Starting an offshore team is always challenging, this article gives you five tips to start your offshore team.
Tip #1: Don’t Outsource Your Problem, Do Your Home Work
To achieve the maximum value from outsourcing, as a leader you need to ensure the internal processes and structures are suitable. This frequently goes beyond the borders of the CIOs/CTOs or VP of Engineering’s control.You need to take time to work with the related stakeholders to clearly define the objectives, process and requirements of your offshore initiative. You need to allocate enough internal bandwidth to drive the offshore program forward and keep it on track. Only when you can have the proper process and adequate resources in place, you can start choosing your offshore outsourcing partner. Lee Ayling, management consulting partner at KPMG, warns that first-time outsourcers should use suppliers that have relevant experience. “Pick a supplier who has done it before. This does not have to be a big US player, or top 5 Indian suppliers. Do the research.”
Tip #2: Visit Your Offshore Team
Your first trip
The first visit shall be done when the negotiation is almost complete. Meeting face to face can help the contract negotiation and accelerate the resolution of outstanding issues. Second advantage of the visit is you can interview and select the key members of your offshore team.
The visit gives you a great opportunity to learn about the offshore team’s culture. What are their culture drivers? What is the team background? What are their weakness and strengths? What motivates them?
After the contract is finalized, a project kick off at the offshore site is the ideal case. You can communicate the vision, business goals and priorities to the offshore team. Where would be the opportunity for new business? What are the business challenges or problems that you and the team are trying to solve? Having you product owner or PLM personnel to join the trip and meet with the offshore team during this phase will be a big plus to the project.
When is your next visit?
Regular visit to your offshore team increases the chance to success of your offshore program significantly. The visit is to hold regular retrospectives and look for improvement opportunities. You can meet with team and individuals to learn their strengths and verify if they understand the vision and priorities were communicated earlier. Also from time to time, new members are added to the team, this is a good chance to meet with whom you have not met from the last trip. How effective were they trained and mentored. Retrospective meeting shall help to identify any opportunities to collaborate more effective from both your and the offshore sides.
The site visit also help to find if any issues that not reported. Are there any issues being escalated outside of defined processes? Are there ay issues inhibiting quality and productivity? Are people spending too much time on the wrong priorities or are they solving the wrong problems?
Reserve some budget for regular technical summits and workshops where key team members of both sides travel to the other site. This regular travel improves team spirit and communication significantly.
Tip #3: Build Your Offshore Team Around Your Core
Even you are very busy, during your first visit, plan enough time and effort to select key personnel, such as project managers, team leaders and scrum masters. Select who you think best fit for your project, can communicate with your local team then let the team grow around these core members. The core members will act as the bridge to connect the local and offshore teams together. Invest time and effort to train these core members intensively so that they can train other new members added later.
To add more people to the team have your core members to select the people they think can work best with them.
Tip #4: Define Clear Communication Plan
You shall remove the Offshore and Onshore divide. Regardless of where they’re working from, you treat your offshore team are part of one organization. Develop a communication plan for primary external and internal stakeholders, providing mechanisms for feedback, two-way communication and especially for active follow-up as well as escalation. If an engineer is stuck he/she should know whom and how to contact or escalate to.
Given the different time-zone, clear contact points are critical to get the issues resolved timely.
Tip #5: Prepare Necessary Infrastructure
Identify the necessary infrastructure required at both sides to support the joint team to succeed. This normally requires:
- Type of network access / bandwidth required e.g. VPN
- Resources needed to be access at both sides – e.g. wiki, source control server
- Need for special offshore development and test environments
- Need for special hardware or communications facilities
- collaborative tools and knowledge base applications
- Definition of standard developer desktop and toolkit
- Software licensing implications
- Specific security requirements
- Data handling requirements