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Engineering Management

A Hidden Struggle of Remote Work

Written by 
Brenda Jin

After hearing about this struggle for dozens of engineering managers, we knew we had to write about it.

At Bennu, we’re constantly talking to engineering managers, and always aiming to get a pulse of what they are thinking about when it comes to remote work.

This has created some interesting insights (some learnings here), and it’s always fascinating to hear about the benefits and challenges of such a drastic shift.

You could probably guess a lot of what engineering managers are telling us - team building and facilitating communication between employees are two of the main things we hear these days. However, one thing that has been coming up recently in a lot of our conversations is the idea of cross-team collaboration, and specifically how to better foster that in a remote environment. 

With managers adapting more to remote work, standups becoming more common, and remote team collaboration tools popping up every day, the ability to run a remote team has gotten arguably easier. The challenge comes in when complex dependencies are across different teams, and a project requires those teams to work together to get it done.

That serendipity of being in the office has some benefits - and this is one area where that becomes clear.

Here’s a few ways we think remote teams can tackle this and hopefully help solve this problem.

  1. Over-communicate

In a remote environment, those moments of serendipitous interactions/updates are gone. In order for your managers and team members to understand what you’re working on, it’s important to communicate more often, and in more ways, than you otherwise would.

This in turn helps cross team collaboration, because surfacing updates and issues to your team enables them to better plan and manage any bottlenecks that might come up. They can then communicate that to their peers and other managers to adapt the development plan. 

Failure to over-communicate can result in assumptions being made that can harm a software development team’s ability to deliver results.

  1. Automate visibility 

We hear from engineering managers all the time how long it takes for them to get a pulse on their team.

When working cross functionally, this time spent trying to catch up can really start to add up. It’s important to automate visibility and be able to see a bird's eye view of everything going on when possible. The more you can get an overall picture, the better your ability to zoom in and fix any issues that might harm the overall goals.

This in turn enables you to better communicate with the other teams, because you understand how the different pieces are coming together and who’s specifically working on what.

We’re biased, but we think Bennu is a great tool for this 😃

Bennu gives engineering leaders a bird's eye view of everything happening across teams and projects
  1. Uplevel your tech leads

Being a manager is often not just about ensuring the team is meeting its goals but also developing direct reports to help them progress in their career. 

You’re probably wondering how this relates to cross functional collaboration. Well, the more you empower the people on your team, the less you, as the manager, end up being the bottleneck. They feel more comfortable working across teams, surfacing issues up, and overall making your life easier as a manager.

In other words, give your reports opportunities to step up and the burden on you to coordinate will go down tremendously.

We know cross functional coordination was tough even in a pre-covid world. Based on our conversations with engineering leaders, it has only gotten harder with the shift to remote. However, solving it can unlock so much more for your organization and help you move at a faster pace.

If Bennu can help you better cross functionally coordinate, we’d love to hear from you!

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