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How distributed teams get closer using Jira, GitHub, and Slack

Great collaboration tools build stronger teams.

There’s no doubt that remote working has become more and more popular in the last few years. Many companies like Salesforce have adopted remote work policies to satisfy a new generation of workers’ expectations and tap into a bigger talent pool worldwide. Stripe recently announced that their fifth engineering hub will be a remote one.

At Gigster, working with digital  talent distributed across the world has been in our DNA from the start. We did it in part by leveraging great third-party collaboration tools like Jira, GitHub, and Slack. When used properly, these tools make it easier to coordinate the efforts of distributed teams.

Jira

Jira improves team communication by bringing consistency and structure to the way progress is tracked. With Jira, a project can be divided into epics or stories, each of which can contain tasks, issues or bugs. Each item created on Jira is assigned a single owner, which drives accountability. Jira is also great for onboarding new members to a project team, where they can start with smaller, well-scoped  tasks.

To get the most out of Jira with remote teams, here are some key recommendations:

  • Standardize the way you create tasks, stories, and issues, or collaboration between different roles on a team becomes a nightmare. For example, when a tester or the PM files a bug ticket, she should follow a standard that’s agreed on with the engineers, so there’s no need for back and forth messages to gather context.
  • Leverage the Jira comments section for tasks, issues, and stories to keep the conversation history related to that particular item. This allows teams to boost the progress tracking features of Jira with some context tracking.
  • Make use of the SLA panel feature to show the time elapsed and time remaining since the creation of an issue. Time Remaining is great for people working in different time zones, because it shows exactly how much time they have to fix an issue.

GitHub

GitHub is a git repository hosting service with a web UI interface. Git is a source code version control system that manages and stores revisions of software projects. It lets  engineers collaborate on the same project source code without stepping on each other’s toes. At the same time, it gives everyone visibility into each engineer’s development progress.

A great feature of GitHub is Code Reviews, which prevents anyone from pushing any code change to the main code base without peer review and approval. This helps collaboration and peer accountability in teams. The person who reviews the code also becomes a point of contact for that code. This is great for remote teams, because it forces engineers to communicate with each other through GitHub itself, or through other channels like Jira or Slack.

Additionally, the GitHub repository provides a simple way to share knowledge and mentor new members. Finally, it makes the time zone difference in teams an advantage because now, when a problem occurs with  the product, you don’t have to wait for one person to fix it in a city where it might be midnight, since others are available with the same knowledge.

Slack

Slack is a professional chat tool for teams that organizes communications by channels. It lets teams  share information, files, and do much more. Slack gives remote teams a practical alternative to having one physical location, because it lets all the stakeholders in a project easily communicate with each other through channels arranged by topics and projects. 

Slack is great for providing visibility and building trust between remote team members. When set up well, channels let teams organize different conversations that relate to a project. Each channel can have a specific focus, which makes the information easier to track. Channels also support informal conversations, which helps build trust between team members by letting them learn about each other. For example, on Gigster’s Slack, there’s a blockchain channel where people exchange information on this topic. It’s also possible to have channels for parents or other subjects, bringing together multiple members of the team.

Slack notifications and reminders are great for automating recurring tasks. It can be used for daily virtual standup meetings. Each member can reply with status updates in the message thread. Another convenient feature is Apps Integration, which can be used to keep up with Jira and GitHub through notifications. For example, Slack can send notifications when an engineer makes a code review request, or when a task is updated on Jira.

Over the last several years, Gigster has optimized its processes to standardize how distributed teams use Jira, GitHub, and Slack. This standardization lets our teams build trust and communicate effectively, which in turn, enables the teams to be more efficient, productive, and accountable.

Ntambwa Basambombo
Ntambwa is a software engineer at Airbnb where he works on the platform’s search feed with over 60 millions visitiors every week. Before working on Airbnb’s search, he was the lead backend engineer on the team that launched Airbnb’s Luxe business last June. Prior to Airbnb, Ntambwa was the first mobile engineer at Luxury Retreats a Villa rental startup that was acquired by Airbnb in 2017. He also co-founded a startup Lobe where he built a music synchronisation app called Lobe Music.

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