Offshoring is a very fragile working arrangement in the software development industry. 1 in 3 project owners recount their offshore development experiences with horror stories of how badly the product development was affected by the shortcomings of their offshore partners. It all comes down to how well the offshore team manages their understanding of working for a U.S. business venture.
If offshore deployment is done properly, it adds a lot of value to your bottom-line, reducing your cost and more importantly giving you access to a talent pool that is not available elsewhere. Combining these two attributes allows for faster product scalability, opening the doors for more agile product update releases.
Having a dispersed offshore team means working with different geographical locations and time zones. For clients in the U.S., the preferred locations for offshoring projects are European and Asian regions. Near-shore development centers in Europe offer a time difference of 3-4 hours at most, but if the remote team is based in Asia, the time difference is almost 12-13 hours. So how do you make your offshore team productive when it’s 10 AM here and 10 PM there?
Over the years, offshoring consultants have tested working arrangements with varying time zones. But when you consider the effectiveness of real-time collaboration, it can never be replaced by static communication like exchanging overnight emails. Managing your remote teams with a 1-2 hour overlap means that there is only so much time available to coordinate over project discussion.
While managing a remote resource in a different time zone, it is also important to consider their role in your team dynamic. If the resource is of a strategic nature – leading the architectural design of your application or mapping the strategy for your next marketing campaign – meeting with them once a day or even once a week would make sense. But when you are working with more transactional resources like mid-level developers who are writing code in collaboration with your onsite project team, it is essential to have real-time communication with them in order to make sure that they remain on track with the current development sprint. Questions can arise at any point in time, and even one slight deviation from the mapped out path can eventually cost the offshore developer 3-4 hours of work if they do not get the reorientation immediately.
Say you have an offshore team working with a 4-hour overlap. You have a scrum meeting to discuss plans at the beginning of the 4 hours, and then another one at the end to discuss accomplishments and remaining tasks for their day after you sign off. But what happens if the developer gets stuck or has questions during their remaining working hours? They will spend that time deviated from their actual tasks, resulting in them having to start again from where you left off, hence costing you those remaining work hours by being unproductive.
One of the main reasons offshoring engagements fail is that a majority of them end up doing a lot of makeup work to cover for the inefficiency that results from deviations due to a lack of real-time collaboration. Your offshore partner then ends up billing you 3,000 work hours, after initially providing you an estimation of 2,000 hours. The lack of constant communication and the resulting additional work hours ends up costing you the 25-30 percent of cost-reduction that you intended when opting for offshore development.
The best way to counter communication gaps while working with different time zones is to engage offshore teams that can provide the maximum working hours overlap. Ideally, the working time overlap should be at least 80 percent of the shift time. Also, your onsite project manager must have the ability to identify deviations and bring the offshore resource back on track.
Having your onsite team work with your offshore resources during the same working hours also means that you can better integrate your dispersed team members into your organization culture. If you are operating in a startup environment, it’s not just about having that 15 minute meeting. A real-time overlap gives you the opportunity to interact with your global team on everything from discussing the implications of new technology updates to sharing a laugh over the latest viral memes. This kind of interaction helps nourish strong working relationships and adds value to your startup culture.
Your offshore partner should be a strategic asset for you in a way that they should facilitate your contract to include terms with long-term benefits, such as working hours overlap. If your CTO or project manager is getting a 100 percent work hours overlap with the offshore team, they can get more productivity out of the offshore engagement. This in turn results in making your cost control more effective and utilizing the offshore talent pool to scale your product faster.