How to communicate with an offshore team

Oleksandr Moshenskiy
Head of PM Department at TRIARE
5 min read

If you are currently working as an outsourcing company or even consider such a possibility, you may know or imagine what the day-to-day routine is like.

offshore team

How Offshore Teams Can Leverage Communication

If you are currently working as an outsourcing company or even consider such a possibility, you may know or imagine what the day-to-day routine is like. There is a widespread concern that miscommunication with the offshore software development company can lift itself to the level of anxiety if not appropriately addressed.

In this article, we will guide the reader to effective communication from a position of a remote service provider. More importantly, we emphasize on steps each development company must consider to become successful. It is based on the evidence we collected from our staff, clients, and partners and should save you tons of time and energy.

Key reasons for failed communication

It is no news that many clients stumble upon issues in conveying their message to a digital agency well and vice versa. What seems to be an obvious fact often is unclear for a developer or even project manager from a different cultural environment. When we reached out to our network to figure out the most painful reasons for miscommunication, we were astonished. There was no new information, but it came by surprise that these reasons remained in the industry despite a prolonging trend of outsourcing talent abroad.

Communication habits

A service provider must always have consistent communication routine to be constantly aware of the current state of progress. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. While emailing should be done frequently to track the milestones and summarize the workflow—daily or weekly,—custom website development teams fail. They either mix synchronous communication with asynchronous (email vs. messaging in Slack) or forget to follow up at all.

The time gap

Poor time management results in development layoffs. For example, the time difference between Ukraine and California is 10 hours. If the team doesn’t ensure that at least a few working hours overlap, it intensifies the problem. However, if the staff manages to deliver the previous tasks and pass all the necessary details to the Western office, the project wins more time in a form of continuous development.

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Processes are critical and involve many things such as deadlines notifications, clear estimates, and updates on the status. All this reporting, handling a huge amount of smaller tasks simultaneously and the website development process becomes messy as the project grows. If there could be an issue with a small workflow, imagine what happens when this issue scales up.

Quality issues

That leads us to the frequent outcome of mismanaged processes: a challenge to keep up with the quality. Sometimes, companies compromise it by hoping to deliver fast. As a result, they release raw websites and software that did not go through the required quality assurance process. Delivering high-quality products, even in smaller quantities, will do good for your business as an offshore development provider.

Nobody will remember how fast you did it, but only how well.

Company culture differences

Finally, there is still room for professional misunderstanding that digital agencies must take into account. The chemistry of productivity happens when remote service providers treat their clients as partners, not a cashing cow. In fact, it should be in the DNA of the company to pay special attention to lasting business relationships. When both the agency and the service provider collaborate, the bravest ideas can come to reality.

Ways to improve communication

No worries! There are proven practices to gain control back. However, they must be enabled regularly to have a visible impact on your business processes.

Established routines

Having a systematic team and group meetings and ensuring that other stakeholders also participate is the first big step. Daily interaction is great, especially if you establish a “buddy relationship” between the offshore and onshore person. It is critical for three key reasons:

  • It clarifies the process and ensures the tasks are completed in the correct order;
  • It gives the offshore staff any additional training that may be needed as tasks are performed (especially unfamiliar ones);
  • It offers the opportunity to ask questions for both sides.

The third reason is especially important because when it’s not happening, big troubles are the most likely to occur. Let’s face it: the goal of working closely together is to have questions answered. You probably ask a dozen questions in a day to your in-house teammates and don’t even notice it. This is also crucial to resolving the most consumer issues—one colleague pushing others to get answers or solve problems before they worsen.

We suggest software outsourcing companies have a common video chat with stakeholders. If you utilize Slack or other messaging software in-house, make sure that they are on it too. Speak by voice often, or use video when you can. However, it is imperative to always set an agenda and limit the time for these calls.

Managed workflow

It has been estimated that 90% of all interaction is non-verbal, which is also the most common cause of “getting lost in translation.” Wherever work is done, you have absolutely no excuse not to have some kind of a process control application. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or tricked-out, or more than a simple to-do list. But it has to be clear to everyone. Besides, it has to have a way of communicating your priorities and tracking who is responsible for those.

Embracing the open-minded culture

There are times when we feel misunderstood, unheard, or even powerless. Fostering the culture of open and frequent conversation can change such situations and help identify information bottlenecks.

Using video/voice and text chats are impactful. There are many things we can’t do by email. We need to accept the fact that our work will continue to be increasingly distributed. The salient fact that one is not going to be in touch with the offshore team as easily as with someone at the physical office is scary, especially for a seemingly dominating introvert cohort of software developers. But by accepting this concept and reserving some patience, it will lead you along the way to make them work for your offshore team with the client more productive.

If you are currently building your own software development company, consider our friendly pieces of advice to advance communication with the client. The results will be worth it!

Oleksandr Moshenskiy
Head of PM Department at TRIARE