Agile development and offshoring: does it work?
Agile software development is a software development methodology that is centered around the concept of iterative development i.e. short cycles of operations that are repeated over and over.
Successful Agile projects depend heavily on active collaboration between teams. And given the sheer amount of coordination involved in each project, you might think that approaching an offshore development company and building a cross-continent Agile development team or going the offshore outsourcing route just wouldn’t work.
We’re happy to report that’s not the case.
There are challenges of course, but with modern technology and the right preparation, your offshore development team can run like clockwork. As the experts when it comes to successful offshoring, we’re going to look at some of the challenges involved. We will also be before looking at several strategies to help make the implementation as painless and productive as possible.
The challenges of offshoring Agile development
By adopting an Agile methodology, companies can develop software and build products more reliably and at a faster pace, improving their overall productivity. However, when organizations decide to move their Agile software development offshore, there are two key areas they need to address:
- Establishing the technical practices which are essential to developing the software itself. These will be followed universally across the company.
- Establishing clear, effective lines of communication across all teams. This enables productive collaboration regardless of locations.
Successful software development across multiple continents depends on communication and connectivity. We’ve put together a short list of strategies and best practices that will not only make it possible to accommodate an offshore development team but will also make it as productive as possible.
Hire a well-rounded team
Teamwork is a core principle of Agile development. While every team member requires certain technical skills and the right attitude in order to add value to your business, they also need to work well with the rest of the team. When putting your team together, it’s crucial to avoid focusing on just qualifications and technical skills. You need to assess their capacity for teamwork, too. This means that the recruitment process of offshore developers must be an effective one.
One simple approach is to give interviewees a test project where they must depend on their teammates for success. You can track their performance and assess whether they have the personal skills to succeed in your Agile team. The most effective recruitment process might take some time, but it will be worth it once you’ve built a team full of your ideal candidates.
Focus on organisation from day one
Offshoring is centered around building geographically-distributed teams. And so, it is crucial to establish goals and deadlines at each work location to help organise your teams. Agile teams are designed to be self-sufficient and capable of delivering end-to-end outcomes regardless of location. By working independently on a set of goals, the number of dependent processes reduces, in turn, reducing the number of handoffs. The result — increase in productivity.
Foster strong connections between colleagues
Friendly relationships between team members go a long way towards building effective collaboration which is important for Agile development. Try scheduling an annual kickoff meeting where the entire team can meet up, in person, and get to know one another. This is also a perfect time to map out the goals and plans for the year to come. Teams get a clear insight into the company’s expectations in terms of work, but perhaps more importantly, they get a chance to bond on a personal level.
In our era of wireless connectivity and smartphones, there are countless communication tools at your disposal. The key is knowing which are best-suited to your needs. With the right tools in place, you can establish effective multi-way communication with your team.
- Instant messaging brings everyone, regardless of location, into the same room. You can check-in for progress, leave messages at any time of day, and set up rooms for specific teams or conversations. Apps like HipChat and Slack are a cornerstone for successful offshore teams across the world.
- Calling apps like WhatsApp make it easy to chat with teammates halfway across the globe for free.
- Video conference tools like Skype are perfect for strategy meetings or group discussions. There’s something about video calls which makes them invaluable when managing your offshore team in an Agile development approach.
Leverage the time difference
Let’s say your business is based in the UK and you have an offshore development team in India. With a time difference of 6 hours, there is minimal overlap between your working day and theirs. While this might seem like a huge disadvantage, try looking at it this way: when your UK team is still sipping their morning coffee, the Indian team has already done a full morning’s work!
Not only that, but there’s more than enough overlap for the essential check-ins and stand-up meetings. Again it comes back to organisation: if you can leverage the time difference effectively, there is virtually no barrier whatsoever.
Share every scrap of knowledge
The more information your offshore team has about the business, the more productive they can be. Gather all the relevant information — development strategies, roadmaps, process documentation, data flow, and test results and make it easily accessible.
This gives everyone access to an extremely valuable self-serve resource. It also serves as an excellent source of knowledge transfer for new hires that join the team.
Keep up with the latest practices and tools
While establishing smooth collaboration between your local and offshore teams is crucial, technical processes are just as important. Agile development incorporates continuous integration and unit testing in every iteration. To develop quality software, you need to keep up with the latest tools in the industry.
If there are new tools or practices that you want your team to incorporate, arrange for expert demonstrations so that your team gets a nice, quick understanding of how it works. This allows your team to become even more skilled and proficient, which means they offer even better value to the business.
Trust in the expertise of your team
It’s important to remember that you hired your offshore team for the experience and technical expertise they bring to the table. Respecting their opinions and ideas will make them feel appreciated and included. It also helps them produce their best work.
Actionable insights from your developers can help improve your processes and make your partnership even stronger. Mutual respect and trust are two of the cornerstones underpinning your entire offshore development collaboration. You can develop this further by paying your team the occasional in-person visit: connecting with everyone on a personal level helps cement your bond, which inevitably leads to a happier, more productive relationship.
Apply consistency across the entire business
If you work with one Agile development team, things are fairly simple: you lay out the process and everyone executes it. But what about when you expand that team or set up in multiple locations?
For smooth operations, you need to make sure all developers follow the same processes. In software development, unless you tell them otherwise, developers will crack on with their own unique way of doing things. Unless every process is standardised across the company, you’re going to run into all sorts of roadblocks and misfires.
Offshoring your Agile software development can offer a huge number of advantages — reduced costs, higher-quality output, and improved efficiency to name a few. With the right strategies in place, your company can create strong, high-performance offshore teams anywhere in the world. We’ve also written another piece about Agile vs. Scrum if you’re looking for more information about the methodologies.
Here at the Scalers, we build world-class Agile teams to help you grow and scale up your business. If you’re thinking about developing your own offshore team and still have unanswered questions, feel free to reach out to us by filling out the contact form. One of our senior executives will get back to you shortly.