As the CTO at Daxx, Igor manages software development activities for 80+ customers based mainly in Western Europe and the US. He oversees complex projects across different industries and helps business owners improve their management practices and implement the latest technologies.
I talk to tech business owners and CTOs every day. When it comes to outsourcing software development, most of them tend to fall into two camps — those who are skeptical about it and those who swear by it.
Skeptics, this post is for you. I’m about to tell you how to outsource software development the right way so that you too can enjoy the multiple benefits of having an offshore tech team.
How to Structure Successful Offshore Development Team?
Cost reduction is not the only reason why companies outsource, since flexibility and availability are important as well. While these points have to be considered when choosing your offshore location, I suggest you stick to quality first.
Take a look at the rankings of top outsourcing destinations, pick a few that seem the most promising, and research them as thoroughly as you can. What is the work ethics like in these countries? How many technical universities do they have? Have you heard of any successful startups that originated there? Do any big companies have R&D offices in these countries? What about English proficiency in the tech field? These are all very important questions.
Better still, scan your professional network for someone who comes from these countries and get their first-hand experience.
Ideally, you’d also want to choose a location that has minimal time difference with you. But don’t place time zones on top of your priority list. You’ll be able to work around any time differences with an iterative approach to software development.
There are three main cooperation models when it comes to offshore software development — working with freelancers, traditional outsourcing, and the extended team model (staff augmentation).
For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to get into working with freelancers, and will instead focus on the other two models. I’m also not going to tell you which of the two is better or worse since both can be applied successfully depending on your specific needs.
Most people are familiar with traditional outsourcing. You find a provider, give them your requirements, the provider assigns your project to a development team, you sign the papers, and the team gets to work. Within this model, you don’t get to choose who works on your product, and have very little control over the development process. The vendor’s project manager supervises your team, and you will only take part in scope clarification and approval of deliverables.
By contrast, the extended team model allows you to have 100 percent control over the development process. The vendor is a mediator who analyzes your business needs and helps you to structure your offshore software development team in a way that works best for your product. You’re the one to approve the members of your development team, and you’re the one to manage them. Your offshore developers become a natural extension of your in-house tech team.
Before making the decision, I’d recommend you to compile a list of the most critical questions concerning your potential partner. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Does the vendor have a quality management system?
- Are they certified?
- How do they manage risks?
- Do they have vertical and technical business specializations?
- What was the vendor’s biggest success and failure over the last year?
Check the vendor’s client list for famous names. And don’t forget to review feedback from their employees on local websites. Better still, travel to the vendor’s office. Have a look around, talk to employees, and ask them whether they’re satisfied with their work.
Everyone knows that the secret of any successful software product is a team of professional and motivated developers. Finding these can be a challenging task, so here are some tips that will help:
Make sure you have a professional recruiter who understands exactly what are your business goals and who you are looking for. They will save you tons of time and prevent you from making bad choices.
Get into the habit of being personally involved in the interviewing process. Take the time to see whether the personality of the interviewee will fit your company’s culture.
Don’t neglect soft skills, they are as important — if not more important — as technical abilities. Ask open-ended questions, and pay attention to the candidate’s communication style and body language.
For more in-depth information, check out our article on how to make the right hiring decisions quickly.
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Once you have your perfect team, it’s time to implement your development plan. To make sure it’s efficient, try to come up with possible obstacles that may stand between you and your offshore software development team, and think of the solutions.
For example, you know that remote work arrangements rely on communication tools. Therefore, you have to make sure that your tools for video conferencing, task tracking, screen sharing, and instant messaging are reliable and properly configured.
To avoid misunderstanding at the initial stages of software development, I advise that you clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all team members. First, determine who will take the role of the product owner. This person will be responsible for communication with customers and stakeholders. The product owner should possess in-depth knowledge of your customer’s needs and clearly communicate them to the development team.
Another thing that will help you streamline the development process is software development methodology. Scrum is my personal favorite. This methodology works well in changing environments as it enables rapid reactions to modifications.
On the other hand, Agile methodologies aren’t appropriate when you have a strictly pre-defined scope. That’s why it’s always best to analyze your business context before making the final decision.
Planning is another thing you should always keep in mind. Consider two main processes: performance and delivery. Do you have an idea of how you’re going to ensure good performance and accept deliverables?
The Scrum methodology already holds the answer. This approach allows the product owner to keep up-to-date with a cross-functional development team with the help of standard meetings and artifacts. If you stick to Scrum, your meeting schedule will include daily planning, backlog refinement, sprint review, and retrospective meetings. If you follow a different process, you’ll still need to schedule meetings for planning and reviewing work, as well as for daily communication. Your development methodology will evolve together with your team if you organize continuous improvement process properly.
To learn more about best practices for offshore team management, download our guide through the form at the end of this post.
Choosing the methodology, planning the development process, and defining roles and responsibilities are all very important steps. But they won’t work unless you establish the right culture.
I suggest you promote these five core values within your team culture: Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage.
Always stay proactive and share your ideas with the rest of your team. The more dedication you show, the more dedication you’ll get in return.
Make sure that your team sees your product goals as clearly as you do. To ensure this unity, share your product vision and product roadmap with the team.
Promote courage and openness — your team shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes.
Finally, respect your team and never miss the chance to come and visit them at their office.
And it actually doesn’t matter how you decide to spend these meetings. You can either discuss roadmap updates or have fun in an informal environment — what matters here is the time you devote to your team.
I hope you’ll find my recommendations on how to outsource software development useful, and will enjoy working with a remote team. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on this topic in the comments.
And if you need help building your offshore development team, I’d be happy to assist you — just leave your contact details in the comments, and one of my colleagues will get back to you shortly.