Agile methodologies initially focus on co-located teams to facilitate quick decision-making and adaptability by having all team members in the same location. With the advent of global business needs and the expansion of talent pools, organizations now integrate hybrid agile models. These models combine the traditional agile approach with the flexibility of offshore teams, allowing businesses to tap into a diverse range of technical skills and cost-effective labor markets while striving to maintain agile principles such as iterative development and collaborative decision-making.

Tips for managing offshore teams

Assessing technical skills

Organizations face challenges in assessing the technical skills of offshore candidates, particularly when traditional face-to-face interviewing techniques are not feasible. Experts recommend a 40-minute live coding interview as an effective method to evaluate a candidate’s problem-solving and coding abilities in real-time. This approach respects the candidate’s familiarity by permitting the use of their preferred programming language and integrated development environment (IDE), thereby providing a more accurate assessment of their actual working capabilities.

For large-scale hiring, using standardized coding assessment tools like Coderbyte, Codility, TestGorilla, or Turing offers a scalable solution. These platforms provide a range of coding challenges and projects that can test candidates on various aspects of software development, from logical thinking to proficiency in specific programming languages. Data shows that integrating these tools into the recruitment process can reduce the time spent on hiring by up to 60% and improve the quality of hires, as these assessments are designed to simulate real-world programming tasks.

Craft non-financial incentives to acknowledge contributions

Rewarding employees and acknowledging their contributions are common practices in onsite settings, but these traditional forms of rewards like team lunches or gift cards do not translate well to offshore contexts due to logistical challenges and differing cultural norms. Companies must adapt their reward systems to suit the distributed nature of global teams.

Instead of monetary rewards, organizations find success in creating non-financial incentives that resonate more with offshore team members. Acknowledging individual and team contributions through public recognition can be highly motivating. For example, a simple ‘thank you’ or highlighting an employee’s contribution in a company-wide newsletter can have a substantial impact. Celebrating personal milestones or professional achievements fosters a sense of belonging and appreciation. Data from management studies indicate that employees who receive regular recognition and praise are up to 60% more productive and have higher loyalty and satisfaction scores compared to those who do not.

Extend a culture of empathy to remote teams

With teams spread across different geographies, cultural and empathetic understanding becomes essential to prevent divisions within the organization. Remote teams often suffer from an ‘us versus them’ mentality, which can undermine collaborative efforts and negatively impact project outcomes. Leaders must proactively work to bridge these gaps by fostering an inclusive and empathetic workplace culture.

One effective strategy involves encouraging teams to share their cultural practices and learn about each other’s backgrounds. Organizing virtual social events where team members can discuss non-work topics like sports (cricket, soccer) or share recipes (biryani, pasta) helps build interpersonal relationships and understanding. Such activities break down cultural barriers to promote a more cohesive and collaborative environment. Research indicates that teams with high cultural and emotional intelligence are 4.5 times more likely to retain their talent and 3 times more likely to achieve high-performance ratings.

Expanding roles and collaboration

Leaders in progressive organizations recognize that offshore teams can provide much more than just basic coding or testing services. These teams possess capabilities that can drive innovation, especially in areas where specific technical skills are in short supply, such as cloud engineering, data operations, and test automation. For instance, as global talent pools evolve, companies find that offshore teams are capable of leading entire product development suites, not just contributing to them.

Select tools that foster real-time collaboration

Selecting the right collaboration tools is key for maintaining productivity and cohesion among distributed teams. Real-time collaboration tools are invaluable for facilitating immediate communication and collaboration, helping team members in different time zones to work together as if they were in the same room. Asynchronous tools also play a crucial role, letting team members contribute when they are most productive without being constrained by the schedules of others.

Tool features to consider

When choosing tools, focus on features that support seamless collaboration. Tools that automate routine tasks and integrate easily with other systems can greatly reduce manual work and improve efficiency. Features like instant data transfer, centralized document storage, and access to reusable process templates in libraries support continuous improvement and knowledge sharing among teams.

Maintaining company culture and reducing turnover

A positive work experience is essential for keeping team members engaged and reducing turnover, especially in remote settings. Tools that facilitate clear, consistent communication and provide visibility into project progress and individual contributions help reinforce company culture. They also make sure that offshore team members feel valued and connected to the broader organization, leading to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates. Surveys show that companies that invest in creating a supportive culture for their remote employees see up to a 25% reduction in turnover and a 20% increase in productivity.

Things to avoid with offshore Agile teams

Limiting work to tactical functions

Many organizations start their journey with offshore agile teams by assigning them low-risk tasks. They often view these teams as secondary, suitable only for handling routine, non-critical work that doesn’t require deep knowledge or decision-making authority. Such an approach underutilizes the offshore team’s potential, limiting the opportunity for these teams to develop and contribute more significantly to the organization’s strategic goals.

Collaborating on complex projects requires aligning these teams closely with the company’s strategic vision and integrating them into the core development processes. Leaders must facilitate seamless communication and provide access to the necessary tools and systems to ensure these teams can perform at their best. Studies show that when companies involve offshore teams in higher-value tasks, they optimize their investments and increase their innovation output by up to 25%.

Overlooking offshore team needs in crisis plans

Business continuity planning is a critical component of strategic operations management, yet it often fails to take into account the unique challenges faced by offshore agile teams. Many organizations create these plans with only their main operations in mind, neglecting the fact that offshore teams can face different risks such as political instability, natural disasters, or significant infrastructure failures. These oversights can lead to disruptions that might incapacitate a part of their operations unexpectedly.

