Outsourcing software development has many benefits. It allows you to save costs, and gives you more flexibility in terms of people management, among others. Take note of the following tips and make sure you make a decision that will lead to success.
You have decided that you need a strategic partner to collaborate with in your engineering efforts, but your organization does not have any experience with these types of ventures, so you do not know where to start. Here are three simple steps that you can take into account when working with an outsourcing company to ensure success.
This is easily the single most important factor you need to get everything right when you work with an IT partner. If you are a manager with many responsibilities and only a have a finite amount of time to spend setting up the new partnership, I highly recommend investing all your efforts in getting communication right.
When a new project starts, there are many things going on at the same time, and if you cannot efficiently get in touch with your team to coordinate tasks, agree on goals, or discuss risks, then most likely, the project will fail.
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Having said that, to guarantee perfect communication among all parties, you might ask yourself the following three questions to make sure that everything is covered.
You need to be able to identify the key actors to reach out to for assistance with the project and make sure everybody knows who they are. Another simple guideline you can follow when things are not that straightforward is to assign someone to act as a proxy for the organization. This can usually be a team leader or someone with enough experience to be able to point someone in the right direction when help is needed.
Most organizations have tools in place that facilitate communication among employees. These are usually an email application for asynchronous communications and a messaging application for synchronous exchanges. While access to these tools is important (and should be granted to everyone on the team right away), you will soon discover that they can be insufficient.
One of the main advantages of working in the same office as the rest of your team is that it facilitates knowledge transfer through either formal or informal meetings, which may be difficult to host with a remote team. To make things easier in these cases, your best option is to also put the technology and tools necessary to have group meetings in place. This means making sure everyone on the team has a headset and a webcam and equip at least one or two meeting rooms with a microphone, a webcam, and a television so you can see the people on the other side.
Equally important is agreeing on the right time to hold your recurrent meetings so that they are not disruptive of the team’s daily workflow. This is particularly important when the teams operate with different time zones. A good rule of thumb here is to pick a time that is not too late so that people would have to stay late in the office to attend a meeting, but also not so early that people haven’t had time to settle into their desks yet.
Getting communication right will allow your teams to collaborate to move work through the development pipeline. This will greatly contribute to building the confidence needed to move on to the next step.
2. Build your team(s)
Once communication is on track, the next logical step is to decide which process you are going to put in place to build or grow the team. Most often, when you start a new project with an outsourcing firm, team growth happens organically. What this means is that it is very common to see companies start with a small team composed of a few engineers, but as confidence increases and results start to come in, you are going to want to grow your team.
Broadly speaking, you have two options here: delegate or be involved. If you choose the latter, you are going to need to develop a process for interviewing people that not only works well for interviewers but also for interviewees.
Are you going to need a whiteboard? Does the candidate need to be presented with some printed documents? How many people are going to be present in the interview? Do you have a room with the proper video conferencing already set up? These are just samples of the aspects that need to be taken into consideration in advance. If your organization has experience with remote interviews, this may not be an issue at all, but if it does not, feel free to rely on your outsourcing partner to help you tailor your in-house process to work with candidates abroad.
However, team building does not just mean hiring new people. Team building is also about making new hires feel comfortable with their new teammates and responsibilities. You need to actively encourage communication with other people on the project and also be supportive with their learning process. Even when the new professionals are in another geographical location, they need to be introduced to your company business as well as the applications, tools, and processes that you use to support your day-to-day work. If you have in place training sessions for your own employees, make sure to extend invitations to every new addition to the team. The more your remote team knows about how your business operates, the better they will perform at their jobs.
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Last but not least, the third pragmatic step to succeed in outsourcing software development is focusing on the development process and getting the work done. A big part of this is choosing the appropriate methodology which is a big topic by itself, but it does not matter which methodology you use (Agile or traditional). What really matters is that you make the necessary adjustments to it so that knowledge is shared across all team members, remote or not.
Make sure every piece of work you request has at least a small amount of context attached to it so that new developers can understand not just what is being requested, but also why. If a small document is not enough, you should have business experts do a demo of the current functionalities for the team. Mockups, wireframes, and prototypes are your friends here. You want to empower your team to be able to come up with better (or less expensive) alternatives to address your needs or fix your current problems. Being able to understand business requirements and objectives is extremely important given that it is what guides the code the team writes.
At the same time, you need to have tools that facilitate the development cycle. It is surprising how many organizations still rely only on things like an email or a shared excel spreadsheet to track how an iteration is coming. If this is your case, then working with an outsourcing company is a great opportunity to ask for help and look into any of the huge number of applications out there that allow you to track progress of an Agile or traditional project. This will not only benefit you by making it much easier to get a snapshot of the current situation but also the people in your team, by evidencing who is working on what, as well as the items that are still pending to complete the project.
To Sum Up
Outsourcing software development has many benefits. It allows you to save costs, it gives you more flexibility in terms of people management, and you gain access to a pool of talented IT professionals that you would not have access to if you only hired local.
Following these three simple steps outlined above will keep you from making common mistakes when working with an outsourcing company and thus, will result in a highly increased chance of success.
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