Organization of remote work. Key risk areas and best management practices.

As per written above, hiring remote specialists, creating distributed teams, delegating the tasks to outsource providence are a profitable and justified measure in many situations. In addition, the restructuring of processes, communication methods and infrastructure which are to support remote work mode, makes your company much more flexible, more stable and adaptive to new challenges and potential force majeures.

However, the proper remote work organization is not trivial task at all. You will have the necessity to rebuild existing and introduce new management practices, you will have to organize high-quality communication, ensure transparency of control and manageability of all the processes.

Let's take a look at the most important management and organizational practices necessary for successful and productive remote work mode, as well as the best approaches of implementing them.


For all the modern processes, and particularly for the flexible ones, such as Scrum, Kanban, Rup, XP, communication is Basics. Any Agile process is designed to minimize the specifications writing and the large backlogs creation in favor of readiness for change and interaction between people. Naturally, there is a lack of communication in case of transferring to remote work mode. You no longer have the opportunity to come up, pat a colleague on the back discuss the questions that have arisen and get clear answers, but instead, you have to use gadgets and specialized software, coordinate time, spend additional efforts to convey your thought and correctly understand the answer. Not always the right employee will be on the spot, not always the quality and speed of communication will be good, it will not always be easy to convey your questions and you will not always be able to understand the answers correctly and without distortions. All this looks like a serious problem that questions the possibility of effective remote interaction, but really everything is not so sad! We have compiled a list of best practices below. They will help make communication in distributed teams as trouble-free as possible.

  • Use the communication means which have the widest possible information channel. That is, ideally, you should not only hear the interlocutor, but also see him, have the ability to share the image of your screen and see the interlocutor's screen, be able to draw on the screen of the speaker or visualize your thoughts and questions in other way. Accordingly, if possible, you should simply avoid just phone meetings, but instead, use applications that allow to transmit video in addition to audio content. (Slack, Zoom, Skype, Google Meeting and others). This method of communication will greatly improve the speed and quality of information transmission.
  • Be sure to send follow ups if anything important was discussed at the meeting. This rule is right for any type of the meeting, as for offline when all the people are physically present in the same place, and for online ones when participants communicate remotely. But, nevertheless, following this recommendation is critically important in case of online meetings since the distance, connection quality and the way of communication will contribute to certain losses and distortions in the process of information exchange. Using follow ups you will always be sure that all the parties understand each other properly, you will be able to avoid possible losses and distortions, and you will always have structured meeting results and a history of the decisions made.
In case of work with remote specialists and outsourcing companies:
  • Try to compose a remote team of people speaking a good and understandable language (these can be both English and your native language). Be absolutely sure, a terrible accent or poor knowledge of the language will lead to great problems in communication: to the delay of negotiations, the lack of a clear understanding of the topic under discussion, irritation among the meeting participants, distortion of the tasks set, and so on...
  • Try to form a team of people living in time zones nearby. If team members have more than 6 hours gap of working time, interaction will be very difficult, some issues will hover until the next working day, it will be problematic to organize meetings and resolve problems promptly.
  • If the number of people involved in the development is more than a dozen, then in this case, it is desirable to create several cross functional teams and build a scrum of scrums to improve performance. Teams should be formed according to the geographical basis. That is, so that people from the same location are in the same team. This will make internal team communication and performance much easier.
  • Be culturally aware of your partners. Try to avoid jokes or topics that may be misunderstood or abusive for the members of the remote team.


When switching to remote work mode, the security requirements increase many times.

  • First, in this case, access to all the necessary resources such as code and document storage, databases, project management applications, etc., must be presented to external employees, which leads to decrease in the overall level of security and the emergence of new potential vulnerability terms.
  • Secondly, attackers can penetrate your protected area through equipment hacking of remote specialists even if access channels are under total protection.
  • Thirdly, it is rare enough, but there are anyway dishonest remote specialists or freelancers who can share your application code, personal data, or other important information illegally.

Accordingly, at a minimum, the following practices should be implemented:

  • Remote access should be configured by professionals and in accordance with the latest security recommendations. Use the correct differentiation of rights (you provide remote access only to the necessary resources), VPN tunnels, two factor authorization, access only from certain IP addresses, etc.
  • Require that the employees are to install and regularly update the latest antivirus software on their remote hardware. Some companies provide their own equipment, with properly configured security systems for remote staff.
  • All the remote employees must sign an NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement).
  • All the data that remote employees have access to, must be transformed in an appropriate way to hide all important and sensitive information.

Project Management

If you work with a remote team, you will need to implement a number of additional project management practices into classic agile processes:

  • The usual white board with stickers for planning and running a sprint or for filling in a backlog will not satisfy all your needs anymore. You will need a specialized application to create tasks, build backlogs, track statuses, and distribute tasks among people. These applications should allow you to view, edit and estimate tasks, assign tasks to people, form sprints, create useful reports and so on (such as TBB, Jira, Azure DevOps or others).
  • Also, in case of work with distributed teams, the importance will be increased many times and, accordingly, the labor costs for certain project activities:
    • It will be necessary to collect and document all the emerging questions offers, comments, etc.
    • Coordinate the right time with all the participants, appoint and hold meetings.
    • Compile and send follow ups.
    • Collect project statistics and visualize them in a user-friendly, team-friendly way.
    • Monitor project health, speed, quality and other characteristics. Draw attention of the team to non-obvious problems and delays.
    • And so on...

