Posts

Distributed Teams: What You Need to Know

Distributed teams have been commonplace in many industries for years. With the recent uncertainties faced by companies in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, remote work has become a necessary adaptation for even more organizations.

As many teams adapt to a distributed model in the short term, it’s helpful to consider some of the pluses and minuses involved. Fortunately, there’s a lot to learn from teams do distributed work. Here’s what you need to know about distributed teams. 

What is a Distributed team?

A distributed team is a team that works together remotely across any distance. Unlike in traditional office models, they do not share physical office space. People in a distributed team can be located anywhere- they may be in the same city, or all over the world. 

Challenges

One of the most challenging parts about distributed teams is relationship cultivation. Without regular and spontaneous physical interaction like in an office space, it can be hard to develop and maintain rapport as a team. This can have a negative impact on spur of the moment clarifying questions, feedback, and general information sharing. One way to mitigate this is to schedule regular check-ins through a communication channel. A daily or weekly meeting can really help curb unnecessary delays in communication or misunderstandings. 

Another challenge for distributed teams is related to boundaries. When people are working remotely, there is no shared sense of physical space and time. As such, it can be difficult to navigate expectations of when work should occur, where it is occurring, and the like. It can be especially tough to set boundaries between home life and work life for teams, especially if they are working at home. Further, if team members are working across time zones, work overlap can vary drastically. 

It’s important for everyone to discuss time boundaries for working and communication. The relative degree of flexibility or rigidity required for different teams and team members should be explicitly defined up front. When everyone has a clear sense of their role, they can better adapt to challenges as they arise. 

Benefits

Despite the challenges, there are a few notable benefits of distributed teams. For one, if the team is distributed over time zones, around-the-clock work may be reasonable. If planned for properly, this can help lead to extremely efficient work timelines. 

Remote work also allows a large degree of flexibility for teams. Team members may be able to easily work at times they normally wouldn’t in the office. This can lead to both high productivity and the ability to meet challenges on the fly. With the right balance of team overlap and individual flexibility, a team can truly thrive when distributed. 

 As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to build distributed teams. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

3 Tips For Conducting Remote Job Interviews

Conducting a remote interview can require a bit of an adjustment if you haven’t done one before. There are a few guidelines you can follow that will help you streamline the process and get the most out of your interview. Here are 3 tips for conducting a remote job interview.

Choose the Right Technical Setup

One key part of a successful remote job interview is selecting optimal communication and collaboration channels. It’s important to choose the right setup based on what you want out of the job interview. For example, if you want a face-to-face mode of communication along with the ability to look at specific elements of websites and documents in real time, you might use a tool like Zoom to incorporate video chatting and screen sharing. You would have a much less efficient interview if you tried to coordinate the same activities by phone.

Overcomplicating your interview should be avoided as well. Too many tools that aren’t being used will only cause confusion and create barriers to getting to know job candidates. Overall, you should pick the tools that will best align with your goals for the interview. 

Establish Expectations and Give Directions Ahead of Time

The best way to allow job candidates shine is to give them clear expectations before interviews. This is especially important with remote interviews, where technical setups can add layers of complications. Some of these expectations can be purely practical. You might want to ask candidates to position themselves in a quiet space so you can hear them clearly. Or, if there are multiple steps involved with getting into a virtual meeting space (like in Skype or Zoom), you may want to give detailed instructions for these steps and ask candidates to go through them prior to the interview. This can help avoid issues and delays due to platform updates, device incompatibility, and lack of familiarity with tools. If you want candidates to conduct any work before the interview as part of the process, these same ideas apply. Make sure you give instructions on preferred file types and how to upload or share documents before the interview. 

Prepare for Multiple People in an Interview

If you are conducting an interview with multiple people at the same time, either with your team members or multiple interviewees, this is all even more important to get right. The more people who are involved with the interview, the greater chance there will be a technical difficulty that could hinder progress. It can be helpful to establish a point person on your team to handle any setup and technical difficulties that may arise. Provide their contact information to candidates to help streamline communication. They can also be the go-to person for everyone internally. If you take the time to go through these steps, your interview will be well on its way to success!

