The term ‘offshore development’ is the outsourcing of the project or some tasks to a third-party agency in another geographical region. It is important to prepare yourself for managing offshore team virtually over video calls and through other digital means. Most businesses usually preferred offshoring for a low wage, low tax rate and to avoid stringent regulations.
What is an offshore development
You have just signed up for another project and you are looking for building a whole team for this new venture. You are trying to figure out the time, resources, budget, people, coordination, effort, everything that will contribute towards this new endeavor. For this, you can target a new team at a new place or split the team i.e. hire a few people in an agency that will work along with the local team.
So, if you ever thought of building offshore teams apparently seems an unchallenging task. But, what it is to handle another 70 people in your team based in different geographical locations. With a newly onboard significant number of resources who are already part of your team does not mean that your next new app will be delivered directly at your doorstep.
Managing offshore teams is a trump card in the modern high-tech world and especially when it comes to physical space constraint and it is normally at bargain prices. On the other hand, it is as common as pizza with extra toppings.
Best practices for managing offshore team
Offshore team management has a lot to offer especially in the context of spatial dimension, cost-effectiveness, and diverse workforce. So, if we are intended to work with offshore teams it requires going the extra mile so best practices can be followed to manage these teams. The following practices will provide meaningful insights that will help to manage offshore teams in an effective and efficient manner. These best practices guidelines will also help to know that this model is successful in pre-planned and structured projects.
Share your product vision
With new offshore team additions, it is not as easy as rolling off a log. A foremost key for managing offshore teams is to make them aware of the big picture. To keep it as big as your dream you need to frame it. Typically, leaders are being viewed as leading the team towards a big picture. People look up to their leaders who have visualized where they are directed and where others need to follow them as well.
Set SMART goals
SMART goals are the goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
By and large, it has been noticed that employees regardless of their geographical location (onshore and offshore) need to set a bar for their personal and business goals. Here, leaders can play their part by effectively align, both short and long term towards the accomplishment of their business goals. Nevertheless, the locality of your team, a good leader always keeps abreast of the individual’s team goals and their future aspirations through regular one to one by meeting them virtually. Regular project status and sprint planning can be one of them.
English is an international language – to make sure that your offshore team has a comprehensive understanding of the English dialect is an eminent part of managing offshore teams. Nonetheless, the locality of offshore teams albeit they are software developers, management or marketing professionals, project managers or others they cannot get away with strong language skills. This must be ensured starting from the job analysis process in their tests and interviews, strong verbal and written communication is a mandatory part of their skillset and should be evaluated accordingly.
Designate regional team leaders
Primarily, each offshore team must have a regional-specific team lead who is having close coordination with their teams on a daily or routine basis. These team leads have a better idea about regional specified cultural differences, so there is no better individual than him or her to integrate those cultural values in their office. Being said that, depending on project requirements occasionally team leads can remotely be assigned. Therefore, it should be assured that their managers have embraced those essential cultural values that will eventually impact their productivity.
Overlap a few hours in work schedules
One of the major challenges, when managing offshore teams, is the difference in time zones. If you have teams working in the USA or Canada or others located in the UAE, there is a lot of difference in time zones. So, to handle teams in such a structure it is important to overlap a few hours after your dinner time with offshore teams. A couple of hours are more than enough for sprint discussions, meetings, scrum, and Q&A.
Apart from this time zone difference challenge, it can provide you an edge as well. During your night time, teams back there in Canada and the USA can provide support assistance to your client. Subsequently, a complementary approach can help you to manage your offshore teams successfully.
It is self-evident that empathy helps to mitigate social distance. If coworkers have informal chit-chat and laughter together either for work or personal matters, they are more likely to have empathy for each other. Empathy tends employees to bond more and eventually helps in increasing productivity. As people living across different geographical locations have less face time, therefore it lessens mutual understanding amongst their peers. Perhaps, just writing emails and chatting over the messaging does not reflect someone’s emotions. Hence, the use of video conferencing should be encouraged to have a mutual understanding between peers and teams. To foster this, offshore team leads must ponder on the following ‘understandings’ when people are meeting virtually:
Give timely feedback
Occasionally Offshore team members might give wrong gestures with their everyday behavior. If you are just responding to emails regularly on mornings to ensure uninterrupted workday, you are unknowingly adding a delay in correspondence with the team situated in different localities leading to mistrust among peers. Face to face interactions can only help to learn about these occurrences. Among the major offshoring benefits are use of phone and video conferencing that teams can utilize and see the collaborations on the other side.
Designate a few minutes for an informal discussion
What if during the team meetings colleagues get straight up the point and start their project discussions. How can we promote empathy during our routine meetings? How do we know each member of our team sitting miles away on a video call? Our Corporate discussions normally entail structured items so time can be utilized in an effective way to address our deadlines.
Our business meetings can be a bit unstructured and informal especially when managing offshore teams. General discussions where we can have a bit inconsequential conversation can be encouraged during the first few minutes. The discussion can be like how things are in your family, about the weather, any extra-curricular activities going on. These unstructured conversations can create some positive vibes, healthy discussions and unfolds the processes in business dealings. So when you’re planning team meetings, the first five minutes should be dedicated to the light conversation before the structured meeting commences.
Secure data with remote access VPN
A Virtual Private Network – (VPN) is used to access private networks to connect users remotely or users working at different regional offices. VPN access uses the trend bring your own devices principle that means users can use whatever device they feel are comfortable in – be it Laptop, mobile device, iPhone or iPad.
