Motivating an offshore team is another important aspect of software development outsourcing. To get a better understanding of it, it’s worth to look at it from two different angles – from a perspective of a customer and from a perspective of a Project Manager (PM) of this offshore team.
I. A customer perspective
As a customer, you’ve made a decision to outsource software development to an offshore team and have already selected a credible provider. What’s next?
Although you are sure that you’ve chosen a reliable partner and everything’s gonna be alright, your efforts shouldn’t stop here. You need to motivate the provider to deliver excellent results, so that your remote team feels totally responsible for the outcome and is willing to perform better.
Is that even possible? Of course! Follow the recommendations below, and you will get closer to the desired result.
Get acquainted with the team
When working with an offshore team, a potential customer can face an unpleasant situation when less qualified developers are appointed to the project for the price of more qualified peers. Therefore, it is better to ask for a CV each team member. Meet the members of the team at a videoconference (if possible). Such knowledge will give proper motivation to you as a customer and to the team who will be aware that they work for a real person / people with their desires and aspirations, rather than for a faceless entity.
Communicate your goals and objectives clearly
The more details about your business goal the provider has, the better he understands how he can help you achieve them in the most effective way. Besides, this will enable the provider to feel like a trusted partner who is involved in customer’s business process and, therefore, to feel the sense of ownership in common success or failure (the latter is unwanted, of course).
Have some level of hesitation sharing your business information? Feel free to sign NDA with the provider.
Provide the required resources
The development process requires certain hardware or specific tools? Your provider will appreciate it a lot if you take care of this. For instance, if you order software for some brand-new wearable device, provide your development team with one for testing purposes (you can ask it back after the work is finished – just state this in your software development agreement).
Consider cultural differences
Working with an offshore team involves cultural aspects which shouldn’t be ignored (we’ve covered this topic in one of our previous posts). Plan holidays on both sides in advance and try to adjust the work schedule accordingly.
In addition, be aware that there might be different attitude to one and the same situation in different cultures. Don’t neglect cultural differences because it can result in serious consequences.
Remember: communication is the key
Developers who love their customer are a powerful force in building your project. And the team’s confidence cannot be obtained without communications. Talk to your team! Organize regular status meetings to stay updated about what’s going on the project. Apply videoconferences when possible – eye contact and body language is something chats end emails are missing.
If a customer doesn’t show up at the meeting and doesn’t respond to the emails, the enthusiasm of the team members is likely to fade away.
Besides, we’re all human beings, not robots, so it’s nice to have a quick chat on some topics outside the project itself. Personal meetings in informal setting and team building activities are great too (if the there is such a possibility).
Make the Provider feel you are working as a single team
Don’t make the team feel like they are left alone with the project issues. Stay involved in the process: if anything seems unclear to them, help them to get a better understanding, suggest your ideas on how to approach this or that issue (if you have any). Make the provider feel that you are working together, and that it is your mutual responsibility to create a useful/competitive product.
Treat your Provider as an intelligent partner
Software developers love solving difficult tasks. Encourage your team to come up with their own ideas on how to solve this or that issue. Give them a chance to show their talent. This will help them feel that they are treated like experts, not just ordinary performers.
Provide your developers with the feedback on their work. Speak in a constructive way your praise, doubt, concerns, disappointment, etc. Communicate all of the listed above to your provider. Do not only praise or doubt.
II. A PM perspective
Today most offshore software development teams have their PMs. So, it’s a PM’s responsibility to inspire the whole team and encourage them to contribute to a project.
While a customer is often geographically far away from the team, a PM works together with them, and, hence, has more opportunity to improve their motivation. Actually, no matter what country is your customer from: a PM can apply the common motivational principles – they work perfectly in local and international markets.
Let’s look through the principles that our PMs follow in their project work.
Create the environment
Make sure your team members have comfortable conditions to work effectively. Find out what a person likes, what he lacks, and try to provide him with it. The more pleasure from work he receives, the greater his contribution will be.
Needless to say, it’s much easier to work in the environment where all the members trust each other. This way no one is afraid to confess about this or that issue and doesn’t have to be scared of punishment to follow (actually, this path is likely to have negative impact on productivity, self-esteem and psychological climate in team in general). Instead, a team member informs others about an issue ASAP, and since it is a common goal to build a product successfully, this issue is going to be solved jointly. Ideally, after that a PM organizes a retrospective meeting with all the team members to find the ways to prevent similar issues in future together.
Set an example
Start with yourself. Act the way you expect your team members to act. Contribute your own ideas and solutions and, at the same time, be attentive to others and give everyone equal possibilities to speak about their concerns and suggestions. Be open to help whenever it is necessary. Keep positive attitude, and you will see how contagious it is. Be a good example to your team members, and they will do their best not to disappoint you.
Provide and receive feedback
Anyone can get into the “quagmire” from which you can escape only with the help of others. It is important that a PM regularly gives feedback on the work of each employee. Try to make it privately, especially when you are going to discuss with a certain team member his failure to achieve the desired result.
Besides, a PM should also receive such feedback from all the team members.
Training and promotion
Software development field is known to change rapidly, so IT specialist should keep an eye for new tools and technologies appearance and improve their skills accordingly. It will be great if you help your team members and make up a training plan for them. Of course, you will need to negotiate this plan with senior management. But once it is approved, investments in your team’s skill and knowledge will bring the company great dividends. Obviously, this should increase developer’s loyalty as well as.
Team building activities
Initiate team building activities and negotiate them with the customer (often they are paid for by a customer). Such events are a great opportunity to get to know each other outside the project, to strengthen mutual trust and to make the team cohesive.
If your customer has a possibility to join, that’s even better.
This was an overview of what can improve motivation of an offshore team from two important perspectives – a customer and a PM.
Have anything to add? What can you recommend from a customer perspective? From a PM perspective? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments.