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Building High-Quality Products with Distributed Teams

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To ensure the quality of the products and services, Intermedia uses a common test & pre-production environment for all distributed teams. Lilia Gorbachik, product manager at Intermedia, mentioned at European Women in Tech that having a mature testing process, working with risks, and making daily decisions from a high-quality product perspective are key aspects to build high-quality products.

The main challenges that Intermedia is facing are hyper-growth and entering new market segments. As a company Intermedia grows very fast, said Gorbachik. This means that each team member should be agile and eager to learn, but also it means that working at Intermedia is fun. Every next goal is a challenge both for the company and for every employee. She mentioned that they have launched a new product in a very competitive market, a market that is new for Intermedia as a company.

The common test & pre-production environment at Intermedia allows uncovering the issues at the early stage of the testing process. Having one environment keeps all team members up-to-date, said Gorbachik, as each team member knows what the product is. Not only about their tiny part, but also about the product in general. At the end of the day, we do launch the product, not a set of pieces, she argued.

Another aspect of making a high-quality product is the testing process. She mentioned having a mature testing process with the test plan and automatic, integration, load, and stress testing, which allows identifying the issues as soon as possible, not at the very last moment.

Her advice on developing high-quality products is to make quality your priority and make decisions based on this priority. It means having a mature quality process and having the best software testing engineers in your team, she argued, and working with risks; not ignoring, but mitigating.

Gorbachik suggested making daily decisions from your high-quality product perspective. For example, you have a choice: deliver the product earlier without automated tests coverage, or deliver the product later, but cover it with automated tests. If your main target is a high-quality product, then option 2 (deliver the product later, but cover it with automated tests) is your choice, she argued.

Lilia Gorbachik spoke at European Women in Tech; InfoQ is covering this event with Q&As and summaries, and interviewed Gorbachik about how Intermedia builds high-quality products with distributed development teams.

InfoQ: How have you dealt with the uncertainty in ownership?

Lilia Gorbachik: We don’t have projects without an owner. But we do have complicated projects with multiple owners. The general recipe is communications. Intermedia as a company has no directive and micro-management. It means that if you are involved in a complicated project, you need to get together with the team and decide how to proceed.

You and your team will decide:

  • who will be responsible for each part
  • who will be the main communication point,
  • who will be the owner of the overall project

There is no silver bullet for this case. General guidance is to create a team (not a group), and build trust. After that, the decision-making process will be easier.

InfoQ: How do you deal with different kinds of information?

Gorbachik: We are an IT company, so we rely on tools that help us store and share the information. We have a central portal that contains information about the past, ongoing and future projects. At the same time, we do have various types of sync-ups that help different teams to be on the same page from technology, expertise, project & product management perspective.

Development teams share the best practices, new ideas from workshops and conferences, results of the internal experiments. The project management team tracks dependencies, risks, schedule. The product management team shares ideas, feedback, synchronizes the visions etc. It helps to deliver complicated products quickly and with high quality in a pretty large company.

InfoQ: What practices do you use for effective communication between distributed teams?

Gorbachik: First of all, you need something like a map, that shows all the teams involved in the project. The map that will show the list of people, their role in the project and areas of expertise. When you have a question, you can easily identify the right person to ask a question. It is super-important. But we are all human beings, so there is nothing better than personal communication. If the teams have the ability to meet in person, it would be great. Even a short team building could create strong connections and make a team from a group.

Also, it is important to have one person who will be a communication point for the project. It means in any uncertain situation, in any conflict situation you can reach this person and ask for help or advice. In our case, this person is a project manager. The project manager is a super-hero, who connects the continents of the world, who has empathy to work with different people, who always cares.

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Community comments

  • Distributed team vs colocated team

    by Javier Paniza,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    You said "General guidance is to create a team (not a group), and build trust".

    Is not easier to do this using a colocated team?

    Personally, I tried to create a distributed team, and failed to create a "team" and failed to "build trust". Surely I'm a bad leader, but I'm the only leader I have.

  • Re: Distributed team vs colocated team

    by Lilia Gorbachik,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Hi, I totally agree that it is easier to build and manage a colocated team.
    But what if you don't have a luxury to chose? If your company acquires other companies, then having distributed teams is an unavoidable reality. You need to stretch yourself and become a new type of leader.
    In any case, don't be hard on yourself, we all make mistakes. We learn as we go.

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