This article is for: Startup founders or business leaders who are considering a software outsourcing project. Managing remote workers (offshore, or locally) is challenging and proper communication helps to keep the project on track, and maintain control over deliverables, timeline and cost.
Written by: Alex Senson, Ashley Burton, Tyler Boulanger
Developing software is hard. So, you’ve decided to outsource software development, either to a software development company or a team of freelancers. Now you just need to sit back and wait for your software product to show up in your email inbox, right?
Well, despite the abilities of the developers you’re outsourcing to, it’s not that easy. Software development is generally an incredibly complicated process; plans change, features don’t work out, and instructions need clarification. Communication with the development team throughout the software outsourcing process is key to having your software product come out just as you imagined.
The advantages of working with local developers are well-documented. Communication is much easier when it’s with someone in the same time zone, or even the same building. But startups are always looking for ways to get things done at a lower price. So with the emergence of more effective online communication platforms, offshore software outsourcing for software development has become much more common.
Whether a remote development team is located 10 miles away or 10,000 miles away, not being able to meet in person with your developers can cause communication issues. This article acts as a guide to mitigating or avoiding those concerns. It is divided into a few distinct lists:
- 5 Key Communication Hurdles That You Can Run into With Offshore Software Outsourcing
- 10 Key Software Tools for Communicating with Remote Development Teams
- 10 Key Communication Strategies for Software Outsourcing to Remote Developers
- 3 Bonus Considerations for Maintaining a Good Long-term Relationship with Third-party Developers
We will illustrate these ideas through case studies of companies and founders who work with the Altitude Accelerator network
- Case study: Ian Hayes from Causeview
- Case study: Mark Oleniuk from ResQ
- Case study: Mauricio Davila from EnerChemTek Inc.
- Case study: Robyn Halbot from Analyticly
Five key communication hurdles that you can run into with offshore software outsourcing
Key Takeaways: Although quality is the most common concern with offshore outsourcing, communication barriers are at the root of most quality issues. Time zone differences make it difficult to collaborate while language and cultural barriers lead to misinterpreted instructions. A lack of team synergy and trust are symptoms of these barriers.
Remote development teams can be located anywhere. That includes India or just down the street; as long as they aren’t working with you in person, they are remote. When that remote team is offshore, however, there are several communication issues that you wouldn’t encounter when working with a nearby team.
The potential issues outlined in this section are some of the key functional differentiators between local and offshore outsourcing.
1. Time zone differences
Put simply, it’s not easy to collaborate with someone who’s at work while you’re asleep. Some developers work non-traditional work hours to accommodate their North American clients, but coordinating your entire local team with an entire offshore team can be a tall order.
If something goes wrong for the offshore team, their development can be halted until they are able to get a hold of you the next day. Your local employees may not be happy about having to join an international call after putting their kids to sleep. In general, communication is a challenge when two teams aren’t in their “working state of mind” at the same time.
2. Language barriers
Language incompatibility is usually one of the main deal breakers when exploring potential development teams. Software development requires clear interpretations of instructions and specifications; this is next to impossible when someone has to run their communications through Google Translate in order to read them.
Even if everyone is available to communicate at the same time in the same place, communicating with a language barrier is setting yourself up for misinterpreted results and a product that has diverged from your vision. However, keep in mind that over 50 countries use English as either a primary or official language, so don’t be too quick to limit your options. Commonly-used countries for software development, like India or Ukraine for example, can often feature English-speaking developers when needed.
3. Cultural differences
Though more of a subtle discrepancy, cultural differences can also lead to misconstrued expectations and specifications. Different cultures have varying tones, interpretations and meanings when communicating; something that makes sense to your in-house team can be taken a completely different way by offshore developers.
Different cultures also have different personal experiences to draw upon when designing a product. Offshore developers may not understand the problem you’re trying to address because they come from a different political, socioeconomic, or cultural background. For example, you may have a different idea of what intuitive UX/UI design looks like compared to someone from another country.
4. No in-person synergy
Many businesses put a huge emphasis on building a company culture that holds all of its employees, whether in-house or not, to the same consistent expectations. Working together collaboratively can really help create a sense of team synergy that increases accountability and motivation as your product is developed.
When working with a remote team, it’s much harder to create this synergy. Communicating over emails or video conferences just doesn’t build the same personal connections and can make it difficult for offshore developers to feel like a part of your team.
