The 3 Biggest Challenges of Managing Development Across Time Zones

Saunak Ranjitkar, CIO/Chief Software Architect, Spiralogics
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Saunak Ranjitkar, CIO/Chief Software Architect, Spiralogics

One of the most significant challenges that modern companies face is coordinating employees across time zones. Today, the demands of cross-country teamwork are compounded by a global market— many team members are contending with 8-12 hour time differences on a regular basis.

Fortunately for companies whose teams span the globe, each challenge comes with its own unique set of benefits and best prac­tices. We spoke with Spiralogics CIO Saunak Ranjitkar to learn how he successfully manages three of the most difficult aspects of working with software developers in different time zones.

Availability

The Challenges:

• Adapting to new working hours accordingly when the con­cept of 8-to-5 work vanishes
• Very small window when all team members are available during their normal working hours
• Physical and emotional challenges that result from some team members having to sacrifice personal time
• Key players of the team need to be on standby 24/7

The Solutions:

• Hold a short daily standup call – no more than 15 minutes – at a time that is most suitable for all team mem­bers.
• Keep documentation organized and simple. This helps keep meetings on track, resulting in less wasted time.
• Utilize as many collaboration tools and communication channels as possible. No one tool available to­day is perfect, so it’s important to use a wide range of resources such as Google Drive, Skype, Go To Meeting, Hangout, Atlassian Jira, GreenHopper, emails, and phone calls.

The Benefits:

• Removes geographical re­strictions for recruiting the best and brightest
• Provides continuous momentum for development and support

Cultural Differences

The Challenges:

• Cultures vary significantly across regions, which can lead to misunderstandings between team members. A practice that is acceptable in the US, for example, might be considered offen­sive in Japan.

The Solutions:

• Adjust to cultural differences by doing your homework. It’s important to research the working culture on the other side(s) of the phone. Cultural expectations, holidays, social norms, and even sense of humor vary significantly, and it’s always better to know these things sooner than later.

The Benefits:

• Developing software is a creative process, and creativity shouldn’t be restricted to a region or locale. The collaborative creativity contributed by members across multiple cultures is a pressing need today.

Interpersonal Relationships

The Challenges:

• A webex meeting, video conference, or a phone call can never be quite the same as meeting the team face-to-face
• Collaboration is most effective if team members know and trust each other, and it can be difficult to build this bond re­motely

The Solutions:

• Be attentive to your colleagues during calls. This short win­dow plays an important role in team-building.
• Bring the team together for annual or biannual events. No matter how much you invest in technology and tools, nothing can be as effective as being with your team in the same meet­ing room.

The Benefits:

• After making the initial investment to bring the team togeth­er, it becomes easier to build trust and maintain personal ties down the road.

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