Globalism and the spread of the Internet have expanded the capacities of business. Nowadays, the company headquarters might be located in the US, while the remote team might be working from another continent or even be scattered among several countries and time zones.
We are living in the era of remote teams, remote work, and outsourcing, which has significantly turned the way we approach management, collaboration, and communication. It definitely made us more flexible, more reactive to changes, and more adaptive, however, it brought some new challenges that previous generations of employees have never encountered.
In the matter of software development, a lot of managers faced the challenges of synchronizing and cooperating with outsourced remote development teams. How to set up efficient collaboration, so that both sides are on the same page? How to establish effective communication with the remote team’s project managers? How to build a bridge between an outsourced team and your in-house team?
As you can see, there are a lot of details to the cooperation with remote software developers. In this article, we will cover the main aspect you should know about such a type of partnership and how to ensure the maximum productivity of your remote team members.
Why Hire a Remote Software Team?
If you still believe that you can reach a decent result only if your team is going to be under your constant surveillance in the office, we would prove you wrong. Remote employees can work with the same level of efficiency, if not higher. But it is not the only reason why you should consider hiring a remote team. So, what are the other benefits?
Unlimited Talent Pool
When you decide to outsource a remote team, you have much more options than when you decide to go old-school and find in-house developers for office work. In the second case, you are limited by geography, as you would be able to hire only those candidates that reside in the same area where your office is. Of course, there is also relocation, but not every business will go for it.
With a remote workforce, you lift this limit and open access to tech talent from any location in the world. You don’t need to compromise and choose the best of what you were able to find in your area: you can get the top developers overall. Thanks to the Internet and video conferencing tools, it would not even matter if the specialist is thousands of miles away, you still will be able to get the most value from their input.
When you hire a remote team, you usually apply to an outsourcing vendor, who consults you and helps to pick the right team members. The hiring process is also much easier than the traditional one: you just agree on conditions with the vendor and sign a contract.
Hence, if you want to expand your team to increase its throughput, it would be a pretty simple, and moreover, fast process. Usually, vendors have a bench of developers whom they can involve in your project on a regular basis or temporarily while looking for a specialist for your project. It might take a few days or weeks, and it would be much more rapid than with in-house employees.
A remote team will cost you less than an in-house one for several reasons. First, you don’t need to invest in additional office space, equipment, furniture, etc. This might save a big part of the budget.
Second, your remote team will be officially employed by the vendor, who will be taking care of taxes, employee benefits, insurance, and other important expenses. You will be only paying for services the vendor provides, and most likely, it would cost you less than providing all aforementioned aspects to new in-house employees, especially, if you decide to cooperate with a vendor based in the country with lower rates and salaries than in your country.
There is always a question of how fast the team can start delivering the code, as it always takes time to read the documentation, review the already written code, or if it is the very start of the project, create a roadmap and plan the process. Either way, the team might manage to do it very quickly and start to deliver real value, or they might linger and lose you for a few weeks.
However, there are higher chances that a remote team will use the time efficiently and will be able to go through kickoff much faster, as they usually have more experience with such type of work, as well as know the subtleties of cooperating with a client as outsourced specialists. Hence, you will get real results in an adequate timeline.
An outsourced remote team might take full ownership of the project, and your involvement can be minimal. If you are not a tech company, and you don’t have the capacity or experience to manage the development process, a remote team with a project manager is your lifesaver.
The outsourced team will take care of every aspect of the development, as well as solve any problems that might arise, while you will be able to continue your work and focus on other essentials, like budgeting, sales, marketing, strategizing, etc.
Software development brings a lot of risks, from unexpected expenses to security breaches and data leaks. However, you will share them with your remote teams, which might alleviate this burden for you.
At the same time, software development vendors have established practices to mitigate the most common risks and avoid pitfalls that your company might suffer from due to the lack of appropriate experience.