5. Less trust
It’s no secret that offshore developers don’t have a sparkling reputation when it comes to developing high-quality software. Even if you did in-depth assessments for potential developers during the recruiting process, it can be difficult to shake the doubt that comes with offshore outsourcing.
Skepticism is definitely understandable, given how much you’re investing into having your software developed. But a lack of trust in your development team can causes communication issues on its own. You may find yourself getting more stressed over development delays, getting a little over overbearing with the team, or being extra critical of their work.
Altitude Accelerator Case Study: Ian Hayes from Causeview on his preference for local software outsourcing
Ian Hayes is the CEO of Causeview, a company that provides donor management software to nonprofits and educational institutions that is built upon the Salesforce Cloud platform. After starting out as a consulting service that helped nonprofit companies integrate with Salesforce in 2008, Causeview has evolved into software products that now serve over 1,600 users around the world. After finding a technical lead to manage this transition, development of the software was originally outsourced. Hayes’ first development team was outsourced locally. They worked right in Causeview’s office so they were able to maintain an in-person synergy much like an in-house development team would. This was definitely Haye’s preference given the ease of communication.
However, He eventually moved to an international development team because of their lower cost. Although the initial costs were much lower, he ended up spending more on international software outsourcing because he had to have much of the programming redone due to poor communication. The communication issues were largely caused by cultural and time zone differences. At the time, there were not as many helpful tools like slack around to make communication easier while outsourcing internationally. Luckily, Hayes says, those tools have made working with an international team possible today.
Summary: communication hurdles with offshore software outsourcing
- Time zone differences make it difficult to meet as a complete team
- Language and cultural differences can lead to misinterpretation of design specifications and features
- Creating a cohesive team synergy is difficult without working in person
- Having less trust in offshore developers can lead to high-stress, overbearing communication
However, don’t let this stop you from taking part in offshore outsourcing. There are thousands upon thousands of talented developers out there so you should remain open-minded that you can find some that work for you.
In the rest of the article, you can find solutions that help you address these problems.
10 key software tools for communicating with remote software development teams
Key Takeaways: Software tools can be used to combat many of the communication issues faced with offshore outsourcing. Many are able to be integrated with one another for easier use, allowing you to stream communications to a few centralized platforms.
One of the main reasons that offshore outsourcing is becoming much more common in software development is the emergence of so many helpful communication tools. Below are some of the tools that could do a great job at mitigating the concerns of outsourcing to a remote team.
Video conferencing tools
Especially when communicating between different cultures, messages can easily be misinterpreted when they are only sent over email or any other written messages. It is difficult to get a feel for someone’s tone or emphasis when you can only read what they have to say. Video conferencing allows you to have face-to-face communications with remote team members so you can establish a more personable connection; this is key for important collaborative decisions. However, video conferencing can be difficult since it requires everyone to be working at the same time.
Zoom is the go-to platform for a comprehensive video conferencing platform for businesses. It has a wide variety of features to customize your conferencing preferences, from breakout sessions to individual conversation URLs to screen sharing. It also allows for a lot of interaction between the presenter and participants through whiteboards, virtual hand raising, and other presentation tools. Paid versions of Zoom provide you with more administrative capabilities and customization options.
Skype meets many of your daily communication needs as a business, including video conferencing. It has the capacity to hold simple one-on-one conferences or meetings with up to 250 participants. Skype also integrates with Slack and Microsoft systems, allowing you to coordinate communications within some of the main platforms. You can also send video messages, share files, or communicate in a chat. With its large user base, your employees are very likely to already be familiar with Skype.
Project management tools
Project management tools are used to encourage collaboration and organization between members of your team. They can allow contract developers to see how their project fits into the organization as a whole and keep track of their responsibilities. It’s difficult to constantly clarify and manage your expectations of developers, so you can use these tools to make changes visible to everyone and keep the entire organization of where the project is headed. Depending on which code management platform you use, different project management platforms are able to be integrated to attach code to your project plans.
Trello is one of the simpler options for project management platforms, which results in it being one of the most user-friendly. It works well on both desktop and mobile and offers unlimited task boards at a low cost. Trello organizes tasks in “cards” that can be assigned to team members, commented on, moved between lists, or have files attached to them. It also offers real-time collaboration tools. Project boards can represent departments, a project, a team, or anything you need them to be. For code management, Trello can be integrated with the Bitbucket platform.
