One of the hot topics in the software development industry right now is working remotely. If asked for a description, most people would probably talk about a lone, pajama-clad developer holed up in her apartment hacking away in a dimly lit room. Many folks do work from their homes (maybe even wearing their pajamas), but there is another less-often considered type of remote worker.
At Cardinal, we empower our teams to work from our offices on projects with clients who are far from us geographically. We can offer teams of the best developers in the country without the added time, cost, and hassle of flying them in.
We recently completed a medium-sized mobile project for a multi-national company headquartered hundreds of miles from any of our physical offices. We were able to build a team comprised of individuals working from both our Cincinnati and Columbus offices. We elicited requirements, mocked up designs, implemented the product, and made it available for testing all from a remote environment.
There are a number of benefits that make this sort of arrangement viable. In our offices, Cardinal has created a culture of knowledge and comradery that allows our development teams to draw on a vast pool of talent and experience. If a developer gets stuck on a particularly difficult task, there is always someone available to help him out.
Another benefit is using Cardinal’s infrastructure to remove barriers that would hinder in-house development teams at the client company. Perhaps there are stringent network security protocols to be observed. Maybe getting ID badges for each consultant is a time-consuming chore. If there are things that will get in the way of getting things done, Cardinal can help remove those barriers by working from our offices.
Of course, there are also challenges to be aware of when doing off-site consulting work. One of the biggest questions a client asks is “how do you replace face-to-face interaction in a remote environment?” Working over video chat seems “weird” to folks who’ve not used it extensively. In practice, you can communicate just as effectively over video as you can face-to-face. Emotions are conveyed through facial expression and tone of voice. With the advent of much better screen sharing technology, it’s even possible to pair program from any place that has a good internet connection.
Some clients fear that work won’t progress without their constant supervision—and this is completely rational. Clients want to get the biggest possible “bang for their buck.” It’s satisfying to be able to see your consultants hard at work.
At Cardinal we recognize that being hard to reach is a huge drain on the client relationship. We alleviate this by making sure our consultants are very visible via multiple communication methods. We want to be sure to answer instant messages as quickly as possible. We want to answer or return phone calls quickly.
We strive to show our work early and often. We make sure to push work out to source control regularly. If our designers are engaged, they regularly preview their work with clients for review. Our project managers communicate status regularly. Using continuous integration software, we can push out new builds to our clients as soon as the pull requests are merged. Whether a client is 10 feet away or 10 hours, she will be able to review our work with exactly the same regularity.
Remote working is quickly becoming a staple of 21st century software development. As a cutting-edge consulting company, we want to offer the same high level of service our clients have come to expect in new and more convenient ways. Whether on-site or remote, clients can be sure they’re receiving the highest levels of expertise and service available in the industry.