Rather than going through the whole story on how I learned all these lessons and what happened to get me there, I’m just going to skip to the end and tell you what I learned and how I work with an outsource team.
So, if you fall into one of the categories below, we need to talk about how to work with outsource teams:
- Project manager
- Agency or Studio Owner
In the past, I have found a lot of value in working with larger outsource teams with a ton of experience that have worked together for a significant amount of time.
Because they already know what they’re doing, they work well together, they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and have typically worked out all of the kinks in the work process. Larger teams also adjust to sickness or leaves of absence a bit easier; they have more people that can pick up the slack. Small teams just don’t have this luxury, so if you’re starting out, you may want to consider going for the larger team.
Regardless of what size team you choose, make sure to start them out on a smaller project. A small app project, small website or system is fine…just steer clear of the larger, more complicated projects until you determine how the team works. CodeWright, a Romanian team, has been great to work with on several of my large projects.
Can you understand your team?
I’ve worked with teams in the past that I had a lot of trouble communicating with. Whether it’s a language barrier or a simple misunderstanding of concepts, intent, or direction, being able to communicate with your team effectively and efficiently is highly important. If you’re having trouble verbally communicating with your team, I would suggest reconsidering using them in the first place. Believe me, you will save yourself a lot of stress, time, and money in the long run.
Think about the time difference.
Time zones matter, people.
CodeWright, the team I work with, is based in Romania. Their work day starts around 3 or 4am EST and they work until 3pm EST (10pm their time). Even though the time difference is significant, we make it work. I check in around 9am EST and we go over any projects or questions they may have.
However, as Murphy’s Law dictates, if anything can go wrong it will. And it typically does at 3:01pm, when the Romanian team has gone home for the night.
To account for this, make sure that you have someone local or in your office, who can handle issues that arise after your outsource team call it quits for the night. People sleep, software issues don’t.
Remember, developers are people too.
Seems like a simple, common sense thing to say, but I’ve seen good outsource teams treated terribly because people have seem to forget that outsource teams are made up of people who make mistakes.
Just because your team is overseas doesn’t mean that they are immune to the same mistakes you and I make. That’s part of being a developer…or just a human in general. They have good days and bad days, make mistakes, and forget things.
Make sure to give your outsource team the same amount of respect and grace you would give your local team. Developers universally make mistakes. That’s just part of being a developer.
One of the most important parts of working with a team is making sure you’re all on the same page. It works that way for outsource teams as well.
I check in with my team as soon as I step into my office. We go over the project management tool, review code comments, update on completed and upcoming tasks, and go over timelines to make sure we are on track with our deadlines. I make sure to end every check-in with discussing upcoming deliverables and projected completion time.
Cross Check Your Work
It may not be the first thing on your to-do list, but if you have work that no one on your team can cross check, you need to hire an independent contractor. This could just be for a few hours a week to go over code and meet with developers to give you the go-ahead to continue working.
However, if you are consistently working on large-scale projects, you may consider hiring someone full-time. Either way, make sure that the work your team is doing is done well, correctly, and on time.