Here are some tips for managing an offshore software development team.
Managing an in-house team for technical projects can be stressful, and this stress multiplies when projects are outsourced across different time zones. From getting accustomed to work-style, culture and time differences to maintaining budget and keeping teams on track, there are many concerns team leaders must face when working with offshore software development teams.
Though managing a globally distributed software development project is no easy feat, it's not impossible. Here are some tips for finding success.
Building corporate culture
A company's core values, behavior, relationship with employees and culture are considered its foundation. With the growing trend of outsourcing across different time zones, it’s vital to build an offshore corporate culture to make the outsourcing partner feel like part of the business.
A team of software developers in other regions should be treated and managed the same as in-house software development teams. This will make them feel more like part of the organization instead of just a hired vendor, which will drive them to work harder and be more committed.
Project heads should take time out for small talk with their team members, instead of just discussing a project’s requirements. Knowing remote employees on a personal level builds rapport with the team.
Employers should also show warmth towards their offshore software development partners by sending gifts like souvenirs, goodies or company merchandise. These will make them feel more connected to the organization. When workers step out of their comfort zone to fulfill requirements, they should be praised for their hard work and determination. An employer's appreciation often directly impacts an employee's performance.
Knowing overlap time and using shared calendars
The time difference is one of the biggest problems with IT outsourcing across different regions. Identify overlapping hours when both the offshore team and the main office will be available. There should be at least two overlapping hours for real-time exchange of information regarding project development, issues with the project, updates, demos and feedback.
Shared calendars like Google calendar can be utilized to keep track of upcoming local holidays or personal leaves of team members; this will aid in avoiding last-minute project interruptions.
Practicing agile management
An agile management model is widely used by software development companies dealing with globally distributed software development as this effectively addresses the time zone obstacles. Latest technologies offer a common workspace for team members where they connect, collaborate, share and find the information regarding the work to be done.
Making use of latest tools and technologies
Innumerable tools and technologies (Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime) have made communication much easier today. These not only enhance the interaction between the client and development team but also aid companies by explicitly conveying the expectations and goals to their offshore software development partners.
Maintaining constant communication
Effective and sensible communication with off-site project partners positively influences the productivity of the project. Goals, expectations and requirements of the project should be thoroughly described to the software development team members. The company vision needs to be explicitly explained and developers’ queries regarding the project should be properly answered to avoid confusion.
Take the language barrier into consideration; when dealing with a non-native speaker, don't talk exceedingly fast in English. Kickstart the outsourced engagement with a pilot project to work out the communication kinks, and then proceed to the key project.
Employing source code repositories
When working with software development team members residing in different countries and continents, it’s essential to employ a common source code and version control system. This step is crucial to ensure that all team members are working on the latest source code to avoid any sort of conflict.
Scheduling daily/weekly meetings
Meetings with team members should be well planned and properly scheduled; look out for overlapping hours of team members and arrange meetings at a time when all members will be available. Online meetings via networks like Skype or Google Hangouts should be scheduled to discuss the progress of the project and analyze problems faced in the development process. Meetings can last from 15 to 30 minutes depending on the problems discussed.
Setting emergency numbers
There should be an emergency number for both the project manager and the offshore team, which should be available to all partners. That way, both ends can contact the other directly and makes sure that they'll be available at short notice in case of an emergency.