Hackernoon logoHow to Work From Home Efficiently: 7 Tools For Distributed Dev Teams by@victoria-zhlobich

How to Work From Home Efficiently: 7 Tools For Distributed Dev Teams

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@victoria-zhlobichVictoria Zhlobich

Digital marketer passionate about productivity and project management

We live in a world where change is the only constant. Right from the dawn of time, sustainable approaches have rendered the traditional ones obsolete and this, of course, is evident in diverse sectors especially the workforce. Why do something the hard way when you can get better results doing it the easy way, marketers usually ask.
Working from home used to be such a luxury reserved for the medically ill or senior workers of the corporation, but over time the rules became more flexible to accommodate more groups and promote productivity. Hence, there was a visible progressive trend in remote work.
Today, due to the recent pandemic, working from home has become an utmost necessity. This being said, businesses that do not constitute a vibrant technological percentage are put on hold. This includes private-owned franchises that do not sell necessities like food, water, or drugs or their associated services.
Now, for businesses with a vibrant IT sector like banks and other corporate
businesses, working from home can either be distributed or remote. Regardless of the type, it does come with some software development challenges. Here are some of the challenges you’re likely to face when working remotely from home.
·      Communication
Communication between workers and team members is key when working remotely from home and when infringed can cause severe repercussions to the business or project. Efficient communication builds bridges, promotes understanding and enhances productivity.
The importance of communication isn’t subject to remote working. It’s equally as important when teams are within the same office space. However, it’s much easier to pass a message to someone you see often.
For remote or distributed teams, the opportunity of noticing body language, picking up moods, or emotions towards assigned tasks is void as team members do not get to see their colleague’s faces. This could affect project fulfillment efficiency and tarnish the corporation’s service profile.
·      Project management
When working with distributed teams, project management can be tedious. There’s a lot of work to be done, from keeping a dated track of assigned project tasks down to its progress, forming to-do lists, creating a payroll system and coordinating tasks. There’s always something to be done and for a team of people who aren’t working in the same confined space, it can be difficult to accurately manage and oversee individually assigned tasks manually.
·      Time tracking
Distributed teams could have workers all over the world and it can be a real challenge working with multiple people in diverse time zones. It’s easy to forget what time they’ll be online and when you might get to receive projects or payments from them. Even with reminders, forgetfulness is inevitable.
Other challenges include trust issues, socio-cultural differences, and
many others
. The bottom line is this, with distributed teams, problems will arise, it’s inevitable. This is why appropriate measures need to be put in place for proper resolution. One of these measures is simply to install and set up the necessary tools to organize work and manage remote/distributed teams efficiently.
Here’s why this is crucial:
·      Arming your team with the right tools helps them maximize their individual and collective productivity.
·      This productivity creates room for more returns.
·      With a steady increase in returns, the advances in status and conquers new frontiers.
Hence, for remote/distributed teams, using the right tools creates a positive ripple effect of growth for the corporation.
Looking to increase your team’s marketability and skill set? The following tools will propel your remote/distributed team to greater heights.
1.     GanttPRO
2.     Jira
3.     Zoom
4.     Slack
5.     Toggl
6.     Github Wiki
7.     Miro
These tools have been divided into categories based on their purpose. Here they are:
Project management
Every line of business needs a project management sector and for the software development niche, this is an absolute necessity. It’s easy to lose sight of the project’s goals if no physical supervisor is inspecting your every line of code.
Hence with the following tools, everything from project/task assignment, to
co-ordination, task assessment/review, etc., will be one with the teammates.
1.     GanttPRO

Priced at a monthly subscription of $15/individual and $8.90/teams, this tool has a 14-day fully-featured free trial version.

GanttPRO is a cloud project management software that is based on Gantt charts. It used for project scheduling and managing as well as progress tracking. But the scope if its application goes much wider. With GanttPRO, you can also manage resources, cost, track time, and more.
For distributed software development teams, there are affordable packages for teams of 5, 10, and 15 persons. What really distinguishes GanttPRO from other project management tools and also contributes to its greatness is its user-friendly
interface.
It also offers Kanban Board and customizable exports to PDF, PNG, and XLSX.
The software is rated 4.7/5 on both G2 and Capterra.
GanttPRO should be used by software development teams because it helps users track and optimize their workflow efficiently and with no hassle.
2.     Jira
Jira is an agile-based project management tool with a 7-day free trial session. This software is geared towards software development and it has incredible features.
It has more than 3000 apps integrations to help expand your functionality, 250GB storage, and lots more. This software development tool is user friendly and is great for managing tasks.
In Jira, the price decreases as the number of team users increase. Hence, for 1-10 users it equals $10/month, 11-100 users - $7/month, 101-250 users - $4/month while 250+ users - $1/month.
Even with its vast numbers, Jira is secure and this makes it great for teams of distributed developers. Jira’s distinguishing feature is its strong documentation and vast knowledgebase.
This software development management tool ranks 4.4 on Capterra.
Communication
Being a remote/distributed software development team, or even as an individual working from home these times, the importance of clear communication cannot be overemphasized as a task’s completion depends on it.
With the following tools, communication with remote colleagues isn’t just feasible. It’s potent and seamless.
3.     Zoom
Zoom is a communication software that unifies cloud-based video conferencing, online meetings, and group messaging. With this tool not only can you communicate efficiently but you can see who you’re speaking to.
In essence, you can conduct meetings, webinars, call and chat with one tool. A distinguishing feature about Zoom is its experience quality as team members can communicate with each other and other teams in diverse locations through a single call.
Pricing on Zoom goes from $0/month, $15/month, and $20/month depending on plans.
This communication tool is perfect for distributed software development teams because it bridges the communication gap between diverse locations.
Zoom is ranked 4.5 on G2 and 4.6 on Capterra.
4.     Slack
This online tool is designed for team communications. You and your team can enjoy communication features like audio calls, real-time chat, etc. as well as collaboration features.
This software is a great communication tool for remote teams because of its compatibility with diverse operating systems.
Slack is available at monthly plans that cost $0 (free), $6.67 (standard), $12.50 (plus), and Enterprise.
This tool has a Capterra rating of 4.6/5.

