Working together with a outsourcing team

July 18, 2017

My 2 cents about working in a “office” team vs remote team. We have a core team of 4 people right now at the office and we have worked well together for over a year now. We haven’t had any problems and it felt really well organized. We used 2 week long sprints to plan our work, for planning we used JIRA and immediate questions answered on IM. Everything felt well oiled. As the new project is more ambitious then a remote outsourcing team of 5 developers / project manager was assigned to us. We meet them on a weekly basis over video conference call. And we got stuck, either the team ran out of tasks and they had to improvise or they were waiting for us to fill the blanks.

Remote teams test your project management skills

What we thought was top notch and well planned project management did not scale up to the remote team. As it turned out there was a lot of information between us while being in the office. We had a good dedicated product owner / project manager, but every one of us was directly involved in the requirements engineering and planning as advisors. So even if something wasn’t explicitly written down, as a developer I still knew how to handle it, because I knew why the task was there and what needs to be done. The remote team did not have this information, they only got a briefing once a week and rest from online resources. Which obviously left them in the dark. Which ends up in a situation that is very frustrating for both sides. I think especially for the remote team, because if you don’t know what should be done and why it is done, then you can’t get mentally involved in the project and it will be very exhausting to work on the project. And on the contractor side, you will get lesser or maybe even worthless results.

It is okay to over manage

I am not saying, that one needs to be a micro-manager, but in case of a remote team, where the information is limited, then it is better to over manage than to under manage. After the mood gets bad and frustration sets in, it is very hard to recover the whole team. So better keep your eyes and ears open, promote tools that lets you inspect progress on a daily basis. Frequent pushes, staging servers, demos etc. Whatever works for you, but don’t make them feel pressured. That is super important. Think of this as tools to guide them and answer their questions, not to reign like a dictator. Correct if the task is going in the wrong direction, but don’t question anyone when the new feature is not pushed when you want it to.