 As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to hire remote workers. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

How To Identify A Team Player During The Interview Process

Most products and business processes require employees to work in teams. Employees need to communicate well with others, collaborate on different tasks, and interact with different kinds of personalities. That’s easier said than done and often requires some innate skill. Not all professionals are team players; many can’t handle working with others on high-pressure assignments or environments. If teamwork is a vital aspect of your business processes, it is crucial to hire the right individuals for it.

What is a Team Player?

A team player isn’t just someone who can do their work efficiently while being a part of a team. They go above and beyond to ensure their team is successful. These professionals provide helpful feedback to their fellow team members, ask relevant questions about different aspects of a project, work well with colleagues at different levels, and focus on team success over personal achievements.

Identifying a team player during an interview process can be challenging. Most prospective candidates know companies value collaboration and will frame their answers accordingly. Here are some tips on how to identify a team player during an interview process:

Look at Past Experiences and Collaborations

The best way to identify team players is to look at their past collaborations. Ask them about different projects, teams, challenges, and other such influential factors. Ask how the candidate contributed to such projects and their team. The answer will tell a lot about their working style and ability to be a good team member.

 

If a person dismisses other’s efforts and uplifts their contributions, they may not be the right candidate. If they highlight how every member of a team contributed and how much they put in, you may have a winner.

Ask the Right Interview Questions

Focus on questions that rely on behavior and experience instead of personality and habits. Some of the most important questions to ask are:

  • Have you worked in teams?
  • Have you assumed any leadership positions?
  • How do you work with a team on a challenging project?
  • How do you handle failure or mistakes as a part of a team?
  • Are you happier working in a team or alone?
  • What does it mean to be a team player?

Answers to such questions will give you a better insight into the candidate and their ability to work in collaborative environments. Focus on their past experiences, so you have more concrete answers.

Discuss How A Person Will Handle Team Conflicts

No team is without conflict, even if you find the most level-headed employees. Handling team conflicts is an essential skill that every member must master to work successfully. Discuss how your candidate handles disputes between other members of the team. Ask them how they get into or get out of personal disagreements. A person’s ability to diffuse conflicts or step back from an argument gracefully can help them thrive in a team environment.

Can They Work With Multiple Small Teams at Once?

It’s common for skilled professionals to contribute their expertise to different teams at the same time. A true player will know how to juggle all teams, different deadlines, and different priorities efficiently. You should determine how they can handle virtual groups or team members they have never met personally. Some professionals are comfortable communicating online while others struggle with it.

As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

 

What They Don’t Teach You About Project Management

Project managers juggle several tasks at the same time. They communicate with all teams, make sure everyone is reaching their targets, keep an eye on the budget, and much more. While most project managers get project management training or formal education in the field, they learn several skills on the job through hands-on experience.. Here’s a brief look at some of the skills you learn on the job as a project manager.

Delegating

Project managers must learn the fine art of delegating if they want to keep a project on track. People fresh out of school or working on their first few projects find it very difficult to delegate important tasks. They don’t trust their team members or even understand their competencies enough to delegate effectively.

Experienced project managers eventually learn how to delegate important tasks to people who will get things done effectively or on time. They also know how to hold people responsible and determine whether a team member deserves a second chance if they make mistakes. If a project manager doesn’t know how to delegate, they won’t be able to grow as a team leader.

Choosing the Right Team

Project managers rely on their team to get work done. They need to select people they can trust to do a job well. In most cases, project managers break work down into sections, determine what kind of skills each section needs, create an employee profile based on that, and then recruit. Most experienced project managers know that this approach, while useful, is often limiting.

A more direct approach of hiring as many competent, talented, and qualified individuals for the project as possible provides more flexibility. In this approach, project managers aren’t restricted by their employee profiles and can recruit more versatile candidates with multi-disciplinary skills. These people end up bringing more to the table on a project, which has a positive impact on the results.

Communications

Most school courses place a great deal of emphasis on communication, but it is still something project managers learn on the job. Every manager develops their method of approach when it comes to communication. They learn how to express their expectations, issue reprimands without discouraging team members, and praise good work without making others feel left out.

