Perhaps the most common concern when using an offshore software development teams is overcoming communication challenges. While communication is key, misunderstanding can happen among local employees too. Regardless of the location of your employees, building rapport is highly important for overall successful communication. On-site employees have the benefit of being able to develop a rapport with coworkers at the water cooler. That rapport proves useful when things don’t go smoothly. But how do you develop a rapport with someone you’ve only met over Skype? It comes down to effective communication. Communication is effective when it’s clear, complete, and mutually understood.
Transparency is key in working with offshore software development teams. Aren’t you irritated when you receive an email in the middle of the week asking for several deliverables from you, all due by Friday? Me too. It’s annoying, hard to comprehend, and almost always takes back and forth correspondence to sort out what the email sender is actually looking for. Try to mitigate this issue by being clear and focused in your communication. Rather than emailing tasks left and right, utilize a ticketing system and focus on one topic per task. Chances are you’ll write a more concise, clear request and you’ll get a better and faster response. If you need more than one thing from a person (you always do) create separate tasks with due dates. As always, another set of eyes never hurts, nor does a second read through and spell check.
Another key ingredient in effective correspondence is using language that everyone on the team understands. Even if your team is outsourced, thus speaks another language, use simple language to explain tasks, deliverables, and overall goals. Shy away from slang as it opens the doors for misinterpretation. Most developers will take anything you say very literally, especially if English is not their first language. Saying, “Our app is in the wild” could be very confusing to someone who doesn’t understand that you’re actually just saying the app has been released to the general public.
Make sure you’re giving developers complete instructions. Meaning that task-based correspondence should give the necessary details a developer will need to complete the task you’re requesting. This does not mean that clarifications won’t need to be made down the road. There is a happy medium that exists between enough and too many details. That happy medium is hard to zero in on. You need to give your team enough info to get the output you want, but not so much detail that you leave nothing up to the developer or designer. Developers do this for a living, chances are that most developers have come up with a thing or two that you’ve not thought of or maybe even just forgot.
Because your offshore team may come from a different cultural background than you or your onsite team, it’s important to be understanding of their culture’s rules of conduct and behavior. Here are a few rules to live by for overcoming communication barriers with your offshore team:
- Take time to learn a little about the culture you are engaging with.
- Minimize delays by adjusting project lifecycles.
- Utilize communication channels that will support speaking i.e. follow up a phone call with emailed notes, action items or highlights.
It’s helpful to have a team lead that is responsible for making sure that both teams feel understood and progress is being made. Offshore software developers that are in the know should provide a team lead for each client’s project. Zibtek goes the extra mile and provides a team lead based in the US as well as an international tech lead. These team members are in constant communication to make sure that your project is firing on all cylinders. We’ve got proof that this model works! When resolving issues that hopefully don’t, but may arise, remember to ask open-ended questions and never to respond to issues via email or chat.
You know that old saying, “I’m responsible for what I say not what you understand.” Well, unfortunately, that old saying does not apply when outsourcing software development. But if you live by this motto then you probably don’t work with people anyway… Take our tips for overcoming communication barriers for a whirl during your next offshore software development project. We promise they’ll help you increase your offshore team’s productivity, reduce the risk of engagement failure, and provide you with a great product.