Businesses doing a lot of software outsourcing and looking for simplicity and flexibility are best suited for Trello.
Asana is the most comprehensive tool on the market, combining tools for collaboration, task management, and project tracking. Users can see due dates, timelines, and calendars, receiving email notifications when an important deadline is looming. You can use pre-made templates to get started right away or create projects with customized functions. Viewpoints of the app can even be customized based on whether you’re a project manager or developer. Asana can be integrated with GitHub.
The platform has a steeper learning curve, so it is best suited for businesses that will make good use of it on many projects.
Basecamp focuses solely on project management functionalities without as many collaboration tools. It is a very minimalistic platform that enforces classic project management practices. This is done with features like to-do lists, automatic follow-up on overdue tasks, and document sharing. Basecamp’s functionality can be exponentially increased by the amount if other platforms it can be integrated with. Though Trello and Asana also have multiple integrations, Basecamp users can add a variety of simple project management tools to their toolset to create a customizable, comprehensive project tracking experience. Basecamp’s diverse integrations also include code management, as it is compatible with both GitHub and Bitbucket.
It is most suitable for small businesses looking for a simple program that can be expanded as required.
Though text communications can be misinterpreted more often than video communications, they are necessary for when everyone can’t get online at the same time or you just need to send out a quick reminder. Having a platform that organizes your team’s messages into one place for quick collaboration is essential for communicating when there’s no time for a meeting.
Slack is gaining popularity in the tech community at a rapid pace, allowing remote teams to collaborate just like they’re texting one of their friends. Slack can function as a replacement to both email and instant messaging for your team, hosting a collection of conversations that is easy to navigate. You don’t want important messages getting lost in someone’s busy email account; Slack organizes conversations between individual conversations, team group chats, or discourse with partnering businesses. Quick messages can include polls, videos, or even push notifications for urgent matters. You can also share files, have video conversations, and integrate several other tools.
Slack is the best way to streamline communication between employees, teams, and business partners onto one centralized platform.
Visual communication tools
When designing software, describing specifications and features with just words will never do justice to the vision you have in mind. And trying to describe your thoughts in a video meeting can be hard to keep track of. Aside from making a wireframe of your potential product, using edited videos or screenshots can be one of the best ways to effectively illustrate your idealized software to contract developers. Whichever hardware you use, you can find hundreds of programs on the app store that allow you to annotate screenshots and videos to get your message across clearly.
Awesome Screenshot: Screen Video Recorder
There are many tools that can do this, but Awesome Screenshot: Screen Video Recorder is a Google Chrome plug-in that allows you to capture screenshots and edit them with annotations and comments. You can also record video of your screen and annotate the video as it progresses. This tool integrates with a variety of useful platforms including Trello, Asana, and Slack, making it easy to quickly share your ideas with developers.
Time zone management tools
With differing time zones playing such a large role in offshore software outsourcing communication issues, managing that difference is integral to ensuring a collaborative approach between your entire development team. There is wide range of simple options available when you search for one of these tools.
World Time Buddy is also a Google Chrome plug-in that effectively serves its simple purpose; to find the most advantageous overlap between people in different time zones. This tool lines up the daily schedules of people who need to meet according finds a time that aligns best with their preferences. It may not do much else, but this is a great way to visualize and schedule meetings in a way that’s fair to everyone involved.
Collaboration suites combine a variety of compatible tools into one place where you can share files, collaborate on projects, or communicate with team members. They are the closest thing you will find to an all-in-one solution.
G Suite is the much simpler option of these two suites. Its popular Doc, Sheets, and Slides platforms make it very easy to collaborate on files and projects. With the help of Google Hangouts and Google Drive, messaging and sharing files is much simpler on G Suite due to its intuitive design. The simple interface also works better across various devices and keeps all documents stored in the cloud.
Overall, G Suite was built for strong collaboration but lacks the technical power and detail of Microsoft applications.
Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are three of the most commonly used programs for developing their respective file types. Each of them has far more features and detail than the equivalent G Suite programs, but don’t lend themselves as well to collaboration. Along the same lines Skype and Outlook boast superior functionality compared to Hangouts and Gmail, respectively. Microsoft’s collaboration tool, Teams, also has advanced features but comes with a steeper learning curve.
Overall, Microsoft Office 365 applications function better than G Suite’s on their own, but the collaboration tools that connect them seem to have been shoehorned in ineffectively.