Main Challenges You Might Face While Cooperating with Remote Development Team
So, cooperating with remote development teams brings you certain advantages you can leverage for the success of your company. However, you will be able to feel the positive impact only if the team’s performance overpowers the challenges and difficulties it might also create.
So, let’s contemplate the main complications you might face with your remote workers.
Maybe, it is one of the most common challenges that might worry you. A team’s productivity affects its throughput, and in turn, it might slow down development. As a client who hires a remote dedicated team who works independently under their vendor’s project manager, you most likely do not have much power over the software engineers and their day to day work, hence, you can’t dive into the development process so much as needed to fix some productivity issues. However, you can talk to the project manager responsible for the project or to the client success manager to express your concerns and ask for action plans to resolve the issues.
On the other hand, productivity problems might also arise due to issues between the lack of synchronization between the outsourced team and the business in-house team or management, and we will talk about it in the next paragraph.
Though the outsourcing development company is often an independent contractor, they need to be on the same page with your team, otherwise, you risk getting overlaps in work, inflated budgets, deadlines, etc.
If you are developing a large software product, and you hire a dedicated team to cover a certain part of the development (e.g, we have in our practice cases when we are hired to develop a mobile version of a product, while the in-house team is focusing on desktop), it is essential to keep both teams updated on everything that happens, otherwise, they might develop units that won’t be compatible, and you would need to take two steps back and redo them. It is also important to agree on management structure and choose one “head” manager, or you risk to double chain of command, which will bring conflicts, overlaps, and so on.
In case you don’t have any software development activities in-house and all the development happens on the vendor’s side, you still need to communicate properly to ensure that everything goes as you wish and that you know about any changes or tech challenges you didn’t expect before, that you understand what really happens with your project. If you remove yourself from this, in the end, you might be disappointed with the end result even when it is good, because you haven’t lined up your expectations with reality.
Lack of Trust
Lack of trust is another cause that will lead to miscommunication and conflicts, which in turn, will affect the quality of your product. If you can’t trust your vendor, then, your cooperation doesn’t make any sense. Outsourcing remote teams imply that you are ready to put a part of your responsibilities into other people, as well as share some sensitive info about your trade secrets, personal data, etc.
To break the wall, you might improve communication between you and ask for better transparency and involvement in the processes. A good vendor will provide you with the info you want to know and try to build more strong, personal connections with you. But if they are not going to do that, or you still have doubts about them, you might decide to switch vendors.
Time Zone Differences
If your vendor is located on the other continents, and you have, let’s say, a ten hours time difference, you both need to be flexible enough to ensure positive communication. At the same time, in most cases, it won’t take a lot of effort for you to synchronize your work hours and find an overlap you can use for face-to-face video calls or correspondence.
And to have a stable flow of information, you might use other communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or any other similar platforms. And cooperation solutions like Jira, Confluence, etc. would be great tools to track the operations and progress, so everyone will have access to this info on any part of the day at any timezone.
We would say that going over the estimated budget is a pretty common thing. There are a lot of reasons for them. For example, if the company decides in the middle of the development that they want to go over the planned scope and increase the functionality, it will cause growth in the budget, and well, it is pretty natural: more work, and more expenses.
However, sometimes budget expansion might be caused by other things, e.g., the company wants to redevelop something, the budget was initially estimated wrong or the developers made a mistake and now need to go back and redo a lot of things (e.g., the team didn’t consider that you subsequently want to scale your user base from 500 people to 10,000, and didn’t use the right approach to create a system with such sustainability).
What Kills the Efficiency of Your Remote Development Teams?
So, hiring and even managing remote teams might be hard. There are a lot of challenges, which together lead to one problem: reduced efficiency. When you hire a remote software team from a vendor, you want to get the most from the buffets you spend on such cooperation. And if you don’t get the desired result, you feel like wasting a lot of money on something vane.
