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Picking the Right Tool for a Remote Engineering Team

Laurent Parenteau

Senior Director of Engineering at Therma

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Problem

When you have a remote engineering team, the tools you use are really important since you can’t use an office as a band-aid. We had some issues with our project management tools, where some information didn’t reach the relevant people. We needed to fix that to improve our productivity.

Actions taken

My first action was to reach out to everyone involved and get more feedback on our current software engineering process, what’s working well and what isn’t. Using this information, I’ve clarified and fine-tuned our process and went searching for a new software product that would better fit that improved process.

Once we got that new software, we agreed to do a 1-month trial. Shorter than that wouldn’t have been enough to work out the kinks of the new tool. As expected, there were some bumps when we switched to it. Some team members wanted to cut the trial short, but I reminded everyone that our agreement was to try for 1 month, and we need to give this an honest attempt if we want to improve our productivity.

After the trial, I did a retrospective to gather everyone’s feedback. Some were positive, some were negative. It was about a 50/50 split between keeping this new tool vs. going back to our previous suite of tools. Neither options were compelling; we felt stuck.

Then I reviewed all the feedback - for the original suite of tools and the new tool - and realized that we actually had a third option available that was much better. It was actually possible to implement the new process (that we all preferred) using a subset of our old suite of tools (that most people preferred). So we could get the new, improved process AND use tools that the majority preferred AND reduce the number of tools we had to use. This was a win - win - win scenario.

Lessons learned

While some people would consider the trial a failure (because we spent 1 month trying a tool that we didn’t keep and had to go back), this was actually a success. The goal of trying new things is to learn and improve. That trial allowed us to discover a new way of working with our existing tools, which resulted in improved productivity. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise.


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Laurent Parenteau

Senior Director of Engineering at Therma


CommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementFeedback TechniquesTechnical SkillsSoftware DevelopmentCareer GrowthTeam & Project Management

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