How to Manage an Offshore Team: Cool Tips and Best Practices

Male programmer cooperating with his female colleague while working on computer codes in the office

In today’s fast-paced environment, there’s no time to waste. Any delay could allow a competitor to beat you to the punch and introduce their solution first. Considering the benefits of being the first mover and how often they dominate the market, businesses can’t afford to fall behind.

However, it’s just as important to create quality products and services. Just because speed is of the essence doesn’t mean you should cut corners to speed up development. There’s a delicate balance between speed and quality that must be maintained.

Businesses are always looking for ways to shorten development time without compromising quality or breaking the bank. One of the best ways to do this is to outsource some or all of the work to an offshore IT team. This approach can afford you access to a larger team without incurring higher project costs.

While this is a winning strategy when executed correctly, the tactic often requires managing them differently than you normally would. Offshore best practices differ in many ways from onshore best practices, and they vary significantly from in-house best practices.

The best team in the world can’t deliver on your expectations if they’re not managed properly. Getting the full benefits of offshore teams requires an understanding of offshore best practices for management. Once you know how to work with offshore teams to get the best results, the benefits start rolling in!

What Is an Onshore Team and an Offshore Team?

An onshore team is a team of workers in your country that you’ve outsourced your project(s) to. This means that US-based businesses that outsource to a team from another US-based business are onshoring. This can be a very convenient method of outsourcing. However, many would argue that it isn’t the best of the two options.

An offshore team is a group of workers in another country that you hire to work on your project(s). One of the most common and well-known examples of this is in the case of American businesses that outsource their IT jobs to workers in India and other far-away countries.

There are some challenges that come with using this approach. However, when you take the time to learn how to work with offshore teams to get the most ideal outcome and ensure that offshore best practices are properly implemented, the advantages often easily outweigh the challenges.

Common Challenges of Offshoring

There are some challenges inherent to working with offshore teams over onshore teams. While they can be persistent and do need to be addressed, they’re far from insurmountable.

The challenges you’re likely to encounter include:

  • Distance: Due to the nature of offshore workers being much further away by definition, this can cause some issues if not handled carefully. The distance can make in-person meetings a hassle along with being more expensive.
  • Time Difference: The time difference can slow down communication as they aren’t available at the same times as you and your in-house team.
  • Language Barriers: Many of the countries in which offshoring is the most popular tend to have fewer workers with high English language proficiency. This can make communication more difficult as translation mistakes can cause miscommunications.
  • Cultural Differences: In addition, these countries often have wildly different cultural norms to the US. This can make communication more difficult as cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings of each other’s intent or meaning.
  • Longer Development Times: All these issues, when left unaddressed, can lead to massively delayed project timelines.

This is why it’s so important to understand and implement offshore best practices.

Advantages of an Offshore Team

While there are some difficulties associated with offshoring, there are also many benefits. Some of the top reasons offshore teams are such a popular choice are:

  • Low Hourly Wage: Offshore workers can often cost a fraction of what a US employee would make.
  • High-Skill Workers: IT outsourcing has become a big part of the economy in offshore countries for more than their wages. They’re often equally as skilled as US workers as well.
  • Large Talent Pools: There’s a limited supply of domestic employees available for jobs like these. However, when you include several other countries, many with far higher populations than the US, you can easily find the employees you need.
  • Skill Variety: Not only are high-skilled workers available in no short supply, but the number of people makes it much easier to find a team with all the skills your project requires.
  • No Worrying About Poaching: Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for US workers to be poached. Many companies will offer to pay more if they work on their project instead due to the low supply of qualified workers. With huge offshore talent pools, there’s no need for companies to do that.

Such a hefty list of benefits is enticing to many businesses. However, those that jump in without the proper management techniques and offshore best practices frequently reap far fewer of the possible rewards of working with offshore IT teams.

Tips on How to Manage an Offshore Team

Your offshore team’s success will depend just as much on how well you manage them as it does on their own capabilities. Overcoming the challenges that go along with offshoring and maximizing the associated benefits requires an understanding of how to work with offshore teams in the most effective way.

Just as you rely on them to do their jobs well, they count on you to help them optimize their performance and keep the team running smoothly. These are some of the ways to ensure your team works together seamlessly.

Have a Well-Defined Project

The first and most important step is defining your project in the clearest and most detailed way possible. It can be tempting to just assume that everyone will understand what you mean by vague terms like “app development” and “user-friendly UI” but the more specific you are, the more likely you are to get your desired results.