Of course, there is always a choice to change vendors, however, it might not be the best solution. The switch is a long process that will slow your timeline, not to mention that you would need to invest additional budgets for code refactoring or something like that.
Hence, it might make sense to try and patch the things with your current vendor, of course, if they are not totally unprofessional.
So, you need to sit down together with your vendor, discuss the problems and come up with ways how to improve the situation and increase the productivity of the development team. To achieve that, you first need to find the problems.
Let’s go through the most common issues that will kill the productivity of the remote development team.
If You Are a Startup, Scale-up, or a Tech Company That Sells Products
Developing a product without having a long-term vision is a way to disruptions and struggle. Usually, we insist on having at least a six-month vision, even better if you have an idea of where you want to be in twelve or even eighteen months. Otherwise, there is a high chance that the development process will be messy, and the developers would be bound to jump from one task to another, and then back to the first one, leaving the other tasks halfway done.
As a result, their efficiency would be much lower than if they had a clear strategy, and you will have a product with messy functionality and most probably, not as user-friendly as you wished.
Solution: Product Strategy
The best way to resolve this is to hire a product owner in-house, as this person should be the one who understands where your product is heading, and what its users expect. Build a product vision for the future to formulate the scope you need to develop the product and pass it to the remote software development team. Use their expertise and experience to decide on the tech stack or any other aspects you have doubts about.
If your project is long-term, you might need to expand your development team and hire additional engineers, or someone might want to quit, and you will need a replacement. The new team member will need to get into work quickly to start to deliver value, so you would be able to recoup them.
However, it might take a lot of time for them to understand how the team is working, what stage the project is, etc. Their onboarding will spread over weeks, and all this time they will not work as you need them. Moreover, they would constantly take time from the tech lead or other developers by asking them to explain or show something, which means that their efficiency would drop as well.
Solution: Onboarding Strategy
You and your development team need an onboarding strategy. It should contain everything the new developer should know about the team structure, processes, tech documentation, code, product vision, etc. It should be written down, so they can study it by themselves and get back to it whenever they need. You also need to plan regular synchs and meetings with the new employee’s manager or mentor, so their onboarding would be facilitated by a certain person.
Lack of DevOps Practices
To ensure that your product is stable, as well as the development process, you need to have a stable infrastructure, necessary environments, implemented security measures, automation, etc. Basically, you need a support system that will monitor everything that the development team needs to work efficiently, fix any arising issues, and optimize the processes. Developers usually don’t do that.
The solution is quite obvious: you need a DevOps specialist as a part of your remote development team. Talk to your vendor and ask them to add a DevOps, if they haven’t offered them from the start, as this person is a crucial link for a successful product.
If You Are a Business That Needs to Develop Software for Internal Use
Lack of Software Specifications
To save efficient development, the development team should understand what is your goal and what you want to improve, change or implement with the help of software. Often, a lack of this understanding might backfire later, and the team would need to go back instead of moving forward.
Make sure that your remote team understands the project requirements, your processes, what you want to achieve, and what expectations you have about anything regarding the development. Communicate clearly on every step of preparation for the development, and give your feedback on estimations, Discovery stages, etc.
Lack of Communication
We have already mentioned it, but it is worth discussing one more time. The lack of communication and synchronization will lead to conflicts, unclear plans, delays, which only bring chaos to the development process. Clearly, it would be impossible to say about efficient work in these conditions.
Put some effort into the communication and relationships with the vendor. Usually, good vendors will initiate all activities you might need for that: they will schedule calls, send you updates, and open access to repositories, wikis, task managers, etc. So, you just need to take this seriously: even if you delegated the project to the remote team, you still need to be involved in decision-making.
Ensuring that your remote development team works efficiently is not a task that you should neglect. You still need to be involved in the development process, because you are still the client who needs the software to work.
To sum up everything we have written about in this article, we would emphasize the main thing you need to do to have efficient cooperation would be to stay open and support proper communication with your remote software development team.