Outsourced project teams are often the fastest and most efficient way to get things done. That’s especially true if your business is located away from technical centers.
Outsourcing does come with its own complications. Most of these complications are in terms of management. After all, managing can be a little different for remote teams. That’s especially true if you’re a hands-on kind of leader.
Fortunately, the technology that allows outsourcing also solves many of its problems. Here are a couple of tips and tricks that you can use to manage your outsourced project team.
Use Traditional Management Techniques and Experience
If you have experience managing office teams, similar principals apply to an outsourced team. The main difference is that outsourced teams aren’t in the office. Don’t let this change the way you think of them, however. Wherever they may be, they should till function more or less like a regular office team.
The key things are that you know what they’re up to and they know what you want from you. This can be a little tricky, but we’ll get to communication later.
Use Thorough Project Planning
Project planning is important for any team. It’s even more important for outsourced teams. Project planning is all about lining up moving parts so that everything comes together at once. It’s important with outsourced teams because the outsourced team is at least one additional moving part that isn’t present in traditional office teams.
Fortunately, there are online tools that can be used for project planning with outsourced teams. Trello, for example, is a great tool for visually organizing where everyone is on projects.
Project planning can also serve as its own tool. Frequent deadlines, even if for small steps, can help everyone to stay coordinated.
Focus on the Big Picture
The project that you are working on can be an important bonding tool. Your in-house team and your outsourced team may be working on different projects. You may be working in different places. However, you both share the same end goals. Despite any differences, you are working together.
Develop Varying Channels of Communication
As mentioned above, communication can be tricky with an outsourced team. You don’t always have immediate access to them like you do with an in-house team. This is especially true when your team is in another time zone or if there are language barriers.
With things like email and the telephone, communication can be fairly effective. You may want to try video-calling software like Skype. These tools can do more for the work relationship with outsourced teams than calling or email.
They don’t help with the language barrier, unfortunately. Skype may even make the language barrier more difficult than text-based communications like emails. At least at first.
Using both systems may be the way to go. Consider email for day-to-day communications with weekly meetings via tools like Skype.
Make Sure Your Teams have Access to Tools and Info
Another complication to outsourced project teams involves the availability of documents.
The in-house team creates documents. The outsourced team creates documents. Some of these documents are needed by everyone.
Cloud-based technologies like Google Drive, One Drive, and DropBox can be a huge help. These and other tools allow the creation and storage of digital files in places accessible by everyone on your team. The kinds of files allowed by these tools are different, however. You may need to shop around to find the service that is right for your needs.
Have a Good Escalation Matrix
Escalation matrices are another communication tool important for working with outsourced teams.
Escalation matrices are charts with the contact information of everyone on both teams. These charts allow individuals to know who to contact and how in the event of an emergency. These documents are common in places where dangerous chemicals are present, like hospitals and research laboratories. While your idea of an emergency may not be life-threatening, it can still be important to know how to handle them. This is something you should establish during the due diligence before starting an outsourced project.
Make Sure All Team Members are Aware of Their Deliverables
Project planning can be more difficult with outsourced teams. Both the outsourced team and the in-house team need to know which deliverables they need to produce and when. In many cases, one team will need deliverables from the other team in order to proceed. If one or both teams get dates confused, late deliverables can slow down the whole project.
Many of the above-discussed solutions can help to prevent this. Frequent communications, weekly check-ups, project planning software and visible documents can all be helpful.
Trust and Respect Go Both Ways
Finally, it’s important to understand that trust and respect go both ways. It is often hard to see outsourced team members as part of the team. It can be hard to build camaraderie with them. If you are not used to outsourcing or not used to this team, it also may be difficult to trust them.
Some of these issues are addressed by the solutions listed above. For example, making sure that everyone has access to deliverables can make it easier to know where they are. It also means that you can have back-ups of them so that you don’t have to worry about the outsourced team keeping or deleting them if things go wrong. Similarly, using video conferencing tools like Skype can help to literally see your outsourced team as part of your team. Having your outsourced team members’ contact info on an escalation matrix in a visible place can also help.
It is also important to realize that outsourced teams may feel the same way about you as you feel about them. They may lack camaraderie with you. They may feel insecure about working with you. Showing trust and respect to your outsourcing team will help them to trust and respect you.
Building a trusting relationship can take time. Building a respecting relationship shouldn’t. Your outsourcing team may be far away from you. They may come from another culture. They may not share your native language. However, they are working professionals. That should be enough for you to approach them with the same level of respect with which you would approach any other worker.
Outsourcing can be a vital tool. It can also take some getting used to. Much of the technologies that make outsourcing possible are still new and foreign to many of us. This can make it difficult to approach outsourcing teams from a place of trust.
Those same technologies, however, can make it easier to see outsourced teams as co-workers. They can make it easier to organize your documents. They can make it easier to communicate more effectively. They can make it easier to create a productive and professional atmosphere.
If you are looking into outsourcing a software project, get the free white paper on – Due diligence list for outsourcing software projects. It covers topics many product owners wish they knew when they were in your position.