How to Manage Offshore Software Development: 6 Lessons Learned

Remote development is trending.

Imagine: there’s no need to take care of hiring developers, your remote team will do everything for you. 

And your future team should be…professional? Experienced? Sometimes this is not enough. 

Many have concerns about managing the remote team. But it is not that scary at all.

So how to manage a development team? 

We have been developing outsourced projects for almost ten years and we are ready to share our experience. We are going to tell you about six aspects to pay attention to when making your remote team management successful.

Managing offshore development teamsManaging offshore development teams

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Remote Team?

Working with remote employees provides companies with an opportunity to attract diverse talent and create an experienced team.

As a product owner, you can reduce development costs and focus on other important tasks such as marketing or advertising of your product.

Pros and Cons of Hiring an Offshore Software Development Pros and Cons of Hiring an Offshore Software Development

Checking the Reliability of a Company

Trust is probably the biggest issue when it comes to hiring a remote team. And that’s not surprising – people sitting thousands of miles away are working on your precious product and you might feel that you don’t have enough control over them.

It is OK to have concerns, especially when you are just starting. First and foremost, you don’t have to trust a development company by default.

Second, you need to check the team’s:

Expertise

They should have been developing products for several years and should have a solid portfolio to prove it.

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Transparency

Your PM should give you all the required information: who the developers are, what exactly they are working on, how the processes are organized and what they plan to do next.

managing offshore development: transparency checkboxmanaging offshore development: transparency checkbox

Honesty

We have to admit – it is okay to have issues in the process of software development, even if you were lucky enough to find the right company. 

At the beginning of the collaboration, your team should warn you about all the possible risks.

A good project manager will inform you about both the ups and the downs: There is nothing wrong in talking about challenges. Ideally, your PM should come to you with plans on how to turn these encountered challenges into solutions.

Must-read: Starting an online marketplace: in-house development vs outsourcing

Openness & Friendliness

Yes, it’s not about tech expertise. But very often our clients say that the friendliness of our team is equally important. It’s great if your team always stays in touch, is ready to host in their company and is open to visit your headquarters as well.

how to manage offshore development team: friendlinesshow to manage offshore development team: friendliness

How Do You Manage the Development Process?

I wouldn’t say that development team management is a real weakness when working with a remote team, but you surely have to keep an eye on managing your team. Likewise, shouldn’t you care about your management with an outsourced team?

The Main Tips on How to Manage Offshore Development Team

Task management

Usually, we use task management applications that allow us to pin tasks to particular co-workers and monitor their performance. Most tasks apps look like a virtual board, where you can create the lists of tasks that are needed to be done, in progress, or finished.

Using task management apps, you are killing two birds with one stone: you work with developers from different time zones and control the status of the tasks. In Sloboda Studio, we are mostly using JIRA and Trello boards to track our tasks.

Regular meetings

Daily stand-ups, weekly meetings, monthly sync-ups – as much as you need to get a clear vision of the working process and software development team management.

Here are some things we practice in Sloboda Studio:

  • Daily stand-ups – short (up to 15 minutes) meetings every day where the team talks through their daily tasks. 
  • Weekly meetings – a team summarizes the results of the week and plans tasks for the upcoming week, team members suggest improvements.
  • Monthly sync-ups – summing up results over the month, planning further tasks and discussing the client’s feedback.

Calls over chats

If possible, of course. Video calls allow you to get more contact with your developers, build confidence and create a friendly working aura.

how to manage offshore development team: tipshow to manage offshore development team: tips

Check out: 9 tips on how to manage a distributed team

Time Difference – Issue or Not?

While working with offshore development teams, some clients have concerns about the time difference. Some of our clients used to be worried about issues with synchronization of teamwork and some were afraid of having less control.

But in practice, we see that different time zones may even be beneficial to your business and cooperation.

A case study from our practice:

Our Canadian clients, Cambridge Brain Sciences, have a time difference of 7 hours from us. Anyway, they tout this as an advantage. As they start their workday at 9 AM, our team has all the daily tasks done by that time. 

How to increase productivity in different time zones:

Match your schedules

If your project requires a full synchronization, you might find a team that is OK with flexible work hours and can accept your schedule. It’s likely that you’ll have to invest in this adaptability.

Hire a “proxy” teammate

If you are in California and your team is in Eastern Europe, communication may be a little tricky. Several years ago there was a trendy approach to this by hiring a teammate somewhere in the middle – for example, from Germany; though, such an approach is a little outdated now, as far as modern management focuses on expertise.

Advanced work planning

From our experience, this tends to be the most reasonable approach. Plan the sprints and use task trackers so your employees will always be aware of their tasks. Make your teammates send you reports. Update them with edits. Send follow-ups. Create a document with important info, links, contacts, etc. Everyone should know where to find information or whom to ask.

How Do You Reduce Misunderstandings?

Here at Sloboda Studio, we are sure that a clear goal is the keystone of successful project implementation and offshore development management.

First things first – you, as a product owner have to thoroughly describe your product vision.

Obviously, your manager is going to ask for further clarification.

how to manage offshore development team: misunderstandingshow to manage offshore development team: misunderstandings

To avoid the phenomenon of knowledge blindness, always conduct a discovery phase.

Though this stage appears as the most underrated part of managing offshore development, do not skip it as it helps you to see all the pitfalls so you can avoid them successfully.

Your cooperation with the project manager should result in:

  • Сlear vision of your goals
  • Planned tasks and estimates
  • Scope for improvement and possible challenges of the project
  • Specification and work plan

This is important when the team not only performs tasks but works on a project as a whole. Understanding of what their client wants changes the game and helps to get a quality result.

Recommended: What is the difference between successful and unsuccessful outsourced projects?

Facing Cultural Differences: How Can You Make It Comfy?

Managing offshore development teams may surprise you with cultural differences. 

People from various countries have different attitudes towards social patterns, family, lifestyle, and…work processes.

how to manage offshore development team: cultural differenceshow to manage offshore development team: cultural differences

Some cultural differences you may face:

Level of openness

Will your team keep their opinions to themselves or voice them to you? Dutch are very open, however, people in Asia tend to be less open, especially when it comes to contradicting a boss or project manager. Sometimes it is worth asking people to be more proactive.

The habit of making promises

Another case: Indian people always say ‘yes’, even if the answer is ‘not sure’ or ‘no’. In this case, you will need to emphasize that the honest answer saves time, while the incentive to please the client won’t make you happy in the end.

Tasks and goals orientation

People in the West are often task and goal-oriented. They want to get their stuff done. 

Friendliness

In Asia, people are very social and believe in building long term relationships: they would rather spend several months fostering the relationship before granting a project to a new vendor.

Fear of uncertainty

Swedish people are less strict when it comes to the details of the tasks. Actually, this is the case from our experience: our Swedish clients were OK with specifying the tasks during the work process, meanwhile, we are used to planning the tasks ahead, so sometimes we have to adjust to some cultural differences as described above.

In Sloboda studio, we believe that a lot of challenges can be solved with solid planning, constant communication and regular meetings.

Are you looking for a team to bring your idea to life? Just ping us for a free consultation.

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