Software development is a complex process. The success of the whole IT project depends on the efforts of each team member and, of course, the mutual understanding of the team members and clients. This connection is difficult to ensure particularly when your software team is located in different parts of the world.
I have heard many of my acquaintances ranting about the failure of their outsourced development projects. To be honest, I have been a part of some failed projects too. Then, I have also been a part of many successful ones. What my successes and failures tell me is that it's not the outsourced team that is to blame; it is, in fact, the mediocre team organization, poorly defined team architecture, lack of documentation of employee roles/responsibilities, and miscommunication or gaps in communication.
You need to be prepared for intense collaboration if you want to keep your customer and product development synchronized. Of course, all firms conduct due diligence on the individuals they are about to collaborate with, but the success of the project depends on a smooth collaboration, consistent communication, knowledge sharing, and effective management. As a former senior IT Program Manager for a firm based in Spring, Texas, I would like to share my insights on how an IT firm can effectively collaborate with its outsourced software teams.
1. Facilitate knowledge management
When you are setting some expectations regarding a project, you have to be sure your team is clear about them too. You and your team have to be on the same page. For that, I encourage creating an outsourcing model that helps all your team members to know what they are responsible to do, what outcomes are expected from the project they are working on, and when are the assigned tasks due. So, here is a check list to follow on that:
- Make sure each person in your team understands their role/responsibility in the company as well as in the project itself.
- All members must have a clear understanding of the task assigned and they must also know what their teammates are responsible for.
- Everyone must be aware of not just the deadlines but also the key milestones of the project.
Such a knowledge sharing framework can only be developed with rigorous communication and even training, if necessary. Once everyone is on the same page, achieving goals will become easier.
2. Invest in tools for better communication and collaboration
Collaboration tools make communication better. A study by uSamp research says that 97% of the employees they surveyed believed that communication impacts the daily tasks, even if they are digital. By using the right tools, teams can improve their communication and hence the project outcomes. Thanks to technology, we have a variety of collaboration tools that facilitate in effective communication and increased productivity. Depending on the size of your team and your IT project requirement, here are some of the tools that can be used:
Quip – It's a simple-to-use task management tool. Quip is best used to organize tasks, create project milestone lists, launch checklists or even create a team weekly priority list. It also has a chat feature for team communication.
Slack – It's a famous project management tool that's in use of many firms. A survey was conducted on 1629 slack users. It said that this task management tool helped boost team productivity by 32%, reduce the email communication by 48.6% and minimize meetings by 25.1%.
ProofHub – It's designed to share ideas and hold discussions across teams. It can be used to assign roles to users, track the task progress and create reports.
Asana – It's a great tool for teams to track the progress of the projects from start till the end. Asana has features that facilitate project management, communication, work tracking, document sharing, and communication.
Besides using these collaboration tools, try going an extra mile for communicating with your offshore team. Video chatting over Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime is recommended too.
3. Get involved in the project
Firms don't select developers randomly; they only choose competent providers who adhere to the quality standards needed. If that's the kind of team you have, I don't suggest micromanaging them. Regular interference can slow down your team, make the members nervous and even create passive programmers.
Ever heard of that saying, "Trust in God but don't forget to tie your camel?" Well, the same rule applies to your scenario. It's great that you trust your team but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get involved in the project.
The ongoing meetings and project management tools will let you track the progress of the work but sometimes, a little bit of more surveillance is needed to track the activities of the employees. That's solved when you are using an employee monitoring app like Xnspy to keep an eye on your team during the agreed working hours. Its valuable features like GPS tracking, geofencing, email monitoring, call recording, web history monitoring etc. can let you track your remote team and ensure they are not wasting time or jeopardizing the quality of the ongoing task.
If you personally cannot get involved in the project, then appoint a dedicated project manager for curating the project and handling the queries. There is a fine line between getting involved in a project and micromanaging it so try finding a healthy balance between the two.
4. Set reasonable and achievable deadlines
I have seen employers using 'ASAP deadlines' frequently. I remember when I used to work part-time for a London-based software company, the term 'ASAP' was used so much that it eventually lost its sense of urgency. Unfavorable results were produced since the deadlines weren't defined to begin with.
So, my friend, your team should know the priority of each task. Break down the entire project into chunks of tasks and set a reasonable deadline for each. Discuss the deadline with the IT project manager. Maybe even have a discussion with your development team itself since they are the ones who will be working on the project. This approach will convey the message that you care about the convenience of your team and it's going to pay out really well in the future.
Related article: How to Help Your Development Team Meet the Deadline
5. Recognize, reward and celebrate collaborative behavior
Just like legendary athletic teams, successful IT firms are built with collaborative efforts too and that also includes the efforts of your outsourced team. Be a good leader and don't let anyone's efforts go unrecognized. You must show gratitude and announce the achievements of each team member. There should be performance rewards and bonuses attached to their collaborative efforts. You must let your team members know that no matter where they are located, they are still the success drivers of your business.
Stories of failures are out there, but you can successfully manage and collaborate with your team using these insights even if they are located in different parts of the world.
This is a guest post by Andrew Carroll. Hey all, I am Andrew, a motivated business professional with more than 5 years of experience as an IT project management consultant. As much as I am into IT, I also enjoy sharing my insights on project management for struggling businesses. When I get bored with the usual work stuff, I am often found hiking with my pet dog, Wolverine.