Altitude Accelerator Case Study: Mark Oleniuk from ResQ on working with a hybrid development company
Mark Oleniuk is a cofounder and managing partner at ResQ, an app that organizes on-demand maintenance and preventative fixes for restaurants. He says the development of his product has required a lot of learning along the way, seeing as no one on his founding team had a technical background in software development. Because of this, ResQ outsourced their development to a third-party company in Mississauga. This development company had a hybrid model, connecting local representatives to overseas development teams. As a result, Oleniuk and his team still had trouble communicating with the development team.
A difference in time zones made it difficult to get testing and debugging of the software done quickly because it was difficult to speak with developers in real time; there was also a language barrier. Luckily, modern day software tools made it much easier for everyone to stay on the same page. The ResQ made use of Slack to efficiently share information between the in-house team and overseas developers. They also used Jira and Bitbucket to share user stories and code.
Summary: key communication tools to use to manage software outsourcing teams
- Video conferencing tools allow team members to build stronger personal connections through face-to-face communication
- Project management platforms allow remote developers to collaborate with team members and keep track of what they are responsible for
- Team chat platforms allow conversations between individuals, teams, and business partners to be streamlined and centralized into one platform
- Visual communication tools allow you to more effectively communicate your ideas to developers using visual aids
- Time management tools allow you to find an overlapping time where you can collaborate between time zones
- Office suites allow you to collaborate on the creation and sharing of files in the same place as your email, team chats, and more
10 key communication strategies for software outsourcing to remote developers
Key Takeaways: Mitigate time zone concerns by adjusting work hours to find an overlapping time range that works for meetings. Mimic in-person team synergy using video conferencing and centralized communication tools. Detailed specifications are most important when you’re using a traditional methodology, constant engagement is key for an agile approach.
Managing communication with a software outsourcing partner may seem like something with straightforward solutions, but there’s a lot that you need to keep in mind. It can’t be stated enough just how detrimental poor communication can be; saving money on offshore outsourcing won’t matter if you need to restart development anyway.
Here are 10 key communication strategies that you should keep in mind when outsourcing software development to freelancers or a development company.
1. Gauge their communication skills early on
Without the ability to effectively communicate with you, developers won’t be able to turn your specifications into the software product you’ve envisioned. Figuring out whether or not you can clearly communicate with your remote developers is an integral step in choosing your ideal partner. This can be assessed right from your first interaction.
When you initially approach a development company or make a job posting, the requirements for the job need to be communicated thoroughly and clearly. Add as much detail as possible including all the skills, experience, and preferences you have in mind. Even if you don’t want to disclose too much info about the project to the public, give enough information so that developers can easily see whether they should be working with you.
From your perspective, you can tell a lot about people from their response to a job proposal. Look for developers that clearly understand what you’re looking for, get back to you in a reasonable amount of time, and can clearly convey their thoughts on the project.
One of the most effective ways to assess someone’s communication skills is by having a conversation. Try holding video conferences with potential developers to build a stronger connection and see if they are willing to take advantage of the communication tools listed above. If someone is unwilling to speak to you over video, that generally does not bode well for their credibility.
2. Set clear expectations from the start
n addition to job requirements, establish your expectations with developers before the start of the project. Outside of deliverable design specifications, specific goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) are what drive performance from outsourced workers. Your expectations for employees are likely a significant aspect of the company culture, so you want to hold partnering developers to that same standard.
By providing some background on the company’s culture and technologies, you can get developers excited and engaged with the project. You may want to mention the motivation for the project, its target audience, and how it will have an edge over competitors. Developers generally hold themselves to high standards and will want to perform on significant projects.
Put thought into setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely (SMART). Specific and measurable goals ensure that developers know exactly what they need to do and whether they are succeeding. Goals being achievable and relevant provides some motivation to work hard, while timeliness implies they will know when the project needs to be completed by. KPIs and deliverables play a large role in these goals, helping everyone understand their expectations at each step of the process from planning to programming to feedback. These are often outlined in the master service agreement.
One way to set achievable goals is to let the developers be involved in the project planning process. This allows them to clarify whether certain aspects of the project are realistic and allows you to gauge whether they are the right team for the project.
3. Ways to mitigate the offshore communication problem
As outlined earlier, two of the main concerns with offshore outsourcing are language barriers, a lack of in-person synergy, different cultures and different time zones. Offsetting the effects of these barriers is integral to making offshore outsourcing work.