Leave nothing to chance and outline every feature, process, element, and task whenever possible. The more you clearly define, the less can be misunderstood. Also, remember which things you take for granted as standard and expected.

In the US, many things have language options for English and Spanish built in. However, in other countries, standard operating procedures differ. Are there any elements of the project that you’re taking for granted as a US standard that you should explicitly define your expectations for?

Also consider what may mean different things in other regions of the world. For example, US users will read red octagons to mean stop and yellow triangles to mean yield or danger. However, is this universal? Are there any elements of your project that could rely on or benefit from these subtle visual cues that may not be universal?

Do any of your communications about the project contain things like this? Do you use idioms or phrases commonly understood in the US that might mean something completely different elsewhere? Don’t assume your offshore team will be familiar with the same ones as you or take the same meaning from things.

Ensure Everyone Understands Their Part

Your offshore IT team can’t meet your expectations if they don’t fully understand what they are. While this is true for any team, the language and cultural barriers make it even more vital to state all expectations and timelines explicitly, define project parameters clearly, and provide detailed KPIs, milestones, and timelines.

This will help ensure that no one misunderstands their role. It also provides ways for them (and you) to measure progress in a way that makes it clear if the project is moving in the right direction. That way, even if there is a misunderstanding, it can be caught right away and rectified to cut down on lost time as much as possible.

Good Communication

Keep an open line of communication with everyone on the team. Allow them plenty of ways to contact you and make it clear which types of communications you prefer to go through which channels.

For example, if general updates are fine to send through your team Slack channel but you prefer urgent questions be asked via email or direct message, communicate these expectations clearly.

The same goes for when it’s okay to call you directly or who to go to under what circumstances. Is one employee in charge of UI/UX but they should go to a different team member to call out sick? Make those things clear.

Foster a Kind, Understanding, Team-Focused Environment

Smiling group of IT team working in an office.

Managing a team that works well together requires an environment conducive to team-work and positive communication. You want your team to feel like they can come to you and each other for help, feel free to point out any issues, and feel welcome to share ideas.

If team members fear admitting a mistake or telling you they don’t understand something, they’re likely to feel compelled to hide things like this, costing precious time and resources down the line. If they believe pointing out flaws or inefficiencies will be seen as criticism and received negatively, they won’t point out what could be better.

However, if you foster an environment that’s kind, understanding, open, and designed to maximize teamwork, they’ll be willing to speak up. It’s also a good idea to encourage sharing ideas that could be helpful. Never be dismissive or derisive of their contributions.

When they do mention something helpful, celebrate their ideas and give them the credit. Show them that their contributions are valued, and they’ll be willing to put in extra effort knowing it will be recognized and rewarded.

Utilize Technology

Use technology like Slack and Zoom to foster comradery. You might have a Slack channel dedicated to getting to know each other. Connecting will make the work more seamless. The more comfortable they are and the better they get along, the better they’ll work as a team.

You can do fun things like post prompts each day asking them to share their plans for holidays, post pet photos, or participate in events like #ThrowbackThursday posts where they share fond memories from years past and bond over shared nostalgia or learn about each other’s culture.

You can even host work game nights where people are free to play online games together. This is a great way for remote team members to engage, connect, and build rapport. Your options are endless. Be creative, have fun, and ask for suggestions to see what they think would make for a good time.

Have Systems for Tracking Progress

Once the ingredients for quality teamwork are in place, it’s important to check in regularly and make sure your recipe for success is coming together as expected. Have team members provide weekly reports, participate in regular calls, and/or meet mini deadlines along the way.

It also helps to have good project management software. This can ensure that everyone knows what tasks they’re responsible for and what the deadlines are. Most project management platforms allow leaving comments or sending messages and have indicators of progress. A kanban board can be a great way to visually display progress.

Keeping up with these things will allow you to catch any issues, see if the project isn’t turning out as expected before it goes too far off track, and recognize problems or delays that could cost you later.

This is the best way to see if all your management strategies are paying off and provide opportunities to make adjustments when things aren’t running smoothly. You’ll know you have the right mix of tactics in place when these methods routinely show that everything is going well and your project is on track!

How ParallelStaff Can Help

Assembling the right team can be hard. If you want some expert help finding the perfect offshore IT team, trust ParallelStaff to put together a team with the skills you need and have them working on your project in as little as 10 days!

Click the “Meet with Us” button to book an intro call or contact us to learn more and ask any questions you may have.

Janell Picon

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