Leading from Afar: Best Practices for Managing an Outsourced Development Team
You've managed to hire your dream outsourced development team, and now you’re left wondering - what’s next? Nervousness is understandable, especially when you’re trusting your resources to a team hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away. Whether it's an internal team or an outsourcing development team you've chosen to hire, the process can be equally seamless if you abide by the tips and tricks detailed in this article. This guide assumes that you’ve made the right choice in selecting your software development partner for hire.
If you're still in the process of figuring out how to hire a software development team, check out our comprehensive article.
What are the essentials for a smooth collaboration with your outsourced development team?
Once you've managed to hire a software development team, the next crucial step is establishing a smooth and efficient collaboration process. So, what are the essentials of effective collaboration with your outsourced team?
Communication & Transparency
Effective collaboration with your outsourcing team is paramount, and it begins with Communication & Transparency.
Recall your favorite team sport - be it football, basketball, or even cricket. Have you ever noticed a team brimming with individual talent that somehow struggles to deliver? Why does that happen? It's often because while raw skill is essential, effective communication and team synergy is equally, if not more, crucial. This concept applies to working with your hired development team as well.
Simply providing the project requirements to your outsourcing team is not enough. Constant, clear communication is vital when managing an outsourced team. It's an essential part of ensuring transparency, which is the bedrock of trust between your company and the outsourced development team you hire.
In our guide on how to outsource software development projects, we emphasized the significance of transparency - it forms the core of a trust-based relationship. Transparency must come from both sides: your company and the outsourcing team. Ensure that you communicate the complete narrative about project requirements, goals, potential blockers, and constraints. When your outsource development company is fully informed from the start, it enhances efficiency and reduces the risk of altering project parameters midstream.
An integral part of fostering transparency is assimilating the outsourced team into your internal team. Make sure they feel welcome and comfortable interacting with your team. Various methods can improve communication, and we'll dive into the details shortly.
Aligning Visions for Success with Your Outsourced Development Team
While it sounds simple, aligning your vision with that of the software development team, you hire can significantly impact your project's success. When you outsource a team, it's not just about technical competence; it's also about shared values, vision, and work ethic.
As a custom software development partner, we've seen that the most successful projects are those where both our team and the client have a comprehensive understanding of the project's purpose, the problems it aims to solve, and the desired outcomes.
Creating this shared vision isn't just a one-off task. It's a continual process that begins even before you officially start the project. We recommend holding an initial meeting with everyone involved, presenting your objectives and expectations clearly and transparently. This meeting is a critical step in ensuring that your hired software development team is fully aligned with your vision.
Remember, when you outsource a team, it's not just about getting the job done. It's about creating a partnership that understands your vision and works collectively towards it.
Clarifying Roles: The Blueprint for Managing Your Outsourced Development Team
The first step in successfully managing an outsourced development team is clearly defining roles and responsibilities. Understanding who is in charge of what, who to escalate issues to, and the scope of each role can profoundly impact your outsourced software development project's success.
Initially, make sure your internal team's roles are clearly defined, especially in relation to your outsourced team. A recommended approach is assigning a Project Owner (PO) from your end. Acting as a liaison between you (the client) and the software development partner, the Product Owner should be well-versed with the project's requirements and capable of fostering professional and interpersonal relationships with the outsourced team.
Next, communicate with your outsourced partner to establish their roles. They should assign a point of contact, such as an account manager or service delivery manager. This individual's responsibility typically involves ensuring high-quality work and managing the outsourcing relationship.
By defining clear roles and responsibilities, both internally and for your outsourced team, you set a firm foundation for smooth collaboration and successful project completion.
Building and Sustaining Exceptional Collaboration: Your Guide to Outsourced Team Management
Simple, constant communication
Establishing and maintaining effective communication with your outsourced development team is paramount for successful collaboration. With today’s technology, time and distances are rapidly losing relevance. However, this doesn't lessen the need for clear and constant interaction. Firstly, simple and consistent communication is essential. If your organization employs internal chat applications such as Slack, Skype, or WhatsApp, request that your partner set up a similar channel for immediate communication. This serves several beneficial purposes:
- Asynchronous Nature: Chat apps allow you to send a message without requiring an immediate response, eliminating the need to coordinate schedules for a call. This convenience means anyone can pose a question, with the understanding that responses may not be immediate but will come as soon as someone is available.
- Idea Structuring: The act of writing helps clarify thoughts and articulate ideas more effectively. While formulating your question or problem in writing, you achieve a more precise understanding or even realize that the issue is not as significant as it initially appeared.
- Relationship Building: Chat groups often create a more relaxed environment for team interaction. They provide a platform for exchanging ideas, quick responses to queries, and even injecting some light-hearted fun with emojis or memes.
