There’s a good chance that you’ve heard the term ‘remote engineering team’ before now, but perhaps your organization has always, until now, worked on one single site, or perhaps you just feel you need a refresher on what is still a relatively new concept.

This article seeks to clarify what is meant when people talk about a remote software engineering team, and it will also go into some detail on their history, and the kinds of companies that use them. We will also cover the key differences between single-site and remote teams, and some things you need to watch out for when building and recruiting remote teams.

What is a remote engineering team?

A remote engineering team, or a remote software development team, is a group of people who, rather than working in the same building or campus as the rest of the organization in question (as in the case of, for example, most government institutions, or the Apple Campus in Cupertino), operate out of a separate office some distance from the main campus. There may be a time difference between the main office and the remote team, and the remote team may be in another country.

Remote engineering teams work with other teams online, often using video conferencing (photo: Base B)

Clearly, remote software development teams have become a possibility only in the era of fast office broadband, which has meant that national borders and timezones are less of an issue than they once were.

The rules of thumb are the same as hiring any team: recruit with due diligence, expand only as far as you need to, and ensure that openness and trust extend throughout the organization, wherever people are based. With careful management, country and time differences can be no issue at all, but you can read more about that in this companion article.

As we mentioned, easier access to high-speed internet has played a strong part, but so too has the trial and improvement of various other business models. There was a time when tech companies would consider remote teams only as a last resort. The old convention of working together under the same roof was seen as too precious to be challenged.

What changed this initially was the increasing practice of companies outsourcing service-related teams. It is now commonplace for mature tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft to have outsourced teams, working for companies they subcontract, running various branches of (for example) customer support.

The reasoning behind this is that it is cheaper to ask a company which only hires support workers to do so, as they are specialists in finding people with the right skillset and training them. People in countries such as customer support heartlands like Greece, the Philippines and Egypt are also far cheaper to hire than people working for a single-site customer support team on Palo Alto or Redmond wages.

The drawback of outsourcing, as anyone who has called customer support and either had difficulties getting a simple issue solved quickly, or been caught on a crackly telephone line, will know, is that there is no way the parent company can make absolutely certain that the outsourcing partner can guarantee the desired high standard of service. Additionally, outsourcing partners often charge a hefty cut, on top of the salaries of the support workers themselves.

Most of all, though, the problem is that the parent company, when it comes to outsourcing, is not in control of the hiring process. And that brings us onto remote software engineering teams.

The parent company has control over who joins a remote engineering team (photo: Base B)

Remote engineering teams are structured a little differently to traditional, outsourced, teams. The main difference is that the parent company maintains total control over who is recruited to the team. They work for the parent company, not for a third-party agency, and so the parent company can decide whether individuals conform sufficiently to the values and culture of the company. It puts the minds of everyone from CEO to Head of HR and beyond at ease to know that their decision is final.

Explore how you and Base B work together to build your remote engineering team

The other virtue of remote engineering teams, at least those hired in conjunction with Base B, is that they work together, on shared office hours, in an office that the parent company will have identified and made sure is correctly equipped for the work they are doing. With Base B, we go one step further, providing you modern offices designed from the ground up with development teams in mind, saving clients one more thing to think about.

What kinds of companies use remote engineering teams?

Although a company of any size can arrange for their software engineering team to operate remotely, it is most beneficial to organizations undergoing growth. In the case of a growth-stage company, which is transitioning from being a startup to being an established organization, that expansion can be done in a variety of ways.

For this kind of company, more people are needed to cover the growing list of tasks, and those people must be well-qualified. Finding suitable office space in an area with a large concentration of highly qualified engineering talent away from the company’s main location means potentially a more diverse organization, means the company has access to a whole new talent pool, and means (just as crucially) setting up in an area where average salaries may be siginificantly lower than those in, say, San Francisco or London. At a time when it is crucial to scale up and to be cost-effective, then, a remote engineering team can enable just that.

It’s not only growth-stage companies that can benefit from a remote engineering team. Mature companies can also gain a great amount from having bases in multiple locations. For companies at this stage in their lifecycle, efficiency is key, and having sharp-minded engineers from great universities, who can hit the ground running on day one, is a real benefit.

Sharp, inspired minds, working for one company and following shared values (photo: Base B)

So too is the fact that, as previously stated, the salary demands of engineers in places like Poland and Ukraine can mean less overall is spent on salaries, and more on making the best possible products for an expectant market. By collaborating with a partner such as Base B, the parent organization can also make sure that the members of the remote engineering team fit in with the organization’s values and culture, both in the recruitment and hiring phases, and through regular reviews.

Want to know more about remote engineering teams and how to set them up?
Base B are the experts on starting and maintaining remote development teams in Eastern Europe. We have an eye permanently on the local market, so we make it easy for you to identify the engineering talent you need in order to take your business to the next level. Reach out to us, and we will be pleased to talk you through your options.

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