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Five tips to improve an offshore team

Using an offshore team can save time and money, but if used ineffectively, they can cost more than they save. Here are five tips on how to use offshore development teams effectively.

Due to the obvious merits of lower operational costs, availability in varied skill sets, no need to bill for training and improved productivity, more and more organizations today use offshore partners to complement their onshore development team. But despite these advantages, if the offshore resources are not leveraged properly, the onshore teams won't benefit from them in its entirety. Here are five tips organizations can employ that will assist them to get the most out of their use of offshore development teams.

Identify and share

Irrespective of whether the offshore team consists of a single person or many individuals, it is vital to define and share the delivery plan at the inception of the project. For the sake of simplicity, the assignments with estimates and timelines shared in an excel sheet is sufficient. The columns in it could include work or module description, low-level component definition, offshore resource name, start date, end date, percentage of completion, and issues or comments. It is also important to get their feedback on the shared document and make necessary modifications. This should be used as the baseline document for tracking purposes between the teams. This exercise not only helps in having a closer control on the offshore team’s progress, but also brings a heightened sense of responsibility in them.

Inform and educate

Take an interest in knowing the team members, and become familiar with their strengths and weaknesses.

Provide as much information to the offshore team members as possible. Educate them about the client organization, their business and their expectations. Enunciate the business benefits the project that they are working on will bring to the client and the delivery organization. Impart as much relevant information about the project as possible to the offshore members, as they’re totally removed from the action. There is nothing more exciting and fulfilling to team members than seeing the difference their efforts are making to the business.

Communicate and conquer

Take an interest in knowing the offshore team members and become familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. Do not assume that the offshore team will implement the project right to the last detail using the shared requirements document. It could result in a half-baked product and stressed environment, which could be avoided with clear communication of requirements and design. Involve them in brainstorming sessions, ask for their ideas and consult them about process improvements.

Email with visual aids or screenshots should be used widely during the solution development. Email communication is also helpful to get the daily progress from the team. Conducting daily meetings through Skype or phone during their evenings is useful to discuss and clarify a requirement or design gap, know about the showstoppers to be communicated to other teams and suggest a different approach when they face a roadblock while working on a solution. This would bring about trust and clarity between the teams.

Review and test

Implement peer review and a weekly review process on the completed portion of code. This is critical to ensure the implemented solution meets the requirement and design specifications. It also helps to identify and track unhandled corner cases, developer and security bugs. Challenge the team by throwing a friendly competition to identify as many bugs as possible. Integration and unit testing done as part of the development cycle should be properly documented with the test case executed to pass percentage. Identifying and fixing defects at an early stage guarantees a better code quality from the offshore team.

Recognize and incentivize

Recognition is an important team building technique, and if it comes from on-site, it gives an added significance. At every milestone, send a congratulatory email by copying senior managers and all the teams involved. Identify and exercise reward giving practices including spot recognition of the offshore team members on any task that is well-done. Since these add weightage in their performance reviews with a direct correlation to their promotion and bonus, the motivated offshore team will work harder and to the best of their abilities. Another way of rewarding consistent offshore team performers is by letting them know of the prospect of transitioning them from offshore to onshore.

The addition of offshore resources is one of the easiest ways for organizations to stretch their IT dollars, and by using these tips, it is possible to bring out the best from the offshore development and delivery team.   

What techniques do you use to get the most out of your offshore development team? Let us know.

Next Steps:
Why onshore outsourcing might work for you
Seven things to know about offshore outsourcing
Challenges in operational availability

This was last published in April 2016

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