More and more software engineering and development teams are shifting from traditional work setups to asynchronous work arrangements due to the many benefits it presents. Asynchronous work involves employees having the choice to work anywhere in the world, at any time of the day even at different time zones.
Managing an async engineering team requires a different approach than managing a traditional, in-person team. By embracing async work and leveraging digital tools, managers of software development teams can unlock new levels of productivity, creativity, and innovation.
But how exactly do you manage asynchronous work teams, compared to managing conventional, 9-5 in-office teams or even remote or hybrid teams working in the same time zone? As a manager or leader, how can you bring productivity, efficiency, and creativity out of your team under an asynchronous work setup? Let us look at some of the tips and best practices on how to manage asynchronous software engineering teams to maximize the benefits of asynchronous work.
Asynchronous software development teams are not restricted to the pool of local talents. In fact, this setup provides access to the best talent from all over the world, which will help improve the agility and efficiency of the development team. No need to relocate developers and uproot their lives.
The presence of remote talent means that operations can be optimized for around-the-clock work. Work continues after the 8-hour shift as remote developers do their tasks in different time zones. A designer can work 8 hours, then a developer from the other side of the world can work after that, while a software tester can work in two time blocks – in the morning and evening.
Async software developers are more focused and have fewer distractions than their counterparts in traditional teams. Traditional work setups would require time, money and energy for transportation, and can subject their team to long work days that can lead to burn out and toxic office environments.
By having the choice to work anywhere at any time, workers can have ample rest and can schedule their work in the way that is best for them, which leads to increased agility in projects and tasks.
Members of async teams are often working in different locations and time zones. That is why they need digital collaboration and communication tools to align and coordinate work.
Communicating effectively is crucial when the team is not physically present. Leaders and managers need to make sure deliverables and goals are being met and the organization is running smoothly.
Tools such as project management software, messaging apps, and artificial intelligence (AI) boost the productivity of teams and workers, facilitate coordination and communication for projects, and organize the workflow of the development team.
For example, online meetings can be done in digital collaboration and communication tools, recorded on the cloud, transcribed by AI, and summarized by AI for the minutes of the meeting. By leveraging AI capabilities, this will help the team focus on tasks related to the project’s goals instead of time-consuming, menial tasks that can be easily automated.
AI can also analyze data collected by project management software, which will generate quality insights that can in turn help management in carrying out informed decisions for the business.
Collaboration and communication tools are an async leader’s best friend. They help managers of an async team monitor round-the-clock activities of the team in different time zones, collate data for reports, and receive data-backed insights on how to optimize team operations.
Managers tend to rely on verbal communication as a way for teams to connect and work harmoniously. While this is correct for traditional 9-5 teams, it is not effective for asynchronous teams. Trying to coordinate daily meetings across five different time zones simply isn’t feasible and it puts unnecessary and restrictive expectations on the employee’s time.
Asynchronous teams need to function like a well-oiled machine. Communication needs to be faster, more efficient, and better organized. Since teams aren’t relying on real-time communication and instant responses, information needs to be made more readily available so employees can find answers to their questions without needing to jump on a call with someone in the middle of the night.
Written communication can easily capture highlights and important details that the organization needs. Well documented written communication is much more valuable to the organization than an audio or video recording of an online meeting because this can be a basis for future action plans, delivery of projects, and reports.
Email, meeting transcripts, and a company wiki are all great sources of information, but consider a central project management tool to keep things more organized. This can help teams to be clear on deliverables, aligned, more efficient, and productive.
Asynchronous teams require more agency in order to operate effectively. If every decision needs to be run up and down the flag pole - and communication over multiple time zones takes days - a single decision could result in massive project delays. Democratic leadership is a leadership style where employees are more involved in the decision-making process. Managers in async development teams need this kind of leadership to bring out the best in their developers, despite the distance.
By involving them in decision-making, team members can grow their critical thinking skills, creativity, foster a culture of collaboration, encourage project ownership and accountability, and provide multiple insights in tackling a problem or task. Developers can stand by their assigned tasks and have ownership of their project areas to move the software development at a faster pace.
This is opposite from the traditional top-down management style where the management makes all the decisions on projects and company direction. This dated management style does not encourage growth, and only hears a singular point of view on solving problems and approaching work.
It can be challenging to manage an asynchronous software development team because of the distance. But applying the adjustments stated within this blog can be rewarding as leaders can maximize the benefits of async work.
Gigster is a testimony that the asynchronous setup works in software development and engineering. As a managed developer network with over 900 top global talents, Gigster’s talent network is located all over the world in different time zones and they help top companies and enterprises build their software applications from start to finish, even through operations and maintenance. Gigster is advocating for async teams in its day to day operations by using AI and collaboration tools to manage projects, as well as the right leadership style for this remote work setup.