Today’s most effective tech firms leverage offshore software development.
Offshoring lets businesses save costs while supercharging innovation and productivity, and that’s a simple fact.
But there’s still plenty for even seasoned executives to learn about the best practices for offshore development.
So, we’ve made a simple, actionable list. In this article, you’ll learn how to:
- Kick off offshore dev the right way, with clear-cut goals and expectations.
- Pick the right development house.
- Stay involved with production without hindering the process.
- Make sure your offshore developers communicate frequently and clearly.
- Integrate the remote team with your own local staff.
Practice #1 – Clearly Define Your Goals
Every good manager knows the importance of setting clear, actionable goals for their employees:
- Without them, workers can flounder.
- They might not know exactly what to do.
- They might even feel unsupported.
- That leads to lost productivity.
- And that means less profits.
Believe it or not, it’s even more important when working with an offshore team.
The thing is, remote workers don’t have the same insight and access to your business.
They’re often working in the dark, and it’s up to you to provide guidance. Otherwise, they won’t know what you’re looking for.
Always keep in mind that your outsourced devs are coming to you from the outside.
You have years of experience in your business, but all they know is what you tell them.
That’s why it’s so important to be 100% clear when setting goals.
One way to set clear, effective, and actionable goals is by using the SMART system.
It was developed way back in 1981, but it’s still relevant today.
The reason? It’s easy to understand, and it gets results.
SMART’s an acronym that describes what every goal should be:
S is for Specific. Be precise when describing a project.
M is for Measurable. Make sure the goal is quantifiable, or can be measured with a number.
- For example, a measurable goal for an app might be “Support 10 languages.”
- Or “Handle 200 support tickets.”
- A similar goal that’s not measurable might be “Offer enough languages for our customers.”
- Or “Offer good support.”
A is for Achievable, or Agreed-Upon. Make sure the goal is realistic with the available resources.
- It’s tempting to set a “shoot for the stars” goal and consider it more of an aspiration than a concrete target, but that’s counterproductive.
- This is where it’s crucial to talk with your dev team’s project leader and come to an understanding.
R is for Relevant. Make sure the goal aligns with your overall business strategy.
T is for Timely. Every goal should have a deadline.
- That’s not to say that timelines don’t change, but you should always have one in mind.
All of this applies to individual projects and to strategic goals. It’s good for the whole company.
Follow the SMART philosophy, and you’ll be on track for solid communication with your outsourcing partner.
And speaking of that:
Practice #2 – Select the Right Team
It should be obvious that getting the right team is the first step to outsourcing success.
Get it right, and you’ll lay a solid foundation for your entire project.
Get it wrong, and you could tank the whole thing, even months down the line.
Skillset is the most important factor in selecting a team, but it’s not the only one.
We’ve actually written an entire article about choosing an outsource partner, but here’s the gist.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
It’s tempting to go for the biggest, flashiest firm you can find.
But that can get you in trouble if your company isn’t just as big.
The largest developers can be bogged down in bureaucracy and overly set in their ways, and they’ll charge a premium you might not want to pay.
Smaller, hungrier developers can be much more flexible.
They’re eager to please, and they’ll understand your business goals better.
Sometimes it pays to check out the little guy.
Set Yourself Up for Communication Success
Keep in mind that you’ll have to have regular communication with the team.
Whether email, video chat, or phone call, you’ll need a team that understands what you’re saying.
That means fluency in a shared language, whether that’s English, Russian, or Hebrew.
Geographical proximity is important too, especially when it comes to time zones.
If they’re always asleep when you’re awake, then your calls will be very inconvenient.
Communication problems early on can foreshadow bigger trouble later, so pay attention.
Tip: Ukraine is usually a great choice, especially for companies in Europe and Israel. Similar time zone, cheap flights, and common languages make communication a snap.
Any dev team worth their salt will be happy to give references or show a portfolio.
Take the time to check them out. Don’t be shy about calling references.
Don’t waste your time with potential partners who can’t back up their claims with real results.
Remember: Offshoring is cheaper than in-house, but it’s still a big investment in time and money.
Practice #3 – Stay Hands-On
Keep in mind that a remote team isn’t a fire-and-forget solution.
Great as it would be to just order up the perfect app and have it delivered, that’s just not reality.
A good partner can work independently, but the best results require collaboration.
That means your local team (management and devs) need to work in tandem with the remote workers to achieve your business goals. That’s why a compatible time zone is so important!
At least, to a point. Micromanagement can be just as destructive as being too hands-off.
Single Point of Contact
Instead of letting your two teams communicate freely, consider using a project manager.
This position serves as the interface between local and remote workers.
They’ll make sure the lines of communications stay open, without getting cluttered by too much traffic.
That way, workers can stay on the same page without getting in each other’s way.
If you’re development software, then you’re probably already on board with using tech.
Remember that remote workers can’t just get up and walk across the office to check in with coworkers.
Luckily, the right software can make things almost as easy.
Practice #4 – Maximize Engagement
Remote workers aren’t robots.
Just like your employees, they’ll do their best work when they feel invested and engaged.
You need to maximize the effectiveness of your offshore team.
A big part of that is recognizing their input and success.
The reverse is true, too. Hold them accountable for roadblocks and problems.
Here are a few actionable techniques:
Hold regular status meetings via video as much as possible.
Studies show that seeing a face leads to improved engagement and understanding.
It’s a big advantage over text and even audio.
A weekly video call will do wonders to keep everyone on track.
Budget some travel for your product manager or CTO to visit the remote team.
It doesn’t need to be often, so long as it’s regular. Once or twice a year is plenty.
Video conferencing is amazing, but it’s still no substitute for face-to-face.
Visits will keep the outsourced personnel feeling in the loop.
It’s also the best way to truly understand their workflow.
Remember the Human
Remember your devs are people too, even if you only see them twice a year.
Make an effort to foster a good relationship, and they’ll repay it in spades.
Include them in company-wide status updates and calls as appropriate.
Most of all, make sure to tell them about milestones and success, especially ones they contributed to.
It’s just as important to keep a remote team motivated as a local one.
Practice #5 – Integrate Offshore and On-Site Workflows
If it’s not clear already, offshore software development isn’t a guarantee of success.
It’s an amazing way to save costs without sacrificing quality, but only if you use it right.
The same techniques that enable in-house software development also apply for offshore.
Agile, Scrum, and other modern project management models are great for integrating remote workers.
At Ignite, we’ve found that Agile is especially effective.
Specifically, we use three-week sprints.
The emphasis on constant testing and quick iteration means you’ll communicate frequently.
And as we said above, frequent communication is one of the keys to outsourcing success.
If you’re not familiar with Agile and didn’t follow that, here’s a good guide.
Best Practices, Best Results
The most important thing to remember is that outsourcing is not simple.
Get it right, and you’ll be among the most forward-thinking tech companies around.
Get it wrong, and you’ll waste more time and money than you save.
The good news is that these best practices aren’t hard to follow.
- Choose the team carefully.
- Define their goals clearly.
- Create the workflow to support them.
Every business has different goals and challenges, but these three truths are universal.
If you’d like to talk more about how offshoring can help you specifically, Ignite offers expert consultations.
They’ll help you every step of the way, from focusing the internal dialog, to finding the right partner, and setting up the right relationship to ensure success.
After all, your remote team wants you to succeed just as much as you do.