According to Gallup, 57% of the IT industry in the USA is outsourced. There are a lot of reasons for it. Not only is outsourcing more efficient, but also more cost-effective, so it has become a global trend. However, remote cooperation poses a challenge to the managerial process in terms of communication. How to avoid misunderstandings, unmet expectations from both sides, and make cooperation with your remote development team successful? Let’s find out.
Transfer knowledge to your remote development team
Unshared knowledge has a negative impact on the team's productivity and your bottom line. You should ensure that both your in-house and your remote teams are on the same page in terms of important processes, workflows, and tasks. It's true, much of the project knowledge is recorded and can be accessible via technical documentation, spreadsheets, how-to guides, presentations, etc. But still the most unique info resides in people’s heads. And it is important to find a way to capture and share this unique knowledge your employees gain through experience and insider learning.
To avoid reinventing a wheel and duplicating other people's work, teams should exchange some well-established best practices not only via documentation but also via regular Q&A sessions, live trainings, one-one meetings, tech talks, etc. This way, you can ensure that your employees have access to the information they need to do their job well without wasting time.
Promote knowledge sharing
The motivation of your remote developers to acquire new knowledge and share it is to your best interest. Not only should you support their initiatives to share knowledge, but also actively encourage it.
For example, Lebara, a global telecom, and N-iX created the culture of knowledge-sharing on a project, both in formal and a learn-at-lunch mode. To efficiently transfer knowledge, Lebara’s subject matter experts conduct frequent tech talks. The practice was adopted within N-iX teams. As a result, once a week, there are half-an-hour long tech talks where everyone can speak about the area they know. That allowed growing expertise within a project and creating a cross-functional team. As a result, N-iX created the development centre for Lebara (+100 people) that consolidates a wide range of expertise – software development, quality assurance, business intelligence development and operations, application support, database administration, infrastructure support – everything is in one place.
Integrate coding practices
There are different coding practices, so you have to know whether yours and your developers’ vision on what is to be done are the same. Clarify all aspects such as if they comment on their code, or not; to which data structure they are accustomed, etc. beforehand. This step will help to avoid miscommunication from the very beginning.
Build relationships and trust
Proper communication with the offshore development team is essential for fruitful cooperation. Do not forget that your remote developers are still part of your team, and they are important.
You have to be interested in your dedicated team and share all the information with them. Otherwise, they can lose the motivation to perform well. Regular meetings, which are presupposed within the Scrum framework, will help tackle communication issues.
As Agile manifesto states: individual interactions are more important than processes and tools. So be agile. The human factor is of high priority on the path of a good result.
Set ground rules
As easy as it is, but following simple rules can make a difference. For instance, if addressing is highly formal - we use emails; if it is more personal - Skype/Slack. Set a particular time for meetings, etc.
Decide on channels of communication, which will be suitable for all of you. Luckily for us, distance is no longer an obstacle to collaboration. There is a bunch of services and tools, which assist us in managing the remote software development team. We will cover them later in this article.
Help the team members who are new to remote work
Remote work is challenging to manage. Especially challenging it can get if team members have no prior experience in it. Make sure that there is a person in a collective, who is capable of assisting them in organizational matters in case you are not available. Helping them overcoming difficulties is of your best interest.
Do not skip meetings with your remote developers. Answer the questions as soon as possible. Keep track of the work being done. Do not leave your remote developers all alone just because you do not see them every day.
The quickest way to keep up with the work is organizing regular video-calls. You can arrange it in Skype for Business, Zoom, and Google Hangouts. However, each one has its cons. The quality of connection in Skype, for instance, leaves much to be desired sometimes. Zoom is free only for the first 40 minutes, which is often not enough to arrange everything. Google Hangouts lacks the function of sending files.
Use time difference to your advantage
There are cases when the question is not how to communicate, but when to do it. Time difference poses stern challenges, but they are possible to overcome. What you need to do is find overlaps in the schedules with your remote software development team and plan your work relying on that. On condition that all members of the process are highly motivated - it will not be an obstacle to a good result.
For instance, American company Gogo - ongoing client of N-iX and a leading provider of in-flight connectivity and entertainment. Their office is situated in Chicago, USA, which means 8-hour time difference with Ukraine. Real-time communication is possible only a few hours per day. Despite this fact, N-iX remote developers were engaged in Big Data, BI operations and support and other spheres.
Moreover, you can turn your weakness into power: your remote development team works, when you sleep and vice versa. This means that the project is controlled 24/7, which is your advantage.
Hire the right people
One of the main concerns that bother most CTOs and other decision-makers in terms of hiring remote developers is that diverse cultural background can interfere with efficient communication. This, as a result, can affect cooperation.
Eastern and Western ways of thinking differ significantly, which can be a reason for miscommunication. People in the East do not easily compromise nor question the long-practiced traditions. Western people are more flexible, accordingly, more comfortable to cooperate.
Eastern Europe, where Ukraine belongs, however, is something in between. We are more conservative than western people but are willing to consider other ways of thinking.
Use effective collaboration and communication tools
Tools such as Jira, Trello, and others are used for issue tracking and project management. Jira is suitable for larger software development projects and was designed specifically for the Agile framework.
Trello, in its turn, has broader usage outside the IT industry and is used mainly for smaller projects.
In terms of messaging, you can use Slack and Skype. Both are used for different business sizes but have their peculiarities. The former has a wide variety of features, such as chat, file transferring, commenting, and many others. It is, however, more expensive. The latter has a file management function and is cheaper. You are to decide what works better for you.
Meet your remote developers in person
No matter how developed modern technologies are, nothing will replace real-life conversation. Try to gather your team together at least once in a while.
The advantageous geographical position is one of the reasons why IT outsourcing is flourishing in Ukraine.
Your success depends on how efficiently you build relationships and communication with your developers. You can either work in a healthy environment or be under constant stress because things do not work in the way they should.
All sides of the communication process need to listen to each other and respect each other. They have to keep in mind that they have a common aim – a good result of their cooperation.
Having it in mind, you also have to stick to certain rules concerning the communication process. Use project management tools, such as Jira, Trello or others. Choose convenient channels of messaging. But most importantly - do not be afraid of possible difficulties. Global practice shows that hiring a remote team is beneficial to your business. So go ahead and find your dedicated developers!