Improving offshore developer performance

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Making them Feel at Home –Improve offshore developer performance and make your offshore team feel like part of the team

When offshore team engagements don’t work out, it’s typically due to a combination of two basic issues:

  • Process and communication – the local and offshore consulting teams don’t communicate well or they work in different ways.
  • Emotional –  typically happens in cases where the local team and management do not treat the offshore group as integral parts of the team

There are ways for local managers to greatly improve offshore developer performance and outcomes.

Addressing Multiple Problems

A company finds they cannot find the right people locally so they go for a remote software development team. These programmers, developers, and other tech staff have advanced skills and can complete any job, but choosing offshore workers does come with its challenges.

A core issue is the consistency of delivery in terms of the results. When a manager has a programmer sitting next to them it’s easier to direct the work. If the goal is to improve the speed of the NetSuite ERP platform, then the manager can go through the steps and immediately respond to questions from the programmer.  There are the benefits of one-on-one communication where issues are less likely to be misconstrued and each person can gain additional context.

There are also cultural differences that can lead to miscommunication and different styles of working and responding to authority. Some parts of a project might get “lost in translation” due to these differences, which can result in delays and cost overruns. Despite the myriad challenges, there are ways to overcome any issues and develop a more inclusive and collaborative local and offshore environment. This is why project management is so important.

Remote Teams are Still People

In order to improve the productivity and satisfaction of remote teams, it’s essential to remember they are people. They might speak with an accent, but that doesn’t mean they’re less human or educated than anyone else. Sending work offshore still involves people—you aren’t purchasing a technology tool, you’re hiring people to get a job completed. These people have the same motivations as anyone on your local squad. They want to come to work, do a good job, and receive some recognition for their accomplishments. And over time most of them would enjoy promotions that come with more responsibilities and more reward.

Treating these people with the same level of respect and understanding as your local team is a great first step in promoting inclusivity so they feel like a part of a broader group and purpose. And by relating to the offshore group as people you can develop a better understanding of their priorities and how to adjust their work towards the business goals. A deeper relationship also provides you with insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the offshore members, so you can distribute their work if needed as a way of optimizing productivity.

Help Them Understand the Business

Development teams work much better if they have some context about the business. Sure they can just follow the directions and complete tasks, but their coding and other work will improve if they know more about the business and the typical customer journey.

Improve offshore developer performance starts by learning your business. Not just your company’s products or services, but the culture.  It’s about more than just conquering the language barrier. Languages can be learned. Most offshore teams speak a range of languages at high proficiency.

You need someone that understands your business requirements and is comfortable serving as a conduit between the on and off-shore business teams. Most managers don’t have time to work directly with every developer or programmer on the offshore team. They need that key person on the offshore group that will keep everyone on track. In many cases an offshore engagement that doesn’t work out is the fault of the hiring company’s lack of onboard training. Be sure this person receives a significant amount of training and context on the front end of the engagement, as this work will pay long-term dividends. If trained properly, your key offshore contact will act as a first line of defense against big problems, and will become an ally to help you meet client needs.

Provide them with the Right Tools

The recipe for connecting people in the modern business isn’t new. The available technology tools such as Slack, various Google collaboration programs, Asana, Trello, and dozens of others make collaboration easier. Video conferencing tools give managers a simple way to get some “face time” with their offshore teams. These meetings provide them a chance to build personal relationships and gauge how projects are going based on the team members’ facial expressions.

Managers working with offshore teams should ensure they and other members of the local team are frequently available during the same work hours as the offshore group. This is challenging of course if the local office is in Houston and the offshore team is in Singapore, but the payoff makes it worth the scheduling and lack of sleep. Collaboration tools are much more powerful when they’re used at the same actual time. Offshore developers that receive feedback in real time are not only more productive in completing their work, they’re also more likely to feel included in the team and the broader business goals.

What about traveling to the offshore team for in-person meetings? For a six-month contract project it might not be necessary unless it’s very complex and you need some face time with your main contact. If the offshore team is part of your company, then you need to go over there to help build that long-term relationship.

Improving offshore developer performance is important. Hiring a remote team is about much more than finding lower cost resources. It’s about finding expertise that’s difficult to acquire locally. Once you overcome the initial onboarding process, it’s vital to take steps to teach the offshore team about your business and do everything you can truly make them a part of the team.

 

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