Alvar Lumberg was the director of engineering at Wise before leaving to cofound the Tallinn-based sustainable investment platform, Grünfin, where he is now the CTO.
Figuring out how to choose the right tools for a growing hybrid team (a mix of in-person and remote) is Alvar’s current challenge. In Sifted's Startup Life newsletter, he gave us his top tips.
Choose a tool that will actually be useful
Don’t choose something because it's “cool” right now. Figure out what needs to be solved and make sure you can answer why your current tools can’t fulfil that need right now. Outline how a new tool will be used, what integrations it needs, your budget and any features that will help the team — now, you have data to find a tool that matches your needs.
More important than the tool you choose is how you use it. Yes, some tools have very defined ways of being used, like ticketing system Linear. Others — like Notion, Airtable or Slack — are much more open to interpretation and can be molded to your needs.
Don’t forget about engineers
Engineers access tools remotely, whether they’re sat next to each other or on different continents. Working with virtual systems — those that live in the cloud and are detached from your physical surroundings (for example, Heroku or Amazon Web Services) — has been the standard for a while. As a hybrid team, there are three areas you need to consider:
- Ticketing systems. Discussions may happen via your company’s day-to-day communication tool — these chats tend to be synchronous, long-winded and hard for people to find later. So, once a decision has been made, requests need to be added to a ticketing system — Linear, Asana, ClickUp or Monday.com are some options. This allows team oversight on progress (no matter what time zone a colleague is in), workload and things that have or haven’t worked.
- Collaboration. Drawing on whiteboards to brainstorm ideas or to figure out complex user journeys is an incredibly rich form of collaboration. To (sort of) replicate that, invest in an online whiteboard platform like Miro or Retrium — they’re great tools for all departments, not just engineering. Unlike with a physical whiteboard, ideas are recorded so you don’t lose anything that was suggested. However, the entire team must be online at the same time for this tool to work — which isn’t great if you’re in multiple time zones.
- Pair programming. When programmers work together, they find problems and solutions faster. To start doing this remotely, you can use TeamViewer, a trusted tool to remote access another device. There are also options like JetBrains and Visual Studio Code’s Live Share. Artificial intelligence like GitHub’s Copilot is increasingly being used as a pair programmer. It’s useful, but you have to remember that AI is reactive (it’s suggesting code and functions in response to code you’ve already created) and a human is proactive (they suggest new ideas and options that you wouldn’t have considered).
Make your tools discoverable
It’s all well and good having all the tools, but if your team doesn’t know they exist, or how to use them, you’re just wasting money. So, create a knowledge base — also known as an intranet or company wiki — that references all the company tools, how to use them and how to access them. You can use tools like Notion, Google Docs or Confluence for this. Make sure this tool is discussed during onboarding, pinned somewhere easy to find and regularly mentioned in all hands meetings or in 1:1s.
Don’t talk behind people’s backs
There can’t be silos between remote team members and in-person ones. To create an inclusive culture where everyone has a space to share and discuss ideas — and hear what is being shared and discussed — choose a tool for day-to-day chat and ensure it is used as the primary form of communication by all employees. Common tools include Slack and Teams for written communication, and Zoom and Google Hangouts for verbal.
On the subject of... Hybrid working
📈 Scale a global engineering team. If your team is hybrid, one of your cofounders should be based where most of your engineering team is to speed up product development, according to the founders of collaboration platform Frame.
How (and how not) to run a startup.
🛥️ How to onboard remote developers. Give them as much information as you can, get them building ASAP and automate as much as possible, says serial builder Vidya Mani.
❓What is HR tech? What tools can an HR department use to support its functions within a hybrid team?
💡 What’s your company’s long-term vision for remote work? Here are steps to help you get there… but you need to start planning now.
👩🏽💻 HR tech that actually matters. Sifted asked investors which tools they think are vital for startups during tough economic times.