The new ways of getting work done have long since proved that people do not necessarily have to be located in one place to create amazing products and collaborate efficiently. Many, if not most successful international mobile app development companies work with remote employees or whole teams, and Stanfy is not an exception.
As one of our engineering teams is often located 10 time zones away from the main R&D office, we have gotten very broad experience in getting things done remotely. Today we can share the five essential tools that help to manage and collaborate with technical units located elsewhere.
A reliable solution for an internal chat is quite important even for a company where all employees sit in one building, but for working with remote teams, it’s a crucial element.
The cornerstone of Stanfy’s internal communication processes, Atlassian’s HipChat has become an indispensable tool for short questions and quick discussions. The platform allows to create separate chat rooms that we use either for different projects or different departments, so that HRs, Android developers, iOS developers and others have a space of their own to discuss relevant questions.
Before switching to HipChat, we used Skype for internal communications, though it proved to be quite ineffective because of its peer-to-peer nature, which means particularly that message history is saved locally and wouldn’t always synchronize the way you’d expect it to.
Chat rooms are good, but nothing can entirely substitute video calls where people can see each other and interact in a more focused way. For this task, we have chosen Hangouts, which is both free and provides the highest quality among other similar services.
Hangoutshasalso proved to work surprisingly good with poor Internet connections, which could be the case if you need to participate in a call from your car or a remote destination.
It’s very important to have a reliable project management environment when you have teams located in a different time zone, which you’re unable to talk to anytime at will. For this purpose, Stanfy recommends Pivotal Tracker as we’ve found it being the best product on the market.
As an alternative solution, we may use Jira on some projects, but this would be mostly because our clients ask us to. Otherwise, Pivotal Tracker does the job perfectly.
We use Git as the revision control system of choice and have built our repositories with GitLab. Being an open source alternative to GitHub and similar platforms, GitLab runs on your own servers and allows to easily do repository management, code reviews and issue tracking, as well as create activity feeds and wikis.
When necessary (e.g. when requested by a client), we can also work with private repositories on GitHub, which are actually priced quite reasonably.
With many people and teams working on projects, the need for a comprehensive knowledge base is obvious. We have built one using Confluence, another Atlassian’s product that allows keeping all the roadmaps, manuals, project notes and best practices together.
Having a wiki-like knowledge base like this is extremely useful not only to make sure that all remote teams are on the same page with each other, but also for bringing new team members up to speed as quickly and easily as possible.
Although the mentioned tools make collaboration easy and frictionless, there’s still one thing to remember: successful remote work starts with strong self-discipline and streamlined development processes. Without them everything else doesn’t make sense, but if you have those, the tools that we recommend will definitely be of a huge help.January 20, 2015