Daily catch-up calls
Set up daily catch-up calls. A brief 15-20 minute call to discuss the day's central development focus, gauge team morale, and identify any potential obstacles can provide a much-needed level of transparency and connection.
However, these catch-up calls should not replace the team's daily stand-up meetings. Stand-up meetings or scrums are opportunities for the team to align on the previous day's work, understand current tasks, identify any issues, and brainstorm solutions.
Backlog refinement meetings
Imagine working with an architect for your future dream home. Would you like to not hear from him until the project is done, or to have regular meetings in which he checks that the look & feel and the requirements of the project haven’t changed, that your expectations are met throughout the project, and more?
Software development teams that work agile do something similar, called backlog refinement. Just as an architect regularly updates you on the progress of your dream home construction, these meetings provide opportunities to reassess project objectives, clarify requirements, and address blockers. If you have a Product Owner, things are heavily simplified as he should know your requirements inside-out, and he should be able to efficiently communicate them to the outsourced development team.
Let’s get back to your dream house comparison, where you are now in the construction phase. An efficient way here would be to slice the project into multiple stages like the foundation, structure, electrical and water infrastructure, and so on.
Much like the construction phases of a house, software development teams divide projects into 'sprints' or stages. After each sprint, the team organizes a review meeting to discuss and analyze the work accomplished, ensuring alignment with the project's objectives and vision.
Fostering Team Synergy with Face-to-Face Meetings
While digital communication tools bring your outsourced development team closer regardless of distance, nothing replaces the personal connection and team spirit fostered through face-to-face meetings. Depending on your outsourced team's location, organizing these meetings may be more or less challenging, but their benefits are worth the effort.
At least once or twice a year, consider visiting your outsourced software development team. These visits offer invaluable opportunities to deepen interpersonal relationships, reinforce the pursuit of shared objectives, and even unwind with team activities. By interacting directly, you can see firsthand the working environment, get a feel for the team culture, and better appreciate the individuals contributing to your project.
A visit to your outsourced team can also be an enriching cultural experience. Many popular outsourcing destinations, like Cluj-Napoca in Eastern Europe, combine a thriving IT sector with a rich history, vibrant culture, and excellent transportation links. You can learn more about such outsourcing hubs in our comprehensive blog article.
In essence, face-to-face meetings are not just about confirming that you've made the right choice to hire a software development team; they are also about celebrating shared successes and forging stronger bonds for future collaboration.
How to check your software development team is doing what they need to do?
A common concern when you hire a development team is ensuring they're meeting their objectives effectively. If you've chosen the right outsourced team, this should naturally occur, as they'll likely have built-in processes aligned with their work culture. However, to keep a pulse on progress and maintain confidence in your outsource development companies, follow these steps:
- Establish Clear Expectations: Start by communicating your vision, objectives, and expectations transparently. The more your outsourced team understands your project's goals, the better they can align their work.
- Appoint a Project Owner: Assign a Project Owner who knows the project in detail. Acting as the liaison between you and the outsourced team, this individual plays a vital role in ensuring alignment and efficient communication.
- Service Delivery Management: Request a dedicated Service Delivery Manager from the outsourcing team. This person will be responsible for ensuring the quality of work and managing the outsourcing relationship.
- Create a Communication Channel: Set up a group chat or similar platform for easy communication. This could be via Slack, Skype, WhatsApp, or another platform of your choice. Regular, informal communication enhances responsiveness and fosters strong relationships between your internal team and the outsourced team.
- Implement Daily Catch-Up Calls: Arrange a daily catch-up call to review daily objectives, workload, and potential challenges. These can be directly between you and the outsourced team or between the Project Owner and the team if you're time-poor.
- Participate in Backlog Refinement Meetings: Regularly reassess project objectives, clarify requirements, and identify any blockers. This helps ensure the project stays on track and priority issues are addressed promptly.
- Attend Sprint Review Meetings: These sessions analyze and review completed work, providing an opportunity for feedback and adjustments. If you have a Project Owner, they can attend these meetings on your behalf.
- Organize Face-to-Face Meetings: Regular in-person meetings boost team cohesion, reinforce interpersonal relationships, and provide an excellent opportunity for you to see firsthand how your outsourced team operates.
- Use a Product Management Tool: Having a tool that allows you or your Product Owner to track project progress in real-time can be a game-changer.
At Ontegra, all the activities mentioned above are integral parts of our operation, aimed at maximizing work efficiency and client satisfaction. If you're seeking a skilled, transparent, and experienced software development outsourcing partner, don't hesitate to get in touch via our contact form or schedule a call with us.