Language barriers are likely the most difficult to overcome. Though translation services have come a long way, none of them are 100% reliable yet and you can’t afford to have your specifications lost in translation. Video conferences also become nearly impossible. The main way to combat language barriers is sticking to development teams that speak a language that someone on your team speaks. If you’re bilingual, you can use that to your advantage by being one of the few companies able to work with certain companies.
Working in different time zones is a communication hinderance in that it is difficult to be available for communication at the same time. Time zone management tools are useful, but you may just need to look for companies that are willing to push their work hours so there is some overlap with yours; you may need to throw some extra money their way to achieve this. You should also be willing to collaborate during unconventional work hours yourself. Having a few hours of overlap can at least allow you to have scrum meetings, daily updates, or Q&As.
Another helpful option is to look for a development company with a hybrid model. This means they use representatives, account managers, design resources, or project managers that are in your time zone. Hybrid companies allow you to communicate with a team leader during regular work hours.
Video conferencing is the ultimate key to mimic in-person collaboration, granting you the ability to read the tone and emotions of developers.
The “problems” with offshore software outsourcing can even be taken advantage of in some situations. Working with companies in another country can give you insight into the culture there if you have interest in entering that market with your business. Working in a different time zone can also be advantageous when you want to offer 24/7 support for customers, since your local team probably doesn’t want to be on call at 3 a.m.
Altitude Accelerator Case Study: Mauricio Davila from EnerChemTek Inc. on overcoming language and time zone barriers
Mauricio Davila is a cofounder and CEO EnerChemTek Inc., an online collection of web apps that provide expert consulting, talent development, cloud-based advanced analytics, and digital transformation to companies in the chemicals and energy industries. Davila leads the effort to further develop their services and has done so from the comfort of Altitude Accelerator’s Incubator Program in 2019.
Davila hired a remote development team for the platform because he had heard it cost less than a local team. He had also heard mixed reviews about overseas development teams with regards to the quality of the software. However, he took a chance on a South American development agency after doing research on which ones were trusted.
There was a time difference and English was not the team’s first language. However, Davila came well-prepared to work with them. He speaks Spanish so the language barrier was non-existent and he kept his work hours flexible so he could coordinate video conferences with them. Even though the agency outsourced some of its development to India, Davila ensured the Indian development team could speak English so he could still communicate effectively. Overall, it is clear that you should be adaptable when you find a company you truly trust, but you should also make sure a company is compatible with your language abilities before getting started.
4. Provide clear, detailed instructions
This is arguably the most important part of communicating with any development team. Developers aren’t mind readers. They shouldn’t be left to make assumptions about missing information or vague language in your specifications for features. Provide as much detail as possible, leaving no doubt as to what your intentions and expectations are. However, since you may be working with people from another culture whose first language isn’t English, detail needs to be balanced with simplicity and clarity. Therefore, use clear, easily-understood language to describe the details; don’t be repetitive or add unnecessary information.
Another important aspect of providing instructions is informing developers of the context of the project. They should be able to see how their project fits into the business as a whole, which can be shown using project management tools. Knowing your vision and being more informed of customer problems will help developers create a more suitable software project for your business.
Lastly, visual aids should be used to help get your point across whenever possible. Humans are visual learners and that’s especially true for developers whose first language isn’t English. What you write in emails or chats can be interpreted many ways but visual aids like screenshots or screensharing during video conferences can really help illustrate your expectations for the software. Working with in-house developers lets you use whiteboards and PowerPoints to explain your thoughts, so the appropriate tools should be used to mimic that experience.
5. Stay engaged
It goes without saying that you can’t just send specifications to a development company and hope that your dream software arrives in a month exactly as you imagined. You need to remain engaged in the development process so that you can be there to identify and address concerns as they arise.
Your level of involvement obviously depends on whether you’re working with a company that assigns project managers or just working with freelancers, but you should be in the loop of how things are going no matter what. This lets you get updates, give feedback, and clarify instructions before the team strays down the wrong path.
6. Always have extra tasks ready
When working with developers in a different time zone, or even when you’re just unavailable, there will be times when the developers get stuck on a problem and can’t contact you for a solution right away. You don’t want them sitting around doing nothing until you can get back to them, so make sure developers always have a “B” task to work on. These tasks can be managed using project management tools.
