Distributed engineering teams: How to make most of it?
N-iX
2022-04-01T14:39:25+00:00

Lack of talent is a pressing issue of the decade. The latest data shows that by 2030 vendors worldwide risk losing $8.4T of potential income due to talent shortage [1]. In the times of remote workforce, the search for relevant software development expertise is no longer limited by location. As for 2...

Distributed engineering teams: How to make most of it?

Lack of talent is a pressing issue of the decade. The latest data shows that by 2030 vendors worldwide risk losing $8.4T of potential income due to talent shortage [1]. In the times of remote workforce, the search for relevant software development expertise is no longer limited by location. As for 2021, 60% of global tech companies already outsource at least part of their projects to external specialists. Top enterprises like Google, Opera, and Apple choose to delegate their development processes to distributed engineering teams. So, what is a distributed team? How to hire, scale, and manage it efficiently? Let’s find out in our article.

Why adopt a distributed team model? 

Distributed team model is an IT staff augmentation method that presupposes hiring engineers from other countries or even continents. Depending on your project objectives, you can opt for a fully or partially distributed team. Companies partner with foreign IT outsourcing vendors to find a ready-to-work team or specific experts that will fill in tech gaps.

Outsourcing software development brings you obvious advantages, namely:

  • Hiring IT experts with a relevant skillset. With access to global talent pool, you can hire top specialists in the industries and technologies you require. Only Eastern Europe is home to 1.1M tech professionals. Poland boasts the largest talent pool among the EE countries — 330,000 engineers. It is followed by Ukraine (200,000 IT experts) and Romania (131,000).

  • Cost-effectiveness. As stated in the Consultancy.eu report, having your team work remotely will reduce your operational costs by one third. Within the distributed team model, you don’t have to pay for office facilitation and maintenance. In addition, since team recruitment and HR processes will be on the partner’s side, you will have IT professionals selected for you and save your costs on staffing.

  • Round-the-clock coverage. Another benefit of scaling your teams across different time zones is the 24/7 project coverage. The distribution of your workforce increases the active working hours due to a bigger number of shifts.

Time zone differences tableAt the same time, building and managing remote teams may stern some challenges. We gathered the most common team distribution issues and provided you with tips on how to be one step ahead of threats.

Distributed engineering teams: how to mitigate risks 

The right choice of partner and well-orchestrated management are keys to productive cooperation without delays and collapses. To avoid crises, business executives have to synchronize development processes, control staff turnover, and establish effective communication.

So, how can you implement a distributed team model and not fail? Let’s look through possible outsourcing pitfalls and learn how to avoid them.

Opt for a reliable partner

Choosing a trusted company for outsourcing will eliminate most potential risks such as durable HR cycles, poor service quality, and security threats. Here is the checklist that will help you to make the best scaling decision:

  • Learn about the vendor’s employer brand. Make sure that your partner delivers good corporate experience. You might prefer to collaborate with companies that take high positions in the local ESAT lists, for instance, DOU or Glassdoor rankings.
    Issue prevented: High staff morale guarantees that employees are less likely to change jobs, so you invest in long-term collaboration.
  • A company’s size is important in terms of team scaling. The larger the vendor, the more IT experts are available for services delegation. Keep in mind that with medium and large-size companies you will start staffing and orientation very quickly.
    What you get: You avoid the durable and exhaustive search for expertise and hire straight ahead.
  • Pay attention to the vendor’s cybersecurity standards. Your partner should ensure secure development and data encryption according to international security guidelines. It is a good idea to cooperate with companies that adhere to ISO, PCI DSS, and HIPAA frameworks.
    Risks mitigated: Adequate cybersecurity policy will prevent security breaches, disclosures, and data losses.
  • Assess the company’s prior cooperation record. Long-lasting partnerships with top global businesses are a sign of the partner’s reliability. While choosing an outsourcing vendor, take success stories, client reviews, and video testimonials into account. 
    Value for you: Excellent reputation excludes the risk of negligence and failure during your joint project.

Three-step model to hiring an offshore partner

Minimize staff turnover

Hardly any executive wants to onboard and offboard employees every other month. However, according to LinkedIn 2021 study, the software development industry has a turnover rate of 13.2%. It is the highest figure among all domains. To build durable collaboration with your distributed team members, pay attention to the employer brand of your potential outsourcing vendor. Since all the HR processes are on your partner’s side, the company should have an impeccable employer reputation. You might refer to global rankings that recognize top IT employers, such as Forbes 50 best employers list. Moreover, don’t forget to check local recognition ratings. For instance, for Ukraine, it’s the DOU “Best place to work” report, while Mexican vendors are ranked in the Great Place to Work Mexico Institute reports.

We recommend digging deeper and scanning your potential partner for professional growth opportunities, compensation rates, and corporate benefits. Last but not least – check the vendor’s turnover rate. A high index is a red flag, meaning the vendor loses to other market players in terms of ESAT.

What you avoid: Keeping your team nucleus the same, saves time and resources you will spend on onboarding and orientation.

