Contrary to popular belief, working with a team with a different time zone can actually give you some competitive advantages. Here are some tips to bear in mind to handle time zone differences when working with an offshore development team.
I have spent my entire career working with many different clients around the world, and one of the comments most mentioned by clients is, “It is hard to work with a supplier in a different time zone.” Thanks to my experience, I can say this is not completely true. I have found many opportunities a client can take advantage of, and I will try to cover some of them in this article.
Most mid-sized companies have never tried outsourcing their software development, and they may think that having a team in another part of the world is hard to manage considering the time zone differences.
Take the example of Argentina compared with the rest of the world. We are heading into summer here, so Argentina has UTC-3, Los Angeles UTC-8, New York UTC-5, London has no offset, and Berlin has UTC+1.
Now, take some time examples and compare the cities. I am considering work start time, noon, and the end of the workday.
|Argentina||Los Angeles||New York||London||Berlin|
|9 am||4 am||7 am||12 pm||1 pm|
|12 pm||7 am||10 am||3 pm||4 pm|
|6 pm||1 pm||4 pm||9 pm||10 pm|
With these results, we can conclude the following:
- Argentina shares the complete morning and most of the afternoon with the US. This is very useful to plan the rest of the day and have daily meetings with the client. The morning in Argentina can be used by the team to prepare demonstrations or to tend to issues that occur at the beginning of the day, making us a great support team for any company.
- Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the US is a perk for us in Argentina. In March, DST changes the clock to go forward 1 hour, which makes, for example, the East coast to be just 1 hour behind us.
- Europe can take advantage of the quality and convenience of Argentina developers, sharing the complete afternoon with the team. That means the local team can do their business through the morning, arranging meetings to occur in the afternoon, which makes it easier to meet with the contractors in Argentina.
- The Argentina team can work when disconnected from the Europe client to accelerate delivering. This is clearly a perk because the client’s team can review the work from the past day and give immediate feedback that the outsourcing group can take as input for the current date, all the while synchronizing agendas and reducing idle time.
- Many mid-sized companies have branch offices. These offices can be distributed within the country and around the world. For example, consider a company with branches in the US West and East coasts but also with branches in Europe. This scenario might make communication, synchronization, and support a difficult matter. In this case, Argentina is a strategic ally, because the team can be the nexus in between those branches, working with the two ends that have more time difference between them because the country is actually halfway between the US and Europe.
Bearing in mind all this information, here are some tips you should consider if you are managing a totally distributed team:
- Do not have a headquarters!: Avoid centralizing the information in one place. Decision-making, news communication, and other cross team events should be totally visible for the entire team, and distance must not hinder the team’s ability to work.
- Tie everything to methodology: No matter how you are going to work, all the participants need to share the same methodology to have not only a common way of doing things but also to have a common lingo tied to that practice.
- Show your availability explicitly: It is important to show your status in the different channels the team has. Every time you are away, or if you are done for the day, the rest of the team needs to be aware.
- Spot shared time span: It is important to arrange meetings with the whole team, but do not think about this as the only point of contact with everyone. Use other communication alternatives and make sure you are using the right tools.
- Choose the perfect tools: Most of the modern professional tools for communication are prepared for distributed teams. That means they have history browsing, mention tags, reminders, groups, and custom integrations that are useful to connect to other tools. Check your communication software and evaluate their weak points; there is definitely an alternative that can cover that, but…
- Do not use several communication channels: Having too many channels to communicate is counterproductive. Sometimes, emails get lost, notifications are ignored, reminders can be discarded, and meetings become unnecessary when you have a ton of fancy and new tools to work with that are mixed in with the old ones. It is preferable to have one single place where you can manage communication, meet with groups of people or individuals, and have a dashboard to know the status of your team and be notified of any news or events.
To Sum Up
Clients can delegate software development to a South American company, and this can reduce the distance between other branch offices around the world, having the offshore team to be the link among them.
The offshore team can also be responsible for the functional analysis of a development, keeping contact with all the different stakeholders and boosting the speed of the work. In addition, the team in the middle can offer support for issues from all points, resolve problems on time, and maintain all branches operative the whole time.
Nowadays, there are many great ideas being developed by people in different and distant countries with different time zones and with different cultural backgrounds, which can nourish the final product with their experience.
In conclusion, consider the whole team as a remote team and embrace that idea to obtain better results.
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