7. Integrate external developers into your team
As already discussed, seeing how a project fits into a business’ vision is important to understanding how it should be made. Getting remote developers to work with each other and your in-house team can also create much more collaborative chemistry between everyone. Integrating remote team members into your company’s culture allows for increased knowledge sharing and more organization of who is responsible for what.
This can avoid an “us vs. them” mentality within an organization, where different teams feel like they are competing with others. Treating everyone as if they are your employees, whether they are officially part of your company or not, helps create one cohesive culture that encompasses both local and offshore developers.
One way to achieve this is by ensuring that everyone is included in communications that are relevant to them; avoid keeping anyone in the dark when you don’t have to. Centralizing your whole team onto one platform for communication and collaboration is also effective. Keeping everyone in the same place on Slack or a project management platform allows all team members to communicate more easily and know what their individual responsibilities are.
Altitude Accelerator Case Study: Robyn Halbot from Analyticly on centralizing freelancers and using tools like Trello
Robyn Halbot is the cofounder of Analyticly, a supplier of AI-driven software that helps businesses with financial forecasting and Shopify product recommendations. She personally has a background in financial forecasting but plans to adapt her products to other industries in the future. In addition to her technically savvy cofounder, Analyticly’s development is mainly outsourced to freelancers. Although things have generally gone well so far, Halbot admits that relying on freelancers can be difficult; the company cycled through ten developers in the first four months.
Halbot’s main strategy for coordinating communication between members of the freelancer team is having them all work on the same platform. Centralizing all of the freelancers to one communication channel ensures that they can see what each other have gotten done and what each of their responsibilities are. They can’t just say “I didn’t get it done because of the other guy” when they can see what needs to be completed and work through issues together. Having a centralized team of developers requires buy-in on your preferred platform(s), but pays dividends when your freelance team is far more organized and efficient.
Trello is Halbot’s preferred platform for organizing projects with her team of freelancers. She uses agile project management with a backlog approach meaning she can use the platform to brainstorm what needs to be built, manage set deliverables, tag the type or progress of the project, and go over monthly “lessons learned” notes. Trello helps keep the freelancers in one place to track how much work they are putting in and what they are delivering. Clear descriptions on each task ensure developers know their role on the team and “what done means.” The team is further coordinated by integrating Trello with Slack, which further encourages team communication.
8. Trust the developers
A significant cause of communication problems with offshore developers is a lack of trust. The best way to overcome this is, obviously, finding a way to build trust. Though you should definitely remain involved in the development process as it goes on, you should not be micromanaging every single aspect of their job on a daily business. Being able to trust your developers to do their job properly just means giving them the independence to complete tasks on their own while maintaining consistent communication with you for when they need support.
You can build up trust in developers by doing thorough background checks before you hire them. If they have positive reviews from your peers and an impressive portfolio, they are likely deserving of your trust. Trust can also be built through the completion of smaller tasks earlier on in development. Providing discrete tasks throughout development allows you to test things consistently to ensure they meet your standards before work is done. In general, you play a role in implementing a reporting system that ensures you stay in the loop with developers while trusting them to be independent.
It is much easier to scale a software business when you trust developers to get the job done. If you don’t you could spend the majority of your day wasting time micromanaging multiple development teams as the company grows. Overall, trusting your developers can streamline and simplify outsourcing communications.
9. Have established standards for communication
Having set of company standards that describe how everyone involved needs to communicate is an effective way to get everyone centralized to certain platforms and communicating at an acceptable frequency. Established standards also make it much easier to onboard new developers and teams since they won’t have to figure out their preferred methods amongst themselves.
These standards can include regularly scheduled meetings, scrums, or anything important to your communication process. With a likely difference in time zones, agreeing on a time where everyone is available to communicate is important.
Standardized processes can apply to any area of the development cycle and can be used to communicate different kinds of information. Standards are also key in prioritizing features, reviewing code, planning release schedules, and more.
10. Know their methodology and optimize it
One important aspect of development to keep in mind is the development methodology being used. Most companies or developers will have a preferred methodology already, so you’ll need to figure out whether their methodology is a fit for your project, or whether they would be willing to adjust. It is crucial that you communicate in a way that optimizes the chosen methodology.
Due to the aforementioned communication concerns, offshore development companies have historically used more of a traditional methodology. That way, they can work independently after receiving the design specifications without needing constant communication. However, these teams can fall out of touch with your company because of that minimal contact, meaning you may not find out about issues until the product is complete. If you do choose to outsource to a traditional development team, be sure to make the specifications clear step-by-step instructions.