Actually, in order to successfully cope with all the above mentioned tasks, you will most likely need a dedicated person (Project Manager). It is very unlikely that team members are supposed to be able to perform all the organizational activities in a quality and timely manner on spot. It is much better for the professional to take on this role and allow the team to focus on their immediate duties. The role of the Project Manager in the distributed team is particularly important and gravely loaded at the kick off stage of the project: during the start of the team formation, the installation and configuration of communications and processes. However, over time, after the team enters the phase of normalization or maximum efficiency, the main processes will be set up and understood by all the participants. The Project Manager’s workload and the necessity of his direct presence in the project is significantly reduced. In this case, he can help launch other teams or projects and support them in any difficult situations. Also, it is always worth remembering that if there is no such a person with mentioned competencies in your organization, you can easily hire a professional Project Manager as a remote employee!

Transparency of processes providence

It is obvious that if you switch to remote work mode, there will inevitably be a people’s activities control decrease, a decline in the ability to put your ears to the ground and respond to emerging problems promptly. Moreover, the lack of the ability to check where subordinates are, and what they are doing at the moment of time is very nervous for many business owners. On the one hand, this all does not look like a big problem if all the workflows are already configured, the team consists of well-organized professionals whom you trust, all the tasks are performed on time and proper quality compliance, and the issues arising are resolved with minimal participation. But what about the new employees’ allocation? What if proper processes have suddenly begun to fever: there are delays, incorrect or incomplete tasks performance, quality degradation, critical failures on the client application? How is it necessary to resolve these issues when you work remotely? After all, before you start solving the problem, you need to understand its cause, outline actions and monitor their performance... I think it is not worth talking about how much it is a non-trivial task if the team is not in one place, but on the contrary, when it is scattered around the world and time zones. In this case the most correct strategy is to build all the project activities and interactions in such a way as to ensure maximum transparency. This approach will allow you to see all the potential problems before they get critical, will allow you to assess the impact of management decisions, will create the necessary trust and understanding between all the people involved in the performance of the project... Let us figure out how to ensure the necessary level of transparency and trust.

  • If you do not trust the remote team yet or the type of business requires overall control, there are solutions such as using special tracking software. It is installed on computers of remote performers and takes screenshots at set intervals, measures keyboard and mouse activity during working hours. Thus, the employer always has the opportunity to monitor what and how much time his employees were engaged in the necessary process. Typically, such software is used when working with freelancers and, if paid for the time spent, but not for the tasks completed. But we still recommend avoiding this approach whenever possible, since IT is a creative industry and not always an employee who keystrokes on a computer has better performance and quality, and excessive control is an additional stress factor for remote specialists.
  • Do regular retrospectives. Listen carefully to people's questions and suggestions. Be open to experiments in approaches and processes. If you feel misunderstanding or disagreement, it is better to have one more meeting and develop an agreed position than to try to prescriptively push through the decisions made. In this case, the implementation will be much smooth and high-quality.
  • It is extremely desirable to use the best team-composing practices, to allow project members to meet offline periodically in a formal and informal atmosphere. Such events significantly increase trust, mutual understanding and respect within team members, cooperation gets more open and transparent.
  • Increase the use of the applications created for project management (TBB, Jira, Azure DevOps or others). Require making careful and timely changes to the tracking system from all the project participants. It means that this should happen not just once a week, but for example, regularly before the current tasks stand up or at the moment the employee switches to another activity. In this case, task boards, graphs and reports that are in project management applications will eliminate many questions increase the transparency of all the processes many times, and allow managers and team members to have a clear project vision of the situation at any time. Moreover, this approach will make it easier to monitor the global goals achievements, collect more accurate team statistics and predict its development speed.
  • Use special application features aimed at increasing transparency: for example, TTB can display the tasks forecast and the actual implementation of the ones in the form of the Gantt Chart in real time for both the separate sprint and the global scope. It significantly increases transparency, since all the involved people can assess the status of the project not only statically but also dynamically. Such an approach allows you to assess the correspondence of the actual work speed to the forecast one, to come to the assistance on time in case of delays or problems, and to adjust the expected duration and sprint scope or project phase in a timely manner.


  • Communication is the most problematic when switching to remote work mode.
    • Use communication channels with the widest communication channel possible.
    • Send regular follow ups.
    • Build distributed teams with good English from close time zones.
  • Be careful about security issues:
    • Remote access must be configured correctly, carefully, and consider current trends and threats.
    • Antivirus software must be installed on the equipment of all the employees and it is to be regularly updated.
    • Remote employees should sign NDAs and they are not supposed to have an access to sensitive and important data.
  • Project management shall be adapted for remote work mode:
    • It is necessary to use modern applications for distributed project management (TBB, Jira, Azure DevOps or others)
    • A dedicated Project Manager role is required to perform various organizational and communication activities. This role is highly important during the project start-up phase
  • Transparency ensuring.
    • Remember about the special tracking software on the employees’ equipment as an option to use. But if possible, this option should be avoided.
    • Arrange regular retrospectives and use better team-forming practices.
    • Use advanced project management applications to improve transparency (TBB, Jira, Azure DevOps, or others).
    • Require making precise and timely changes to the tracking system from all the project members.
    • Use the special project management capabilities for better status assessment and monitoring.