There are numerous benefits of using a VPN as they create secure networks and add a security layer like a firewall to company assets. Companies managing offshore teams in diverse geographical regions need to secure their data and should have a better quality VPN.
When remote employees log into a VPN server and connect through public or widely available WiFi networks there is no need to worry about DNS leaks. VPNs can protect the machines or devices from malfunctioning. So, while connecting with public vulnerable WiFi networks having a VPN that automatically starts when device boot is MUST for offshore employees or those who are traveling frequently.
Since you are a part of an offshore team a lot of work is going on when your manager is offline. This is very important to have documentation and daily to weekly reporting of your every task. This will help you to write small details and ambiguities can be cleared otherwise these tiny misprints will lead the team entirely into different solutions then intended.
To encourage the offshore teams, use efficient communication channels. Here, the following are a few methods of communication that teams must ensure how and when to practice them;
Emails – No doubt emails are the most organized and formal way of communication in corporate structure, this should be used rarely for meeting notes, reports, official communication and project statuses.
Chats – Formal chat mediums can be (Slack, Skype, hangouts, etc.) make sure it must be used on a regular basis for communication between teams. Chat windows should be open always for quick clarifications and sync ups.
Productivity tools – JIRA, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, etc. these tools can be used for effective project management. Having a great tool lessens confrontation and improves communication.
Use Video Conferencing
Video call is among the most effective ways to meet your teams virtually. It is a most useful platform to see your team’s moods and emotions. This is a great way to assure that your team is happy and deliverables are on time. Daily Scrum meetings and video conferencing over Skype and Zoom are the most valuable ways to build relationships with offshore teams.
Use Pictures and Videos
For Software developers’ regular communication through videos and calls are very significant. Since you are managing offshore teams so sharing screenshots and video conferences with visual presentations through doodle is substantial to understand what you are talking about.
Empower your offshore teams
Command and control structure has been an old fashioned strategy to manage teams. We have now moved to agile and adaptive systems while managing teams. One of the best practices to manage offshore teams is to move ahead of centralization instead, encouraging decentralization to come into play. Decision making at times follows the deeper hierarchy processes that lead to delays and hence demotivation in teams. In this high-tech world in order to alleviate the communication gap while managing teams we need to empower our offshore teams; so minimal processes can be followed and eventually will help in increasing the morale of employees.
Below are few other aspects that we need to take care of when managing offshore teams;
Don’t micromanage them
Treat them like you treat in-house team
Managing offshore teams does not mean that we have picked random people from different localities across the world, picked them and then put them together and anticipate they will deliver something exceptional. Adding senior members in their teams and imagining them as self-sustainable is not an ideal approach. We need to involve them in every kind of communication happening company-wide, involve them in team meetings and meet them online on a regular basis.
Acknowledge their achievements
As it is already mentioned in the above discussion that communication plays a very vital role in terms of managing offshore teams. Moreover, communication is a two-way process; if you are expecting from your offshore team members to share reports consistently then they are also expecting constructive feedback from your side. Always promote feedback oriented culture and if your team has done a great job do share your appreciation. If your teams have performed exceptionally well, do share valuable feedback with your offshore teams, entertain them with non-monetary rewards if possible.
Give them productive tasks
One of the major benefits of building offshore teams is that employers find the less expensive resource living miles away based on its demographics. But if you have found a low price resource, it does not mean they are incapable of doing complex tasks, it’s only because of the difference in the standard of living. It is not a good idea to engage them in unproductive projects. Treat them as a part of your team, and need to set your expectations high.
Keep their backlog full
Many times it so happens that developers get stuck and immediately need help. It must be a priority and that’s the last thing for developers to get stuck. Here communication is key that plays a part in such as a drowning man catches at a straw. Be vigilant in responding to such queries and informal communication can be the most effective way to communicate; be it chats over skype, slack, hangouts or IM.
Due to the difference in time zones occasionally these queries are not addressed timely, so another way to do it is to make their queue full.
Hire the Right Offshore Team
As it is a Software development company, we need to make the right choices when it comes to our preferences for building offshore teams. We need to scale up our desired job requirements, it can be communication skills, low cost, talented workforce, and cultural fit. We need to analyze our technical requirements as well when building such teams in different localities across the world.
Hire companies with representatives in your time zone (hybrid approach)
Time and again offshore teams have more experience and cost-effectiveness as compared to native resources. This has been endorsed by many international statistical reports, IT Outsourcing Statistical Report 2016-2017 is one of the testimonials. More than half of the people have been outsourced by various IT departments to hire resources on various technology stacks. However, the difference in time zones is always a challenge; some issues need to be addressed during office hours that become troublesome if it is ahead of 8 hours.
What if we keep it otherwise and manage all offshore teams during the same working hours it turns out to be constructive for our business. Hybrids are those companies registered and their teams located in the same time zones like that of clients. Many companies in the United States are following this hybrid model and anticipating it to be an efficient way to get their deliverables in a timely manner.
In a nutshell, companies are primarily looking for in-expensive ways of running their businesses and therefore as compared to the local market, offshore teams are economical for businesses.
Secondly, in this article prospects have been highlighted for those companies struggling or aspiring to be building offshore teams. By following the right choices, we can increase the productivity of our offshore teams. Building offshore teams is already proved to be a successful platform when it comes to the diversity of talents and requirements. We hope our recommendations will help and provide you a good impression on how you can make this happen.