Project managers with excellent communication skills also know how to remove people from their teams if necessary. This can be quite challenging for new managers because firing people is never easy. Most inexperienced professionals linger over the matter for weeks, or even months without acting on it. That can slow down a project or also harm the final results.

Negotiating

Where there is a team full of competent individuals, there’s bound to be some form of conflict. People have different opinions, approaches, skill levels, and temperaments. These can clash and create conflict in a team, which ultimately affects a team’s overall productivity. A good project manager learns how to handle different personalities and negotiate between them.

They know how to read a situation and diffuse an argument without looking like they’re taking sides. This is an important skill to develop as it ensures your team remains productive. Conflicts will happen regardless of how carefully you choose team members, especially in the initial stages. People who have just started working together will take some time to become comfortable and adjust to different personalities. It is a project manager’s job to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Managers must also be flexible enough to handle changes in project priorities, goals, and targets. They need to come up with ways to alter their plans smoothly, add more people to the team, and ensure everything keeps moving without any significant disruption.

As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

5 Stakeholder Questions To Ask Before Starting the Software Development Process

Software development is an intricate process that requires skill, planning and team effort. There are several stakeholders involved in the project, from company executives to various departments within the company.

It isn’t possible to satisfy all of them completely, but you can take their concerns into account before working on the project by asking the right questions. Doing so can help you understand their priorities and plan the development process accordingly. Here’s a list of 5 questions to ask before starting a software development process:

  1. What is the Product?

Projects tend to get out of hand if you don’t have a clear vision in mind. Software developers need to understand what the end product should look like before they even start planning for it. For example, does the company want an app that will help users find the best online deals? Does it want a software program for its HR department?

Stakeholders can provide a list of features or ideas for the end product to make things easier for a development team. If there’s any dispute about the final product, this will be the best time to resolve it. Make sure everyone is on the same page before proceeding.

  1. What is Not a Part of the Product?

Developers can sometimes go overboard and add features or elements that aren’t necessary. That happens if they don’t know what should be excluded from the final product. For example, if a website is only delivering to the US, there’s no need to include a feature to convert prices to other currencies. In many cases, stakeholders assume their development team is going to deliver something, but the latter is unaware of it. It is essential to establish what you will and won’t deliver.

  1. What is a Successful Product?

Software programs are tools designed to achieve a specific goal or purpose. A company creates a website if they want to establish a presence online. They design an app if they want to build a robust and long-term customer base. They develop a software application to make daily processes easier. If the product fulfills these goals, it is considered successful.

The end goal isn’t to deliver a good product; it is to provide a product that succeeds in the market. There’s a clear difference between these two goals. For example, a website can be beautiful and functional but still not provide all the services the target audience needs. Stakeholders should define what a successful product means to them at the start of the project.

  1. Do We Have a Single Point of Communication?

This is one of the most challenging aspects of project management. The project starts with one team and one client, but eventually, a large number of people start becoming part of the process. The IT guy must approve one aspect of the design, the other should please the marketing expert, and so on.

If these people start offering suggestions or requesting changes, the project can quickly get out of control. It is crucial to establish a single point of communication between stakeholders, clients, and development teams. You can maintain a smooth flow of information while keeping track of numerous requests.

  1. What are the Potential Roadblocks or Problems?

No one likes to discuss problems before they work on a project, but you need to address it. Gather all stakeholders together and ask them about possible hurdles. Can the project run out of money? What happens if some temporary contractors don’t live up to expectations? What if the client changes their mind in the middle of the project? If you know about possible hurdles, you can develop systems to counteract them.

These questions will help a team start their project on a firm foundation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to stakeholders; the answers will help improve the quality of your end product.

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.

 

“Automated QA: Save time, use a web calendar handler!”

Number8’s very own Derick Arzu was recently published on Medium. Read the article on automated QA processes below.

Text boxes, check boxes, radio buttons, and other elements of forms are fairly simple to deal with when it comes to developing UI functional tests for a web application. But what happens when you want to write a test that verifies that the UI for a web calendar is working?

