Three Tips to Effective Offshore Management

With the trend in shifting skillsets in the IT industry, organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on offshore resources for staff augmentation and resource outsourcing. But with the option of outsourcing work comes the challenge of managing it and ensuring that internal standards of quality and schedule are still met. This requires increased vigilance from the project manager. This article will focus on three tips to effectively managing your offshore team to success.

Clear, Concise Requirements

Without these, offshore development is a non-starter. Often times your offshore teams are working when we’re in bed and vice versa so the lines of communication are rather thin from a team-to-team relationship. The first step into making your offshore team highly effective is to make sure that you have crystal-clear requirements that can be translated into a technical design. The one thing that project managers need to keep in mind is that the offshore team is working in somewhat of a silo where they are handed requirements or functional design and are expected to build a working piece of software that meets the requirements. This is where the mettle of a strong business analyst is tested. Not knowing the industry background of the resources who will be building the software will challenge the individual writing the requirements to ensure that no stone is left unturned. This is not an indictment of the skills of the offshore resources but rather the perceived disconnection between offshore development teams and business analysts can sometimes lead to misinterpreted requirements which can lead to fully functioning code however for misunderstood business needs. Having concise requirements that leave nothing to ambiguity is a key step in ensuring that your offshore team is equipped with the right information to do the job.

Setting Quality Expectations

Like with any team, expectations need to be set regarding quality. Your approach as a project manager doesn’t need to be any different with offshore teams as with your regular project teams. By effectively communicating your quality expectations up front and determining the proper checks to put into place (i.e. regular code reviews), you are positioning your offshore team to buy into the level of quality that needs to be delivered. Your team should be equipped with a technical lead who sets the tone of quality expectations with your team and who is capable of performing constant reviews of the team’s work and providing feedback to the team on areas that need to be tightened up from a quality perspective. The project manager is accountable for the output of the team as a whole but the technical lead should be responsible for ensuring that code quality is adhering to organizational standards.

Constant Communication

As is the theme with most of my articles, I am circling back to communication. As the project manager it is your job to stay in constant communication with your team, nearshore and/or offshore. The time differences can make this a significant challenge so logistics need to be worked out where you can connect with the team (often it’s good to delegate an offshore team lead who you can use as your primary point of contact) to ensure that they are continuing to work effectively and that you are aware of any roadblocks that you as a project manager need to be addressing.

Offshore staff augmentation for IT projects is nothing new, and in fact is continuing to grow. The financial advantages to using offshore resources can be a big benefit to organizations who manage them effectively. By ensuring that your offshore team understand the expectations from both a requirements and quality perspective and by ensuring that quality is met, your organization can make very effective use of your offshore teams.

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