Establish a communication framework

Team synchronization and communication are keys to achieving common project goals. In the world of remote, managers have to pay special attention to vertical and horizontal interactions in the team. It is vital that every distributed team member understands the role of others, and is given healthy systematic feedback. Retrospective and problem-solving meetings, brainstorming sessions, 1-1 with managers, and team standups will help you keep all the processes in check.

The DOU survey states that 68% of Ukrainian top and project managers schedule video calls several times per day. To keep things clear, try to set up regular syncs with your team, even in cases of considerable time zone differences. You can use communication tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. These three messengers are leaders in the Clutch list of collaboration tools, with 36%, 19%, and 17% of engineers using them daily.  

Collaboration tools tableAnother crucial aspect is the English level of your team members. English proficiency is a must for fruitful communication as well as soft skills. It is a good idea to check the EF EPI Index of your outsourcing destination before you decide to scale there. 

Problem solved: With a responsible approach to team communication, you will be able to promptly react to blockers and anticipate critical issues.

Keep reading: How to streamline communication with your remote development team

Share knowledge regularly

Do not underestimate the role of knowledge transfer. Unify your distributed engineering teams in terms of project data, documentation, and records. After performing the initial demo, be sure to include tech talks, Q&A sessions, and seminars into your strategic plan. To tap into each other’s experiences even deeper, team members may use pairing up techniques such as remote pair programming. 

Moreover, a well-elaborated knowledge library will be a backup for your software developers in case they need to check on any aspect of the project. According to Atlassian, 54% of Fortune 500 vendors choose Confluence as their knowledge base. However, storage options may vary according to your needs: you can choose from trusted ZenDesk to trending Notion. 

Issue mitigated: Properly functioning knowledge sharing will minimize discrepancies in project vision and as a result, prevent errors.

Related: Effective knowledge transfer plan: how to move IT outsourcing projects to a new vendor

Align your workflows 

Be consistent while delegating software development to distributed engineering teams. Having several external teams under your control sometimes leads to differences in the development environment. Set a common development ground by using the same technologies and coding practices across all of your distributed teams. 

It might seem obvious, but make sure that all team members use the common vocabulary for tech concepts. Coming from several destinations, your engineers may use different terms within one scaling framework. By compiling a common tech glossary you will avoid misinterpretation and confusion during the development process.

What you avoid: Unified approach to all your distributed teams will help you prevent long release cycles, inefficient bug detection, problems with code integration, and many more.

Success story: extending the development team for top UK retailer

PrettyLittleThing is one of the top players in the fashion retail market. The company was recognized by Hitwise as one of the top three fastest-growing fashion companies. As the business developed, their ecommerce solution needed new automated integrations. N-iX managed to find the relevant expertise within a short time frame and quickly level up the client’s development potential.

This collaboration was an example of a partially distributed team. Our engineers extended two different core teams and filled in the gaps in PHP, JavaScript frameworks, AWS stack, and other expertise. The main challenges were to set up an effective communication network and synchronize both development teams. We succeeded in integration with the client’s teams by implementing the Agile framework and coordinating the tech stack alignment.

As a result, together we developed a custom solution that allowed us to automatically export a wide array of products from Excel Spreadsheets to the client’s ecommerce platform. Also, we helped the client to build a secure AWS Lambda-based cloud environment.

Read more: Software Development Partnership with PrettyLittleThing - a Leading Fashion Retailer in the UK

Wrap-up

The success of development with a distributed engineering team mainly depends on your primary decision on who to collaborate with. Thorough analysis and comparison of proven collaboration record, employer branding, and industry recognition of several potential outsourcing partners will help you avoid outsourcing pitfalls.

After you establish a reliable partnership, do not hesitate to take management chores into your hands. Setting up an effective communication framework, knowledge sharing, and workflow unification will keep all of your distributed team specialists on the same page. 

Why build distributed engineering teams with N-iX?

  • N-iX is one of the leading Eastern European software development companies with 20+ years of engineering experience;
  • Our list of partners includes Lebara, Grainger, Fluke, Gogo, and other global market leaders with whom we have a long-term collaboration record;
  • The company is chosen by 1,700+ experienced engineers whose industry expertise span telecom, healthcare, fintech, and other domains;
  • We provide multi-dimensional IT services including software product development, team extension, building dedicated development teams, product discovery, software Q&A, and many more;
  • N-iX is well-recognized in the industry — we appeared in DOU, CRN, and ISG rankings and were listed third in the Forbes top 50 Ukrainian employers report.

Contact an expert

References:
1. Korn Ferry, Future of Work. The Global Talent Crunch report

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By Marta Khort April 01, 2022

About N-iX

N-iX is an Eastern European software development service company that helps businesses across the globe expand their engineering capabilities and develop successful software products. Founded in 2002, N-iX has formed strategic partnerships with a variety of global industry leaders and Fortune 500 companies, including OpenText, Fluke Corporation, AVL, Lebara, Currencycloud, TuneIn, and many others. With more than 1,800 professionals, N-iX offers expert solutions in software engineering, cloud-native services, data analytics, embedded software, IoT, machine learning, and other tech domains covering a wide variety of sectors, including finance, manufacturing, telecom, supply chain, to name a few.

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