You are probably thinking that it can be easily achieved with a couple of clicks and validations, which is not only true but also the approach that led to the idea of a handler.

Before you discover how to make your automated QA team very happy, here are some reasons why writing a simple function or just a segment of code that deals with ONE specific calendar is not as scalable. Imagine you are a QA Developer at a company who is developing the websites for airlines A and B and your team is requested to create the automated test suites. Sounds quite easy, you will use the same code in both projects, nothing will need to be changed; until someone shows you the designs of the two web calendars each airline uses in their website.

Beginning with the obvious differences, airline A uses two windows while airline B uses only one; that surely represents a significant change in the code of that first approach. Another difference you might not have noticed is that airline B has a dropdown to change the year of the calendar, so that would mean a slight change in the method used to get the text of the displayed year. Those are two visual differences that will affect the way your bot interacts with the calendar and the DOM will surely surprise you with more.

Now that you are interested, the coding begins!

This handler was implemented in Node.js and uses WebdriverIO as the test framework that interacts with the browser.

You will find out that the framework has two functions ($ and $$) to fetch web elements. However, a hierarchy of classes will be created to manipulate elements, later on you will learn this is so that the handler can easily be able to cover many web calendar designs.

The main class is Element. Here is where, the method to obtain the fetch function is implemented, it has two parameters:

    1. selectorObject (required) which refers to an object with two properties; the first named selector , is a string that specifies the selector that will be used to fetch the element. The second is index, which is an integer that must be assigned to the object if the fetch result wants to be treated as a single element and not as an array of elements.
    2. additionalProperties (optional) is an object with any property that wants to be added to the fetch result. The subclasses of the hierarchy use this to manage how some data is obtained from the web elements, you will learn this later on.

Read More…

4 Powerful Tips to Improve Communication at Work

Communication is one of key pillars for any relationship. It could be a personal relationship, a friendship or a business relationship. People sometimes think that rules for personal communication don´t apply to a work environment but this is not true.  Every human has needs, emotions, hopes, values and dreams. And each person faces situations in their personal life that may sometimes impact job performance.

Staff turnover is one of the main challenges many companies face.  While employees come and go, many are less likely to leave if they are in an environment where they feel respected, rewarded, safe and comfortable.  People tend to be happier in work environments where they are confident enough to speak to coworkers and managers about their lives – this includes work related topics and personal ones too.

This is why communication is so important in the work environment, both among employees in the office and for those that work remotely. While maintaining good communication with employees who work together in the same place each day may seem straightforward, it is sometimes less obvious how to improve communication with those working off site. As an agency that specializes in connecting nearshore technical talent with U.S. companies, we’ve got some worthwhile insights into this challenge. Follow along for helpful tips to improve work communication, including communication between onshore and offshore workers.

Four Helpful Tips To Help You Improve Communication At Work

1. Employees are human beings, not numbers or metrics.

Many companies focus on growth, revenue and developing new products/services or improving existing ones. Sometimes by doing this, employees start to feel more like numbers, or pawns in a game of chess. When dealing with human resources, emotions play an important role. Employees are much less likely to make sacrifices for companies that make them feel like a cog in a wheel. It is tough to go the extra mile for a boss that doesn’t seem to take interest or care about anything but the bottom line.

According to Dale Carnegie, author of the award-winning classic: “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the main thing people care about in life is themselves. Every person wants to feel important, valued and appreciated.

Henry Ford surely recognized this back in 1914 when he started paying his employees $5 a day. (This was a big salary increase.) He also reduced shifts from 9 hours a day to 8. By doing this Ford quickly solved a high staff turnover problem that his company was experiencing. This led to notable increases in production.

If a company can make its employees feel important, feel that their job matters and that they are important assets for the company, they are far more likely to do the extra work needed to go from good to great, and to take care of the company as if it was their own. While a motivated employee will communicate better, it is an employer’s responsibility to make sure employees know they are free to express what is on their mind.

2. Body Language Matters.

Over 50% of the things we say are non-verbal. Given this, learning body language is an important part of developing more effective communication.

