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How To Effectively Manage An Offshore Team Of Developers

Offshore TeamsThere are probably two primary reasons you would go with an offshore team.

(1) Your customers are also offshore, or (2) you’re hoping to save money on development costs.

I’m going to assume your reason is number (2).  Though this post is brief for such a complicated topic, it should give you some things to think about.  Yes, you can certainly save a lot on development expenses. Then again, it can come back to bite you in rework expenses if there are communication issues.

How do you bridge the language barrier?
(1) You need a go-to guy or gal who speaks the same language as your developers but will be working at your location. This is a must. Your probability for success is going to go way up by ensuring there is no breakdown in communications.

How do you receive the quality of code you need?
(1) Use continuous integration
(2) Use test scripts to understand requirements
(3) Use short iterations
(4) Have regular builds
(5) Separate teams by functionality (not activity)

How do you communicate?
(1) If you can afford to send/bring someone (an ambassador) over to work with the other team at the beginning of the project, do it.
(2) It is critical that your “go-to” has a daily meeting with the team. Select a method that allows each side to see one another. (webcam/Skype)
(3) Have everyone use Skype (VoIP) and/or a chat client for one-on-one communications.
(4) Keep a Skype connection open between the offices.
(5) Use wikis or other collaborative solutions for common project information.
(6) Stay away from email, unless it is for formal communication. Information is going to get lost along the way and it will take longer to clarify.

Remember to use parallel communication methods, not serial.

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of Enterprise Engagements at LeadingAgile. I'm super focused on results. But I also take the hand waving out of organizational transformations. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

9 Responses to “How To Effectively Manage An Offshore Team Of Developers”

  1. November 20, 2009 at 4:26 am

    Derek, I like the fact that this post addresses a topic which is probably seen less talked about on blogs – offshore engagements and how to make it work. I applaud you on that. Secondly, I think you are dead on right that there should be a go-to person onsite. I am one of those people. I am an onsite program manager working at a clients facility in charge of the entire offshore wing (my team members). Been in this role for the past 7+ yrs. It is a crucial role for any outsourced model, from working through politics and resistances in the first 6 months to delivering and winning confidence to stabilizing the account and then moving onto an SLA-based long term partnership. While communication is the most obvious challenge, there are many more that come to light as the partnership matures. The key is to be process-oriented and any challenge can be overcome. I can go on and on about this but let me stop here. I would request that you read my post http://leadership.13apples.com/my-perfect-symphony/ to get a better insight into my role. Thank you. Hope to collaborate more.

    • Derek Huether
      November 20, 2009 at 1:12 pm

      Raj, thank you very much for your response. I’ve managed several projects where we had collocated teams and our greatest successes came when we embedded a teammate at the beginning of the project. It was well worth the expense.

      Best Regards,
      Derek

  2. November 20, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Derek, I like the fact that this post addresses a topic which is probably seen less talked about on blogs – offshore engagements and how to make it work. I applaud you on that. Secondly, I think you are dead on right that there should be a go-to person onsite. I am one of those people. I am an onsite program manager working at a clients facility in charge of the entire offshore wing (my team members). Been in this role for the past 7+ yrs. It is a crucial role for any outsourced model, from working through politics and resistances in the first 6 months to delivering and winning confidence to stabilizing the account and then moving onto an SLA-based long term partnership. While communication is the most obvious challenge, there are many more that come to light as the partnership matures. The key is to be process-oriented and any challenge can be overcome. I can go on and on about this but let me stop here. I would request that you read my post http://leadership.13apples.com/my-perfect-symphony/ to get a better insight into my role. Thank you. Hope to collaborate more.

    • Derek Huether
      November 20, 2009 at 9:12 am

      Raj, thank you very much for your response. I’ve managed several projects where we had collocated teams and our greatest successes came when we embedded a teammate at the beginning of the project. It was well worth the expense.

      Best Regards,
      Derek

  3. Derek Huether
    November 30, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Fabrice, thank you for your response. I hope others find my post useful. Regardless of the country, some challenges remain the same.

    Best Regards,
    Derek

  4. Derek Huether
    November 30, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Fabrice, thank you for your response. I hope others find my post useful. Regardless of the country, some challenges remain the same.

    Best Regards,
    Derek

  5. February 5, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Derek,excellent write up, saved the blog with hopes to read more information!

    Regards,
    Sam
    http://offshoreteam.in

    • Anonymous
      February 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      Sam, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve worked with distributed teams in India, Russia, and Denmark. It’s all about communications. I’m going to keep the link to your site so others can find you.

      Regards

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