With modern software improving offshore communications, many companies are making the move to agile methodologies. If you outsource locally, you’re especially likely to encounter this situation. With agile placing such importance on frequent meetings and iteration, staying engaged in the process is extremely important. Agile presents an opportunity to continuously provide feedback, use customer insight, and make changes, so having an established schedule for all this communication will make the process far more organized. Many project management tools lend themselves very well to agile methodologies.
Summary: key communication strategies for software outsourcing management
- Before the project begins, gauge whether you will be able to effectively communicate with developers and make your expectations for them clear
- Have set communication standards in place to new development teams can quickly be onboarded
- Provide detailed instructions in simple language before the project begins, especially, if you’re using a traditional methodology
- Mitigate time zone concerns by adjusting work hours to find an overlapping time period for team meetings; hybrid development companies can also help address this
- Stay engaged in development by getting updates and giving feedback, especially when using an agile methodology
- In-person team synergy can be mimicked by using video conferencing and centralizing developers to one communication platform
- Trust that your developers can complete the project without you micromanaging their every move
Three bonus considerations for maintaining a good long-term relationship with third-party developers
Key Takeaways: If you wish to maintain a good long-term relationship with developers, make sure they are rewarded for a job well done. This includes using a trusted payment system, providing them with feedback and reviews, or even occasionally inviting them to meet in person.
Whether or not you have plans to work together again in the future, maintaining a good relationship with high-quality development teams can pay off in several ways in the future. Most importantly, they will find the time to work with you in the future. Development teams want to work with partners they have enjoyed working with, so providing that positive experience makes you a leading candidate for future endeavors.
Not only that, but those developers would be much more likely to approach your company if they’re looking for permanent work in the future. Whether or not there is the potential to hire that development team/company full-time should definitely be a consideration as your company grows. In general, the recruiting of a development team for future projects will be much easier if you make good partners want to come back to you.
1. Use trustworthy payment systems
As with any business transaction, both sides want to ensure that they receive what was agreed upon from the deal. While the developers are expected to produce high-quality software, you are expected to pay them for their services at the agreed-upon intervals. There are many payment systems that ensure both sides can get what they want by having the client (you) approve of the submitted work and releasing payments to the vendor (developers) accordingly. Many freelancing platforms have this type of service built into them.
2. Feedback, feedback, and more feedback
Seeing as you have likely looked to your peers and online databases for reviews on potential development partnerships, feedback is crucial to the success of software developers as a business. Their reputation largely lies in what their past clients have to say about them, so it is only fair that you add to that reputation if they perform well. Be sure to leave reviews online to show your support for freelance developers and development companies.
Feedback is also crucial to maintaining a positive relationship during the development process. Developers want to build the best product possible, so you should be giving them feedback on the work they do, both positive and negative, so that they know if they are on the right track. They also look for feedback at the completion of a project so they can improve as developers and business partners in the future.
3. Make an effort to meet in person
Offshore development teams are obviously not built to collaborate in person, mainly because their clients would never be willing to travel that far. However, meeting once a year or so is a great way to build a long-term relationship or integrate a remote development team into your company culture. This could be a visit to get to know them or an invitation for them to come visit your own office. Either way, meeting remote developers in person increases engagement and is great for team building.
Summary: maintaining good relationships with outsourced developers
- Using a trusted payment system ensures both you and the developers get what they want out of your deal
- Giving feedback can both improve the quality of your software product and add to the reputation of your development team
- Occasionally meeting remote developers in person can help maintain a long-term relationship
- New software tools can help mitigate many of the issues involved with offshore software outsourcing including different time zones, languages, and cultures
- Before outsourcing to a development team, gauge whether they will be able to effectively communicate with you
- At the start of your project, be detailed and clear when outlining expectations, design specifications, and communication standards; especially if the development team uses a traditional methodology
- Visual aids can greatly help with the understanding of your expectations and ideas; you can use screenshot editing, screensharing, or project management tools to create visual aids
- Mitigate time zone concerns by using time zone management tools that find an overlapping time that works for everyone
- Integrate developers into your team using video conferencing platforms, project management platforms, and collaborative office suites
- Remain engaged in the development process through scheduled meetings, feedback, and collaborative work; especially if the development team uses an agile methodology
- If you want to maintain a long-term relationship with third-party developers, you can reward them with secure payment, feedback, and occasional in-person meetings