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Effective communication impacts all aspects of project development and contributes to the successful and timely completion of the project. But how do you establish efficient communication, especially if you work with an outsourced team? Learn the best practices below.
The challenges of outsourced development
Even though outsourced development has multiple benefits (such as affordable rates and a high level of expertise), it also comes with certain challenges. The most common pitfalls include:
- Communication issues;
- Differences in time zones;
- Differences in culture;
- Not enough quality monitoring.
We have actually described these pitfalls in one of the previous articles – please have a look for more details.
As you see, there are quite a few things to consider when working with an outsourced team. However, all these issues can be successfully resolved by establishing effective and transparent communication.
The impact of team communication on a software project
Effective communication is more than creating a healthy working environment. In fact, it impacts several important aspects of project development that you may not be aware of.
Adherence to set deadlines and goals
When working on a software project, it is vital to adhere to the set deadlines, project requirements, and goals – otherwise, you may invest much more money and time than intended. However, any miscommunication or misunderstanding can lead to delays, constant prolonging, and shifts in the project release.
Efficient communication helps everyone understand set goals and requirements, stay on the same track, and follow the project schedule. It contributes to mitigating confusion and conflicts and thus decreases the risk of making mistakes.
No need to redo the tasks
When there are issues with communication, chances are high that wrong tasks will be performed. If people don’t understand what they need to do or how the product is supposed to work, there will be lots of guesswork and errors.
Hence, if a team clearly communicates thoughts and ideas, it will significantly decrease the number of errors. This, in turn, will positively impact the project’s budget and deadlines.
Expectations meet reality
As mentioned above, clear communication mitigates the risk of doing wrong tasks and ensures that deadlines will be met. Hence, if there is effective and clear communication, a client can be sure that their expectations will meet reality since everyone on the team understands the goals and the vision.
Even though outsourced team communication sounds easy, it requires a structured and thought-out approach. Here are the best practices to follow.
Get to know your team
The first step is somewhat obvious yet some clients can still miss it. When working with an outsourced development company, it is vital to do research and actually get to know the team that you plan to work with.
Referred as due diligence, preliminary and thorough research on a team is essential if you want a long-term and productive relationship. You’d want to learn about things such as:
- Different countries and pros and cons of outsourcing there;
- Specialties of different companies and what they focus on;
- Specialties of the team members and their individual traits, strengths and weaknesses.
By learning as much as possible about a team in advance, you will eliminate many issues and questions in the future.
Choose a suitable PM tool
Why perform lots of mundane and communication-related tasks yourself when you can entrust a specialized tool with it? That’s right, we are talking about project management tools.
A PM tool is used for project management processes and includes such features as task allocation and management, team collaboration, learning materials, etc. The biggest benefit of this tool is that it keeps all communication in one place and any authorized user can access any chat, report, or document at any time. In this way, every team member knows what’s going on in the project, who is responsible for what task, and who can be addressed on a specific issue.
The implementation of such a tool brings transparency, eliminates miscommunication, and helps quickly find the needed information. As well, it helps coordinate both internal and external teams which is a big advantage.
Establish regular meetings and reporting
Regular meetings are a great way to ensure that everyone stays on the same page and to learn about the progress of a project. As well, these meetings can be used for asking questions, clarifying any issues, and suggesting new methods and improvements.
In order for these meetings to be as effective as possible, take a structured approach towards them:
- Decide how many meetings you need and whom you will involve. You can have weekly meetings with each team (development and QA), monthly meetings with all teams, etc. Depending on the team size and its structure, identify how many meetings you need to hold and what benefits they will bring to the project.
- Decide on a time and date for every meeting. If there is a timezone difference, consider that and negotiate on the most suitable time for everyone involved.
- Decide on communication tools that you will use and that will be most suitable for everyone (Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom).
- Set KPIs to discuss during the meeting. These KPIs will help monitor the progress of the project and will help follow the deadline and requirements.
An important note: ensure that all meetings bring benefit to the team instead of distracting them. For example, if a minor question can be discussed in a messenger, there is no need to go through it again during the meeting. This brings us to the next point – micromanagement.
Do not micromanage the team
When you have a remote team, it can be hard to resist the urge to micromanage it. However, this can actually bring harm to the project instead of benefiting it.
When a manager focuses on small tasks that are not related to his job, this distracts him from his own responsibilities. In other words, if a manager pays attention to developers’ tasks, he cannot focus on communication, actual project management, and project goals.
One more thing about micromanagement is that it can significantly reduce the motivation of team members. If a manager tries to do everything himself, he doesn’t give a chance to others to be creative and to suggest something new. This can lead to product stagnation, lack of satisfaction and motivation from the employees’ side. Hence, a manager should just let others do their job – simple as that.
Share your vision and ensure it is well understood
Requirements gathering is an essential part of any software development project. But it’s not enough to just present the requirements – it is also important to share your vision of a final product and to make sure it is well understood.
Think about it – if you effectively communicate your vision to the developers, they may actually come up with a better way to realize your idea instead of simply following the set requirements. This, in turn, will positively affect the project and may actually save you money and resources.
Accept suggestions from the team
The cornerstone of efficient communication is the ability to listen to other people and accept their opinions even if they differ from yours. Hence, if you want your project to succeed, you will need to listen to the team members, understand, and accept their opinions and suggestions.
First, by gathering different opinions, you will be able to come up with new and efficient ways to resolve particular issues. Second, your team may have more experience in a certain industry and can actually provide valuable suggestions and information.
Establishing effective and transparent outsourced team communication can be quite challenging but with a structured approach, it is 100% possible to achieve it. Here is a quick checklist to serve as a reminder:
- Choose a suitable PM tool;
- Establish regular meetings and reporting;
- Set KPIs to discuss during the meetings;
- Encourage people to share their ideas (and accept them!);
- Avoid micromanagement.
And obviously, you will need a Project Manager and a Business Analyst on the team. These people will serve as intermediaries between you and the team and will ensure that everyone stays on the same page.