Tips on Working with an Offshore Software Development Company
In the last blog, we touched upon the challenges and benefits of offshore software development The question that follows is, how do you overcome the difficulties and realise the full potential of your offshore software development project?
Managing an offshore development project can be a daunting task, especially for an inexperienced project manager. It is a commonly held belief that in an offshore contract, the differences in work culture, communication across different time-zones, and the lack of face-to-face interaction, only compound the complexity of bespoke software development
However, it does not have to be this way. The right project management approach and efficient communication strategy will ensure that your onsite and offshore teams work in tandem towards a commonly defined purpose.
Here are five tips for maximising the benefits of working with an offshore development company.
1- Choose an 'Agile' partner
To begin with, pick a software development company that specialises in Agile Project Development approach. The Agile approach ensures that you are kept informed at every stage of software development. For instance, we at RSK Business Solution provide clients with various stages of working software in short two to three week intervals (or SPRINTS as known in Agile terminology). The regular interaction ensures that the final software delivered is as per client’s expectations, and within agreed cost and timeline. We believe that the only way to go offshore is to go Agile.
2- Start small
If you are going the offshore software development route for the first time, start with a simple project (e.g. testing automation) with a smaller off-shore team of five to ten programmers. The gradual approach will, on one hand, give you enough time to assess the capabilities of your new outsourcing partner, and on the other hand, help you garner a mindset buy-in with people within the company resistant to the idea of offshore software development.
3- Have the basics in place
Pay attention to the following essentials before you commence offshore software development -
- Infrastructural requirements: More often than not, a big frustration for onsite teams is the time wasted trying to communicate with the foreign location. Administrative issues such as unavailability of a conference room and lack of equipment for video conferencing will seriously impede Agile implementation.
- Communication methods: Before work begins, agree on methods of communication (e.g. Skype, VoIP lines, GoToMeeting etc.) and the software to be used for sharing information with the offshore software development company. Fix a daily time slot for communication between the onsite and offsite teams.
- The right project manager: Bespoke software development projects require a dedicated project manager who can bridge the divide between the business and the software development team. Identify a project manager who can communicate the vision for the project. The project manager should intervene where required without being dictatorial or trying to micromanage. He/ she should be able to work equally well with people on-site such as business heads and the client, as well as the offsite team of engineers.
For multiple outsourced projects, you will also need a delivery head to oversee the project managers.
4- Share as much information as possible
Communication is the key to offshore development. When it comes to the exchange of information with the offshore development company, the more, the merrier. Share details about the client, the industry, the competitors, and the strategic vision for the product. Provide even the more obvious details. As a rule, over communicate to ensure that there is minimal room for individual interpretation.
Invest in on-site training so that the offshore development team can get a better understanding of your company as well as the end customer's point of view. Spending time at your premises will also help them build a rapport with the onsite team, which will improve future remote communications.
5- Treat them as 'your' team
Apart from having a crystal clear work contract and a communication strategy, at the end of the day, you can certainly get more from your software development team if you treat them as part of the company.
Discuss how the software implementation will benefit customers, improve employee productivity, or reduce operational costs in your enterprise. Knowing that their work makes a difference, will motivate both the on-site and off-site software development team
Make the effort to recognise the achievement of critical milestones. Send a congratulatory email to the offshore staff with a copy to their reporting manager. Even if the software outsourcing company has an employee recognition program, announce team awards to celebrate project successes.
Building a good working relationship with the senior managers of the offshore development team is critical. Respect cultural differences; for instance, the way you greet and interact with a business associate in India would be different than how you would interact with a Western counterpart.
Offshore software development can help your enterprise lower costs, increase capacity quickly, and access a team of engineers that specialises in bespoke software development. We hope that these tips will help you get more from the working relationship with your offshore software development company.