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Long distance relationship in software development outsourcing

04.01.2018

Software Mind

10 steps to make it work

The world of software development outsourcing is one of the best examples of how valuable great developers are for businesses from all the world. Decision makers of both small and big companies can go to great lengths to find them and get to work with them - even if they are separated by thousands of miles, different languages, various cultural differences and many other challenges. But wouldn’t it be nice if the effectiveness of offshore development outsourcing wasn’t crippled by such factors? Follow these 10 steps and minimize their effect to make the most out of long distance cooperation.

According to a study by Deloitte, as much as half of all CEOs are currently considering outsourcing some software development abroad[1]. But not all of them will end up satisfied with the services of their vendors of choice. They will join the ever-expanding circle of people forever discouraged and actively discouraging others from offshore outsourcing.

Some of them made the mistake of prioritizing the low price factor too much during their search for developer. But a whole lot of them simply didn’t know how to make the long distance cooperation work. Industry studies show that factors such as communication gap, hidden costs, poor infrastructure and lack of control over project are among the most common causes mentioned as reasons for failure of such projects[2].

If you want to take full advantage of outsourcing without being held back by them, keep them in mind during all stages of cooperation by following these 10 steps.

1. Make the contract count

This may sound a little obvious, but one of the best ways to ensure good cooperation in long distance project is to include all necessary details in the initial agreements. Your vendor should state its approach to code quality and security, provide non-disclosure agreement and help pick a price model best suited to your project.

2. Prepare your own team

All in-house employees involved in the project, including your entire business team, should be kept up-to-date with all of the progress made on the project. A technical member of the project team, capable of understanding the nitty-gritty of it, on your end is extremely helpful. Your internal IT team should also be prepared for participation in deployments. Some vendors took steps to make it easier – read more about automated deployments in Software Mind’s outsourcing toolbox.

3. Keep everyone on the same page

Making sure that everyone involved in the project has the same idea about what constitutes success and failure as well as understands its own role and the role of all remaining stakeholders is absolutely essential. A well thought-out in-person project kickoff meeting, involving all stakeholders, is the perfect solution. If it’s not possible, aim for a kickoff meeting that resembles it most.

4. Give context

Distributed team often end up being comprised of people from different cultures and of different backgrounds. In order to turn team into a proper team, more than just establishing success criteria and roles have to be done. Make sure to explicitly cover all of the necessary contexts, especially the business context of your project. Best vendors will also have processes in place to ensure that such information is made available from the start. Read more about our approach to making minimum viable products and more in the outsourcing toolbox.

5. Establish clear communication

Frequent and easy communication is key in distributed projects. Insist on it. Our outsourcing toolbox of best practices includes several processes dedicated solely to improving communication, including Agile-based methods of reporting progress and knowledge sharing as well as a variety of communication tools.

6. Use non verbal communication as well

When the team is diverse and verbal communication may be compromised, it’s worth it to use non verbal methods of communication to make up for it. Consider using project tracking tools, WYSIWYG design tools and pseudo code to get your ideas across more easily. Do it as often as possible.

7. Take language and cultural differences into consideration

Those that lack experience in offshore software development are often shocked by how much cultural differences can impact the project. Both the client and the vendor should take steps in order to ease this impact. For Software Mind, the approach is a combination of past experiences and the 5M model for countries we are yet to work for[3].

8. Account for time zone differences

Time zone differences are an inherent problem of distributed teams. In case of some countries, such as Poland, the problem is minimized as this outsourcing destination is located closer to countries that most typically use outsourcing services. For other countries, visualize the time zone differences  and pick the best suitable 2-hour period for organizing meetings. Shared calendars can be very helpful.

9. Keep your management smart and low level

Monitor the progress of your external partners by participating in regular stand-ups, establishing short production cycles (e.g. 2-3 weeks) and running a review session of each. But do not micromanage! Trust is a key factor in software development outsourcing. After all, you want to have a conviction that you have established a cooperation with actual professionals.

10. Keep the flame going

One of the most underestimated pieces of advice when it comes to long distance outsourcing is that once you establish an efficient cooperation with a vendor, it’s very much worth it to keep it alive. With each project, the cooperation is likely to get even better, as both external and in-house team members learn each other better. Searching for a proper vendor is a tough journey. There is no need to repeat it over and over again.

Software Mind is a Polish software house that has been polishing its skills in delivering top of the line outsourcing services for several years. As a result of all this, we have established a set of best practices designed to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of long distance cooperation. Use our advice to make the most out of your outsourcing. Better yet, contact us today to tell us all about your next exciting project.



[1] Deloitte’s 2014 Global Outsourcing and Insourcing Study – 2014 and beyond
[2]  Critical Challenges in Offshore Software Development Outsourcing: An Empirical Study
[3]  http://www.itimitaly.it/en/391-geert-hofstede-5-d-model.html


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