Time tracking
For a software developing team, time efficiency is primary. With all the daily tasks and projects your colleagues may have, there’s a need for time tracking. This way productivity can be measured.
For this, you’ll need a tool like:
5.     Toggl
This tool helps with managing time allocations for diverse projects and clients. It’s a simple time tracker that helps teams get things done.
The software allows teams to track their work hours and in the end, it gives a productivity and profitability overview. Its unique features include time
tracking, employee monitoring (which includes browsing histories), and time clocks.
Toggl management tool has a 30-day free trial version after which teams can pick either of the monthly plans of $9 (starter), $18 (premium) and a custom priced enterprise plan.
Toggl is great for checkmating inefficient team members and promoting productivity which is why it’s an excellent tool for remote software developing teams.
The software has a Capterra ranking of 4.6/5.
Code management
Software developers know the importance of code management. One wrong line of code can infringe on the progress of the entire project and cost you more time, effort, and resources to fix if not noticed in time.
Hence, in software development, there’s a need for constant code collaboration, review, and management. Here’s a tool to help with code management:
6.     GitHub
GitHub is a development platform where teams can host, review codes, manage projects, and build software alongside 40 million developers. This tool is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Mobile devices and it features tools and plugins for application development like source control, analytics, code security, and access controls.
GitHub is available at $0, $7, $9 and above depending on the plans chosen. Free trials are only subject to enterprise plans.
The software is different from others because it bridges the gap between open source developers and business developers.
Github with a 4.8/5 Capterra rating is just what distributed developers need to write better codes and manage any chaos.
Team building
For a group of colleagues who isn’t favored by distance, team building is
important. For traditional corporations, this is where retreats, seminars, and all those corporate social functions come in. But for teams of distributed developers, the situation is different.
This tool can help build morale and promote unity between colleagues.
7.    Miro
Miro is an online collaborative platform that enables remote teams to work together more efficiently. This tool features digital sticky notes, managing agile workflows, content management, video conferencing, real-time editing, and lots more.
However, the distinguishing feature which Miro has against other similar tools is its deep integrations with not just the Microsoft Ecosystem but also that of Atlassian, Slack, Box, Dropbox, and lots more. In essence, it takes the whiteboard collaboration experience to a new level.
Miro also offers over 60 templates and frameworks with which teams can commence collaboration and this is why it’s the ideal choice for remote software developers.
Miro provides a blank canvas for teams and it’s priced at $0 for a single user, $8 for over 5 users, $16 for teams over 20, and an enterprise custom pricing for teams with over 50 users.
Capterra ranks Miro as a 4.8/5.
Team building games and activities
For remote teams, team bonding is important. When building a new team, games are great icebreakers and bring your team members closer to knowing their colleagues.
However, you want them to be more than colleagues. You want to incite supportive friendship.
For example, the game Save The Company From Aliens is great for team building. Through the use of the previously mentioned communication tools, invite your team for a conference and tell them this: Aliens have landed on Earth and they aim to spy on your company. How will
they act to save it from disaster? This is a thinking game and it helps team
members know how their colleague’s minds work and it showcases personality in a neutral environment.
There are lots of other remote team building games you can also check out for your team.
Virtual coffee and learn sessions
In a conventional office setting, lunch break is where colleagues get together to talk things over either with a cup of coffee or a meal of their choice. A lot of breakthroughs are thought out during these breaks.
Now, with remote colleagues, you are physically incapable of doing this but
virtually you aren’t. Hence, using any of the communication tools, team leaders can create a little time where colleagues get to check in with each other and learn about any work-related or personal reservations they may have. This can be a coffee break and can be done over video conferencing. This is great for team building and it positively affects one’s narrative of what work is.
As a software developer, working from home in a remote or distributed team setting is more convenient especially due to recent developments but it does lead to the birth of certain challenges. These challenges could be communication-based or productivity based.
Regardless of their origin, with the right tools, you and your team can maximize efficiency and reap more returns on your various projects and tasks. These tools help manage, track, analyze and collaborate on all work processes carried out by your remote software development team.
Therefore, selecting the right tool for a specific task is important as it could make or break your project.
Are you working remotely from home? If yes, what tools are your favorite and what do these tools do for you? Let me know!

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