If you are a manager, it is essential that you practice your body language skills so that when you speak with your employees you can transmit your ideas in the best possible way and avoid any misunderstandings of what you are trying to convey.

Things like maintaining an upright posture, making eye contact during conversation and keeping your chin up will radiate confidence and those around you will see you with respect.

Besides using body language to communicate well at work, it’s also important to understand body language signals in others. This might be especially important when dealing with offshore employees that normally communicate through apps like Skype or Zoom.  Knowing how to identify body language signals like face and eye gestures and tone of voice will enable you to read between the lines of the message that a coworker wants to transmit.

3. Make Yourself Available to your Co-Workers.

One of the easiest ways to make yourself accessible to coworkers is to simply tell them that you are available. People want to know they can count on you and the only way they will know this is if you communicate it. People want to know that their colleagues are people that can listen to them and understand what is going on.

Sometimes it may be difficult for people to communicate issues directly, especially with a manager. In these times, it can be useful to have a way for people to anonymously ask questions or even express complaints. Having a channel of communication that enables people who are too uncomfortable or shy to speak directly to leaders is a great way for a company to stay informed about situations they may otherwise not know about.

4. Share Something in Common.

Many of the best managers are comfortable sharing something about their personal lives with their coworkers. They might participate in a fun office outing or simply take an interest in the lives of their employees. Something as simple as remembering a birthday can make an enormous difference to a person’s morale at work.

This type of leader tends to be one that can talk about any topic with employees, not just work-related things. Often these more informal conversations help to build trust and work satisfaction. They also improve overall communication by making people feel more comfortable and secure.

Take the time to develop relationships with your coworkers and create a trusting environment for people to open up to you. You will likely be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Working Remotely? Try These 3 Things To Cultivate Work Community

Working remotely can present many challenges, everything from resisting the urge to fire up a movie and veg out, to feeling that creeping sense of isolation that comes from sitting alone behind the screen. As a company who promotes remote work opportunities, we’ve identified several ways to cultivate a thriving work community. Below are three tips that should keep your presence so embedded in the office, your coworkers will swear they hear your keyboard clicking away beside them even when you aren’t there.

3 Tips to Cultivate Work Community While Working Remotely

Tip #1: Be open to feedback.

One of the most important parts of forming any close-knit relationship is trust. The person on the other side of that monitor is most likely depending on you to complete a task. To your coworker, they’re placing a lot of trust in someone they can’t see. Put their mind at ease by telling them upfront that you’re open to feedback and willing to work through things. Making this clear initially will help them understand you share the same goal and will make them feel more comfortable as you continue to work together. Build trust by responding to feedback graciously. Every smooth interaction makes way for future smooth interactions.

Tip #2: Be humble.

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s our tendency to overthink things. When you work remotely, it’s easy to convince yourself that it only happens to you. Fear that you’re alone with your thoughts, and pride in your ability to handle things on your own can be a deadly combination that results in isolation! Instead, be humble and reach out to your coworkers with any questions or concerns you have. This goes a long way to cultivate trust. Your coworkers will feel more connected with you when you’re open with them, and in turn, they will be more likely to reach out to you when they have questions of their own. Once you realize you have friends ‘on the inside’ you’ll find it easier to tune out that inner voice that tells you you’re on your own. Remember that you’re in it together.

Tip #3: Get social.

In this age of social media, it’s easier than ever to connect. Find a few coworkers you feel comfortable with and send them a friend request immediately. Becoming connected on social media offers you and your coworkers the chance to put a face to the name that pops up in the inbox every day. Getting to know each other better in this casual manner strengthens your bond and your understanding of one another as you continue to work together professionally.

BONUS TIP: Live that meme and emoji life. A true favorite! There is great power in a well-placed meme or emoji when communicating with a coworker. Not only do they lighten the mood, but they also offer visual cues to help people understand your tone and intention, which is a wonderful thing in the absence of body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.

At Number8, we provide high quality technical talent to businesses of all sizes and sectors. We specialize in application development, custom software, website development, mobile solutions, database design, client/server, web application development and Q/A testing. Learn more about what we do and how to get started with Number8 by calling 502-890-7665 today!