Many companies nowadays prefer hiring an offshore software development team for their project. Essentially, the approach involves a handful of product engineers operating in some faraway land and acting upon your precise requirements to construct a robust product. With this approach, the companies not only benefit from a superior quality product but also lower development costs and reduced time-to-market.
That said, agile frameworks are widely used for in-house development. This is because agile projects rely heavily on proactive collaboration between teams. And given the extensive amount of coordination required in each project, many companies think that approaching an offshore development agency and building an agile team in a distant land wouldn’t be feasible.
Gladly, that is not the case. There may be a few trials, but with the right preparation, you can easily work with an expert agile offshore development team and develop innovative solutions. Here, we will talk about how to leverage an agile framework while working with an offshore software development team and the many benefits of doing so.
Introduction to Agile
In a short span, agile has become synonymous with productivity and innovation. It is a project management practice that breaks down big projects into smaller and more manageable bits, often referred to as iterations. This makes it possible to assess the direction of a project throughout its lifecycle and deliver optimal client satisfaction through continuous delivery.
Moving on, the agile philosophy is embedded in various methodologies and frameworks. The most popular methodology is Scrum that is preferred by 84% of the agile teams.
On average, the size of a Scrum team is 7 members. Fundamentally, the team comprises a Scrum Master, a Product Owner, and Developers. Because Scrum does not involve any subordinate teams or hierarchies, it is an excellent methodology for offshore development. The team can easily strategize and plan out their activities ahead of time, offering more flexibility to all involved parties.
Benefits of Agile Software Development
Agile helps software development companies to improve and streamline their development process by quickly identifying and adjusting issues.
1. Faster Time-to-Market
Agile greatly increases the time-to-market by dividing the project into smaller iterations. After every iteration, you can choose to launch your product to begin building a user base or test your MVP.
2. Flexible Approach
The entire methodology is based on accommodating changes. It quickly responds to the dynamic user requirements and shifting market trends. So, even if there is any mid-project idea, agile can embrace it to improve the quality and relevancy of the end product.
3. Cost Control
Agile is all about paying for what you need. Thus, if halfway through the development cycle, the client realizes that the features he had initially requested are no longer valid, he can choose to omit them. This will allow him to launch the product sooner and pay much less.
4. Risk Management
With agile, the product can be used and tested in the initial stages by the stakeholders and users. This helps to identify any pitfalls in the development process and take action accordingly.
The agile methodology ensures rigorous testing at every stage. This not only ensures superior product quality but also reduces time spent on evaluating the quality of the product as a whole.
Agile Development and Offshoring – Overview
Once your project’s idea, vision, and purpose have been ironed out, it’s time to move to the next stage: choosing the best software development team.
Broadly, there are three types of agile software development teams that you can choose- onshore, offshore, and nearshore. Onshore means hiring a team that resides and operates in the same region as you. Nearshore implies hiring a team in a nearby country. And lastly, offshore means hiring a software development team from a foreign location. An increasing number of organizations are leaning towards hiring an offshore software development team.
How to Manage an Agile Offshore Software Development Team?
Sometimes, outsourcing agile development to geographically distributed teams creates more complexity, making it challenging for the teams to communicate and collaborate. However, following the below-mentioned agile offshoring practices can help to streamline the process.
a) Define the Scope of Work
Before you begin working with an offshore software development team, it is important to create a Scope of Work (SOW) document. Essentially, this document contains all project milestones, a list of deliverables for every milestone, timelines, and the reporting scheme.
Based on the SOW, the entire project is categorized into smaller tasks called iterations that need to be achieved within the specified deadlines. In simple words, the document serves as a reference point for the client as well as the development team. It makes it easy for the involved parties to approach the development process in a streamlined way and even change the priority of different tasks, based on user feedback and other external factors.
b) Create an easily navigable product roadmap
Once the SOW document is created, you need to divide each task by specific time intervals to develop a strategic product roadmap. This roadmap offers a comprehensive view of all requirements needed to fulfill the original product idea.
The primary aim of a product roadmap is to provide a clear picture of the development process to all members of the offshore software development team. But it must be noted that this is a flexible document that can be altered through the course of development, depending on the feedback, user requirements, and other outside factors.
c) Ensure Effective Communication
As stated above, regular and effective communication is the key to the success of the agile methodology. Thus, when working with an offshore team, you must promote regular short meetings to improve collaboration.
Some of the most common meetings that are common for Scrum offshore development include:
- Sprint planning and review meetings: These meetings help to assess the project’s progress and compare it against the Sprint goal defined during the planning stage. The team discusses any pending tasks from the Sprint backlog and prepares for the next Sprint.
