A blog about software development best practices, how-tos, and tips from practitioners.

4 Best Practices that Enable Seamless Communication in Offshore Agile Teams

4 Best Practices that Enable Seamless Communication in Offshore Agile Teams

Imagine a scenario where the airplane pilot doesn’t have a standard mechanism to communicate with the air traffic control. Scary, right? It is the pilot’s responsibility to ensure safe operation of the aircraft, while air traffic control is responsible for maintaining the safe, systematic, and efficient flow of air traffic throughout the global air traffic control system. The two must work flawlessly, in sync to fulfill their respective responsibilities and ensure a safe travel for airline passengers. Similarly, in any offshore development relationship, both parties will have a different lens on the requirements, depending on the side of the relationship that they represent.

A key to a successful outsourcing relationship is seamless communication on priorities and information requirements. As in the above example, clear communication between an airline pilot (client) and air traffic control (offshoring partner) defines a set of responsibilities for each party that is critical to achieving the ultimate goal, of safe air travel.

Nevertheless, it is very easy for distributed teams to fall into communication traps that shift the project away from its goal. Therefore, distributed teams should take proactive efforts to ensure a smooth communication process.  One way to do this is to adopt a methodology or a model that enables this, such as the Agile Offshore Development Model.

For us at Clarion, the Agile methodology has worked very well in efficiently collaborating with distributed teams so much so, that we have almost always been able to belt out flawless projects for our clients.

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In this blog, we enlist the 4 best practices for managing offshore resources that have worked for us. 

1. Maintain complete transparency

It is a huge challenge, especially for small businesses to entrust their work to companies that are not just located in a different country, but also speak a different language and belong to a different culture. As a result, they are unable to manage the development process as they can with their in-house team.

One way to overcome this challenge is to maintain transparency in all aspects related to the project. Transparency not just identifies new ways to generate value but to show that outsourcing can compete with the financial flexibility.

For more insights, take a look at the client and the service provider’s wishlist –

The client’s wishlist:

  • Knowing all the costs associated with their project / No hidden costs
  • Understanding service providers’ business priorities
  • Investing more time in driving efficiency
  • Sharing benefits

Service providers not sitting back until re-procurement to drive more value 

The service provider’s wishlist:

  • Realistic about expectations on both sides
  • Better planning by clients
  • Less formal governance
  • Less use of contractual levers by clients
  • Clients taking more responsibility for success, rather than expecting service providers to shoulder everything

2. Schedule daily/weekly calls

When your team is located within the same premise and you need to solve a problem, the solution is really simple – you walk over to the person’s desk and talk about it. However, things get a little more complicated in an offshore scenario. Regular check-ins are recommended for any time of project, especially the ones with multiple stakeholders and decision makers. You'll also want to set up regular video conference calls with them, have a shared information repository, and email regularly

To get the most out of regular check-ins with your offshore teams, the best strategy is to maintain a very structured approach so everyone’s time is used effectively. –

  1. Establish one consistent time & process across teams (Date/Day/Time)
  2. Establish specific tools for communication and project management (Slack/ Skype)
  3. Get alignment on monitoring the performance of a virtual team (KPIs)

However, it is possible that the team dynamics may change overtime, so the communication strategy that worked well for you yesterday may not work well today. For example - The daily conference call which you introduced three months ago may no longer be needed as people have built rapport and are using a shared wiki/ chat software or are making impromptu calls whenever needed.

The implication is that you must question the ways that you're communicating, at least at the end of each iteration, during a process improvement retrospective. 

3. Arrange personal meetings

The Agile development methodology, focuses more on individuals and interactions over processes and tools. That is, Agile methods focus on building a relationship, not just a partnership. Naturally, personal meetings between clients and their offshore development team are invaluable.

Ideally, the clients and their offshore development partners should meet at the very beginning of the project. Moreover, meeting several times throughout the lifespan of the project also proves to be hugely beneficial for both parties. Personal visits are a perfect opportunity to get to know everyone better, and to also explore the city and to get a more in depth look at the local culture as well.

Likewise, the client can invite the team on a business trip to meet their in-house team. opportunity for the offshore developers to cooperate more closely with the client’s team, synchronize their actions, and simply exchange inspiration and motivation.

4. Share your vision & be inspirational

As soon as the ink on a partnership contract dries, nearly all companies and their remote partners go through the same first step: gaining an understanding of what the client wants to build.

This is the best time to formally exchange objectives, needs and goals, but, technology clients often consider their offshore teams as an execution partner for a specific feature or system. However, the more your offshoring partner knows about what you want to build and why, the more invested they become in your project idea or concept and its execution.

Therefore, you should always have a clear vision of your project that you consistently communicate with the people you work (internal or outsourced) with from the moment you start your engagement until the end of the partnership.

This is exactly why most successful products in the world have amazing visionaries behind them. 

Following these best practices for managing your offshore development teams, will help you systematize a seamless communication process and help you scale up to higher altitudes.

 

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