, and intention. Looking to outside tools for help can simplify these tasks — Organizational Change Management (OCM) framework or Zachman Framework are good examples.
Utilizing an OCM strategy can help you reorganize your company’s processes with minimal disruption while building your business-IT alignment. This includes various techniques like training, stakeholder analysis, and communication needed to make step by step changes within the organization’s culture.
The Zachman Framework, conversely, consists of 36 categories made up of six rows and six columns. By answering Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How for every category added on the left, you can derive answers to the corresponding questions on how to stay aligned among various team roles.
Tip #2. Foster Leader Engagement
Unlike people working in the same space, dispersed teams often lack leader or manager engagement, as well as a shared context and chats during coffee breaks. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t display the same level of performance as those in-house. As a matter of fact, Aon consulting report proves just the opposite: well-managed dispersed teams can outperform those that share an office space. As long as they are managed properly.
Managing well means understanding:
- Which tasks your team members have been assigned
- Which projects are of the highest priority
- Whether your team possesses the information and resources they need
- How each task is progressing
Tip #3. Be Transparent with Your Management Decisions
Corporate alignment is hardly attainable when your in-house or augmented team members are confused over how the company strategy relates to their particular job. Your business is built on each and every employee, so be sure they know what contribution they make.
Sharing weekly or monthly news, plans, and highlights from within, as well as communicating your strategy, goals, and what you’re doing to achieve them can help your team understand their role in the project outcome.
Tip #4. Organize Cross-Team Learning
More often than not, there’s a misunderstanding between the augmented staff, in-house teams, and managed outsourced teams. This problem occurs when each team is working in a silo and does not fully understand the role and contribution of fellow workers. Despite being apart, your distributed teams should work in tandem and share project vision.
To bridge the gap of misunderstanding, you can apply cross-cultural and cross-team learning approaches. In other words, be explicit about every action your outsourced and in-house teams are completing. You can use pair programming, code reviews, brainstorming sessions, and other knowledge-sharing activities — all directly contributing to clarity on the specifics of each others’ work. This will not only broaden your team members’ thinking but also help them see what it takes to meet project and company goals.
Tip #5. Use the Right Management Tools
One secret to aligning your team is hidden in the technology you employ and how you use it. Proper tools can maximize distributed teams’ productivity, especially if your team members work in different time zones. Here, the main task is to collect and capture all conversations about a project within the project itself.
By having separate project channels in Slack or Microsoft Teams, where all information on progress, tasks, issues, etc. is stored, you can reduce uncertainty in your teams. Your role should be to encourage a shared channel for communication instead of private messaging and asynchronous collaboration. This approach allows every comment, question, or request to be found easily by any team member when needed.
Further, we always recommend our clients to mirror their SDLC at the remote/vendor’s side to ensure further alignment in day-to-day tasks and overall project progress.
Tip #6. Value Your Team
If you respect and value your team members (in-house or augmented), they will likely do the same in return. As a leader, you should encourage your workers to share their work preferences, expectations, and the value they desire to bring to the project. People who work together physically often share casual conversations, while augmented staff may feel isolated from the in-house team.
There are several ways to build trust and increase team engagement. These include:
- Using video conferencing frequently for casual check-ins, not just remote product demo workshops.
- Spending a few minutes at the beginning of a call to share casual news, jokes, or personal updates
- Scheduling networking and speaking events with your distributed teams
- Hosting virtual happy hours during which your distributed team members can recline their chairs, enjoy a drink, and discuss comical moments from work, video games, or other personal interests.
Valuing your team members means also valuing their personal lives. For example, if you have developers working in different time zones, don’t request their help in the middle of the night. It’s better to wait until the next day, as employees who get adequate sleep are more productive.
Tip #7. Set Your Rules
Recent studies show that rules reduce the uncertainty of virtual groups while enhancing trust, liking, and productivity. Virtual collaboration requires everyone to be mentally present and engaged within their working schedule. Something that is obvious to one person may be entirely obscure to others.
To minimize misunderstandings and create smooth workflows, you should agree on the following areas with your distributed team:
- Meeting time, sequence, and cases when they can be skipped
- How quickly team members should respond to each others’ requests and queries
- Who should send follow-ups after meetings
Being specific in your rules and requests can increase the chances of your distributed teams’ collaboration meeting your expectations.
Team alignment serves as a compass for your employees that work on day-to-day projects, helping them stay on track and see the bigger picture. Establishing an alignment strategy does not happen overnight. It’s a result of the everyday actions and rules you set along the way. By following our recommendations, you can help individuals feel the contribution they add to your company and boost your dispersed teams’ productivity.
Contact Edvantis to further discuss how you can effectively onboard a new remote team and ensure a high pace of delivery!