- Release planning meetings: In these meetings, the release plans are created. Such plans include detailed information to take the project from point A to B. It also lists any potential risks and ways to mitigate them.
- Regular stand-up meetings: These are regular 15-20 minutes calls held every day. Here, the team can chalk out the specific actions that need to be performed on that particular day.
- Retrospective meetings: Such meetings enable the team members to reflect on their working culture and suggest any changes or improvements.
All these meetings can be conducted on various platforms, such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, and even WhatsApp.
d) Conduct regular demos
This is an excellent practice that helps to improve collaboration among the team members. A demo is fundamentally a demonstration of the intermediate result achieved at the end of each iteration. It enables the product owner to assess the project’s performance so far and deliver constructive feedback on the same.
During this demo, all team members come together to analyze the results of the last iteration, pinpoint the positive and negative points, and devise smart solutions to address issues. The step involves heavy collaboration among the involved parties, and thus, improves future outcomes.
e) Invest in collaboration tools and technologies
When it comes to managing an offshore software development team, collaboration technology plays a crucial role. There are plenty of collaboration tools that enable agile teams to streamline their work processes and maintain an easy flow of information.
Although collaboration tools cannot entirely replace the concept of sitting and working together in the same vicinity, they sure help to enhance teamwork. The most common collaboration tools include Trello, Wikis, JIRA, and Slack.
f) Stick to common agile standards
Typically, the agile methodology focuses on using some common practices. These include certain coding standards, continuous integration, and smart bug tracking and design patterns. With an offshore software development team, concentrating on these practices become more important than ever.
Additionally, make sure that you use a source code service that ensures seamless communication and cooperation between the onsite and offshore teams. When implemented correctly, a source code service helps to uncover the project vulnerabilities, design flaws and even verify the vital security controls.
Key Benefits of Working with an Agile Offshore Software Development Team
When working with an agile offshore development team, you can benefit from the following:
A pool of talented IT professionals
With an offshore team, you get unrestrained access to highly skilled and talented software developers who are updated on the latest technologies. These experts bring a lot of experience and expertise to the table, making your project quality-driven. With them, you can be assured that your project is in the best hands.
Reduced operational costs
Having an in-house agile team translates to high operational costs. With such a team, you would have to spend on a proper in-house working setup, insurance, employee benefits, hardware cost, and much more. But with an offshore team, you simply need to pay a single-time cost without any additional or hidden charges.
Time to focus on core business operations
This is one of the most underrated benefits of working with an offshore development team. You get more time to focus on your core business operations without worrying about the ongoing projects. You can delegate the work responsibilities to the Agile Project Manager and have more time to improve your business’s strategic aspects.
Often, if a project takes too long to complete, it loses its effectiveness. With an offshore team, you get a team that possesses expert know-how on delivering superior products within shorter deadlines. Besides, they ensure continuous delivery and flexible response that makes the project more time-efficient.
Tips to Make the Most of Your Offshore Agile Software Development Team
1. Make the most of the time difference
The time difference is the most common issue that arises while working with an offshore software development team. But it is important to use this time difference to your advantage and make the process more efficient. Let’s understand this with an example.
Say a London-based company is working with an offshore development team in India. Now the time difference between the two regions is approximately 5 hours which makes the overlapping working hours very short. However, you must look at it this way: when the London team begins its working in the morning, the Indian team is already way ahead in their schedule. And, there is adequate room for conducting daily stand-up meetings to check in on the team and evaluate progress. So, if you can leverage the time difference effectively, there will practically be no barriers.
2. Stay Abreast with the Latest Tools and Practices
Agile processes depend on continuous integration and thorough unit testing after each iteration. So, to ensure seamless collaboration between your onsite and offshore teams, it is important to use efficient tools.
If you are introducing any new tools in the process, organize an expert demonstration for the team members. This will ensure smooth onboarding without any hassles later on.
3. Build Trust between Teams
If your offshore team members are only given the responsibility to code up, they will seldom feel inspired and motivated to deliver their best. To improve engagement and their contribution to the project, provide them a sense of ownership. Make them feel like a partner and help them understand the business context.
4. Apply Consistency across the Entire Business
Sometimes, when your business grows, you may have to work with multiple agile offshore teams located in different regions. In such a scenario, the key to success is to maintain consistency across all channels.
Make sure the developers in all teams follow the same processes and guidelines. Create a standardized roadmap and implement it across the company to avoid roadblocks.
Partner Up with the Right Agile Offshore Software Development Team
Partnering with an expert and experienced agile offshore development team offers several benefits. However, several factors must be considered while selecting a partner that will precisely meet your requirements.
Applying the aforementioned tips will help you narrow down on your prospective partners and make the best decision for your company.