Recommendations for crisis management

Companies need to design comprehensive and inclusive crisis management plans that reflect the needs and situations of offshore teams. Some experts suggest that companies should implement strategies like cross-training and developing strong partnerships with local development agencies to ensure continuity of operations. These measures prepare the organization to respond swiftly and effectively when a crisis hits, minimizing downtime and maintaining productivity.

For example, when a global crisis limits the ability of team members to perform their duties, having a well-prepared plan means the company can continue operations with minimal impact. Investing in training for local managers and establishing clear communication channels are effective for quick decision-making and making sure that all team members feel supported during crises.

Overcontrol offshore teams, avoid micromanagement

Micromanagement is a common pitfall when dealing with offshore teams, especially in organizations used to close oversight and control over their operations. Command-and-control tactics can stifle creativity and reduce the efficiency of these teams. Offshore team members often perform best when they have clear objectives and the freedom to determine the best way to achieve them without excessive interference.

Leaders need to trust their offshore teams to manage their day-to-day activities and provide them with autonomy to make decisions within the scope of their responsibilities. Studies indicate that teams with greater autonomy report higher job satisfaction and are 30% more productive compared to those operating under strict control.

Strategies for empowerment

Empowering offshore teams involves more than avoiding micromanagement. This requires actively fostering a culture of autonomy, efficiency, and localized support. Allowing teams to be self-sufficient and reducing dependencies on cross-time-zone communications are strategies that improve team agility and responsiveness.

For instance, Roger Valade, senior vice president of engineering at G2, emphasizes the importance of making each local team self-sufficient to minimize the need for constant oversight and improve efficiency. On the other hand, Patrick Jean, CTO of OutSystems, focuses on building a supportive culture where developers are empowered to be decision-makers on their projects. This approach encourages offshore teams to take ownership of their work, leading to faster development times and more innovative solutions.

Providing local support and resources, combined with regular but not overbearing communication, helps these teams feel connected to the company’s broader goals while retaining the flexibility to adapt to local conditions and challenges. As a result, these teams can contribute more effectively to the organization’s success, driving business-critical applications and innovations.

Strategies to improve offshore hybrid Agile models

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to adapt to remote work, accelerating the shift to hybrid agile models. This shift demonstrated the need for well devised DevOps practices and collaboration tools to maintain the agility and responsiveness of teams spread across different geographies. Mature DevOps and collaboration tools are now integral to managing these dispersed teams, helping them to communicate effectively, share code, track progress, and maintain high productivity levels. Research shows that organizations that effectively adopt hybrid agile models see a 30% improvement in their project success rates compared to those using traditional models.

Issues with remote interviewing

Standard interviewing techniques, which typically rely on face-to-face interactions, are less effective when assessing remote candidates, particularly when language barriers are present. Remote interviews require different approaches to evaluate a candidate’s technical skills, problem-solving ability, and compatibility with the team. Tools and techniques that support live coding sessions or project-based assessments provide a clearer picture of the candidate’s capabilities. Statistics indicate that companies using live coding challenges as part of their hiring process reduce mis-hires by up to 40%.

Involving Offshore Teams in Innovation

Organizations must increasingly involve their offshore teams in critical and innovative projects due to skill shortages in specialized areas such as cloud engineering, data operations, and test automation. Including these teams in high-value tasks helps in leveraging their unique perspectives and skills, leading to more innovative solutions and products. Reports indicate that teams with diverse geographic and cultural backgrounds contribute to a 35% increase in innovation outputs and a 25% faster time-to-market for new products.

Non-financial rewards

Non-financial rewards and recognition play a significant role in motivating and acknowledging the contributions of offshore teams. Simple acts of recognition, such as public acknowledgment in company communications or celebrating professional milestones, significantly impact morale and productivity. Data from employee surveys show that teams receiving regular non-financial recognition have a 31% lower turnover rate and a 29% increase in productivity compared to teams that do not receive such recognition.

Preventing divisive mentalities

Cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings and a ‘us versus them’ mentality that can weaken team cohesion. Promoting empathy and understanding across different cultures is essential for building a unified team. Activities that encourage cultural exchange and mutual understanding, such as shared virtual social events or cultural education sessions, help in bridging these gaps. 

Tool selection

Choosing the right tools is essential for maintaining effective collaboration among geographically dispersed teams. These tools need to support both synchronous and asynchronous communication, allowing team members to work together in real-time and independently. Features like instant messaging, video conferencing, shared document editing, and integrated project tracking are fundamental for keeping team members connected and aligned on their goals. Organizations that select and implement appropriate collaboration tools report up to a 20% increase in operational efficiency and a 15% reduction in miscommunication issues.

Case studies: Postman and gigster

Companies like Postman and Gigster have demonstrated successful strategies for involving global teams in core development and innovation processes. Postman, with its collaborative API development platform, and Gigster, with its distributed development teams, show how integrating diverse teams can lead to successful outcomes. These companies focus on clear communication, shared goals, and leveraging the specific strengths of each location to develop high-quality software solutions. As a result, they report higher client satisfaction rates and a 40% improvement in development efficiency.

Alexander Procter

May 15, 2024

10 Min