Working with an outsourced development team for the first time can be daunting. For some companies, managing the day-to-day tasks of developers can be challenging due to the difference in time zone and working cultures. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, working with outsourced development teams can be very efficient if you use the right technologies and tools. Of course, there will be some challenges, however, with the right planning, you can ensure a smooth collaboration from the very first day. In below, I’m going to share some of the challenges I have faced myself when working with remote outsourced developers and what you can do to avoid them.
Challenges of building a remote development team and how to overcome them
- Communication, language, and cultural barriers
It’s natural and common for remote teams to have some sort of misunderstanding and communication barriers. Managers must learn that transparent communication is key when dealing with employees from different backgrounds and cultures. To reap the benefits of working with a cross-cultural team, managers need to:
- Establish strong relationships between employees by providing the space for the newcomers to share their ideas and engage in discussions about their lives. This will help increase productivity and engagement.
- Make use of communication tools to stay up to date with employees’ progress at work.
- Be open to feedback. Let your new employees know that you’re open to hearing their feedback and concerns.
Security vulnerability is one of the biggest concerns when working with outsourced teams. The lack of cybersecurity knowledge presents great threats to both employees and the organization. In fact, as long as employees are online, they are at risk. Therefore, it’s crucial to educate all employees both in-house and remote about the importance of protecting their data while working.
What can you do to mitigate the risks?
- Require remote developers to use secure internet connections and to avoid public Wifi.
- Your remote developers must enable 2-factor authentication to secure their accounts.
- Provide remote developers with security software to install on their devices.
- Require employees to use strong passwords for their emails and work-related accounts.
The best practices for managing outsourced development teams
For many of us, remote work was a necessity amidst the pandemic. However, it’s more than just a safe model of work, it’s something that has the potential to improve how we work and operate.
Managers who are slowly transitioning to remote work often complain about the sudden absence of social interaction with employees. The biggest challenge is not being able to monitor employees’ progress when they’re working far away from the office. This new shift requires businesses to change their approaches and take advantage of technological tools to track performance and workload.
Finding the balance between the office and remote work
Before the Covid-19 outbreak, we used to encourage employees to work from home at least once per week. Currently, our team is working remotely most of the time with the same efficiency and velocity as they were in the office. In light of the pandemic, we have established a remote work policy to encourage employees to embrace the new ‘work from home model’ on a semi-permanent basis. By providing all the necessary tech infrastructure for staff working remotely, they became able to perform efficiently. And offices themselves became our social hubs where we meet on a weekly basis to interact and work.
This shift is employee-centric as it takes into consideration the concerns of employees who are missing aspects of the office environment, giving them the opportunity to balance between both work types. The results were:
- Working remotely didn’t impact our productivity: 90% of our employees said that they are equally as productive working from home as in the office.
- Offering the opportunity for remote work has increased our retention rate by 20%
- Remote working has helped us enjoy a better balance between our professional and personal lives.
In sum, after months of trials and amendments to our remote working structure, we have seen tremendous improvements in team performance. Fortunately, I’ve learned many tricks along the way. In the following, I will share with you some of them.
- Establish structured daily check-ins
Your remote team will be working from a different location and probably a different time zone. Therefore, it’s important to schedule time for communication, either weekly or daily, depending on your work schedule. The lack of communication can result in delayed delivery, misunderstandings, and developers feel left out and unproductive.
What we do: We have daily stand-ups for each team where we update each other about the progress of tasks we are handling and discuss any challenges that might prevent us from completing the task. We don’t have to describe each task in detail as those stand-ups are often not more than 15 minutes so highlighting the progress of each task is fairly enough. It’s also important to conduct daily standups at the same time each day as this adds a sense of consistency to the workflow. We have seen that these short, yet efficient check-ins strengthen the bond between team members.
- Provide opportunities for social interaction
Even high-performing employees may experience a decline in job performance and engagement due to the lack of social interactions. Physical distance can also create psychological distance between employees. Employers’ main issue in such environments remains engaging developers and making them feel heard, appreciated, and part of the organization. Using conference calls can help maintain an emotional connection and bridge the social and emotional gap between team members.
What we do: We conduct quarterly gatherings where the whole team gets to meet and interact face to face. This has improved the understanding and enhanced the empathy between team members.
- Provide encouragement and support
Managers and entrepreneurs need to understand factors that can make remote working work for distributed development teams. Otherwise, high-performing employees may experience declines in job performance and engagement when they begin working remotely, especially in the absence of preparation and support. Leaders with a high level of emotional intelligence need to create a culture of trust and transparent communication by making sure everyone feels supported and appreciated. Emotionally intelligent leaders notice when an employee feels down and take the initiative to listen to their feedback and concerns. Make it a habit to start every meeting with praise for a job well done. You can also reward the developers after each milestone. Humans love to feel appreciated and rewarding employees when they achieve goals will make them more engaged in their work.
What we do: We believe in the principle of recognition which gives us a boost in creating a culture of positivity and growth. We have implemented an employee of the month program where we send a shout-out to an employee for outstanding performance every month. Giving such an award motivates employees to work as hard as they can and reach their full potential.
- Provide constant feedback
Frequently communicate with the developer/s about your feedback and give them tips on how to improve their skills. Be specific, and prompt with your feedback. I strongly encourage remote team leaders to share their feedback as soon as possible. Even if you can’t reach the employee directly, communicate with them via Slack, or Zoom and mention that you need to set time to discuss important feedback.
What we do: We have a quarterly one on one with each employee to discuss their performance and uncover new opportunities to work side-by-side and get things done. Running such virtual meetings can be intimidating as you lack face-to-face interactions. In addition, running an effective one-on-one meeting “requires real cognitive agility,” says Margaret Moore, CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation and co-author of Organize Your Emotions, Optimize Your Life. Try to prepare discussion points in advance and focus on highlighting accomplishments to create positive energy. We also ask our employees about their career plans to help them put together an effective and attainable professional development plan.
The bottom line
Project management and proper communication lead to successful software development. When managing an outsourced team, it’s important that you have the right balance between flexibility and rigidity. Ensuring a clear understanding of tasks and deadlines will help you leverage the benefits of outsourcing while delivering the best software development quality.