These days, all around the world, mobile development is mostly performed by fully remote teams. Under these challenging circumstances, maintaining a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility can easily become overwhelming.
There are certainly several inconveniences coming with the current, suddenly remote situation, such as app store reviews slowing down due to the reduced in-office staff levels, network issues, or lack of hardware and infrastructure. Mobile development communities are teeming with stories of developers trying to get their hands on test devices, leading to cases where the inability to adequately test resulted in delays or — even worse — releases that contained preventable errors.
Additionally, some industries are more affected by the pandemic than others: many sectors experienced a significant increase or decrease in the number of app downloads and monthly active users — both of which extremes can be pressuring for developers.
Remote work is here to stay
While in an ideal Mobile DevOps culture, teams are as close-knit as possible, often this just isn’t possible, due to various reasons: the limitations of finding engineers with specific skill sets in one geographic location, economical factors, or other, unexpected situations, such as COVID-19. With Twitter’s recent announcement about letting their employees work remotely, forever, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the remote work trend isn’t going anywhere. This means that team members around the world will have to find new ways to minimize the — often physical — distance between each other. Most likely, once they find a way to stay efficient from home, they will want to keep this option open for the future. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020, 98% of respondents want to continue remotely for the rest of their careers.
This means that companies must be in it for the long run: not only do they have to survive a couple of months of lockdown, but must aim to succeed in creating a productive remote environment for the coming years. While resolving issues is certainly easier in real-time and the dynamics of an office environment can be difficult to recreate when the entire team has suddenly become remote, a couple of practices commonly used in Mobile DevOps teams can help tackle the new challenges:
- Use the right software
One of the first things to do is bridging the distance that characterizes remote teams. The best way to get started on this is by investing in the right tools that foster collaboration, communication, and transparent project management. Mobile teams often include remote members like product managers, software engineers, designers, data scientists, and more. Managing these teams not only requires careful planning and execution, but adopting new technologies as well. Using agile communication and issue tracking software to support remote connections, such as G-Suite, Zoom, Slack, Miro, Threads, Notion, Lattice, or Jira can make remote work more productive and enjoyable.
- Rethink communication
Companies that have already embraced remote work usually approach team-building and communication in a deliberate manner. Some of the main things that help distributed teams are over-communication and over-documentation — in order to avoid misunderstandings and to create solid foundations for future collaboration. Changing the structure of your meetings and including a couple of minutes to make it more personal can also make a world of a difference. Remember, while tools are very useful, they’ll only take you so far without strong relationships among team members.
- Explore testing tools
Device testing has long been a challenge for mobile teams, often requiring boxes full of different models with different operating systems and version support to test on before release. Where more and more teams were already transitioning to cloud-based alternatives, the COVID-19 crisis has greatly accelerated this movement. It seems safe to assume that going forward, the pile of devices in the office will be the exception and not the rule, with services like Firebase Test Lab, Amazon’s Device Farm, and free device testing tools becoming the norm — and making the lives of developers easier.
- Measure results differently
Measuring productivity should shift from quantitative to qualitative: it’s much more important to see high-quality code, bug fixes, and better app ratings than checking how many work hours your developers have logged each week. Coding is a creative process: if developers want to write high-quality code, they need to be in the right environment and the right mindset. This is also where one of the main advantages of remote work lies: employees can choose to work in hours when their energy and focus levels are at their peak — something that does not necessarily happen during the usual office hours. Coming up with new, personalized success metrics can really boost motivation.
More on remote mobile teams
If you’d like to hear more about the topic of working remotely, tune in to our next online Bitrise User Group on June 4th, where we'll have several talks and a roundtable discussion about it. If you have any questions or topics in mind that you would love to hear about in our upcoming episodes or the BUG, let us know on Twitter, or through email.
Until then, sit back and listen to our latest podcast episode featuring Joe Birch, and learn more about practicing Mobile DevOps while working from home: