A Startup Founder’s Guide to Effectively Managing Offshore Teams
With remote and hybrid working on the rise, it’s no surprise that companies are hiring overseas workers to fill their need for skilled staff. It’s an enticing option, after all, for it allows businesses to tap into a global talent pool and stay responsive to changes as they occur.
This especially benefits the IT sector, where physical infrastructure can be replaced more easily than in other industries – as has been evident during the course of the pandemic. According to McKinsey’s analysis, the advent of COVID-19 tremendously accelerated the shift to digital and remote working. Businesses went remote in 10.5 days on average compared to a whopping 454 days that it would have otherwise taken before the crisis.
But all of this also means that the founders, and every business leader for that matter, have to understand how to work with a distributed workforce and, in this case, an offshore team. Needless to say, this is a big leap from how they managed their on-site employees – especially for startups that are used to working as a close-knit unit and command a lot of influence within their own businesses.
To effectively run an offshore team, a business leader must follow these steps:
1. Navigate the Complexity
Although it may be tempting to get into the act quickly and reap the benefits of low operational costs, do not overestimate the rewards of doing so. It’s advisable to evaluate the intricacies of managing an offshore team to make well-educated decisions. This evaluation must be guided by the following questions:
- How is the engagement of the offshore team different from what you do in-house? How can this be improved?
- What are the key challenges you foresee in your communication and collaboration with the offshore team? What can be done to mitigate them?
- What tools, processes, and policies need to be in place to accommodate an offshore team?
- How can they be integrated into your existing business culture?
- What kind of training would be required by the offshore team?
- Are there any operational or structural risks that you need to be wary of?
Answering these questions ensures that the business leader fully understands the nuances of offshore working and can take the appropriate steps accordingly. In fact, the answers from here define the steps that are needed, big and small, to make offshore engagement work.
2. Set the Right Expectations
A leader must be clear about their expectations from the offshore team as well as their scope of responsibilities. This would define what kind of environment they would work in and what kind of work they would produce.
Defining the expectations requires that the business leaders understand the necessary skills and competencies that are required for their job. They ought to assess the current team’s ability and capacity to deliver. This will also help the business gear up to have a fair evaluation of the offshore team’s performance.
More profoundly, as a startup founder, you must outline:
- The key workflows and the expected outcomes
- Project timeframe and the associated deadlines
- The best practices and processes that must be adhered to
- The method through which feedback can be given, received, and reviewed
- The technicalities of the quality and performance management system in place
3. Establish Strong Communication Links
As a startup founder, you, along with the other members of the core team, must be actively involved in setting the communication links. Communication is one of the most crucial aspects that binds an offshore team with its on-site colleagues. It is essential to maintain a positive relationship between these two teams.
You must create a documented communication plan to lay down the protocol for interactions across different time zones. It should include:
- The list of the members who will stay in regular touch with the offshore team
- The mediums upon which each interaction will take place, e.g., Zoom video calls, emails, instant messages
- The frequency of each interaction, e.g., weekly reviews, standup meetings, etc.
- How the information would be shared, e.g., through a shared workspace
This communication plan would, in turn, help you gain more control and visibility over your offshore team’s work while enabling faster decision-making and problem-solving. This would also be an opportunity to exhibit inclusivity and create a culture of understanding and respect – an integral element for any engagement to succeed – especially the one that rests on the acceptance and respect of cultural differences.
4. Measure the Outcomes
“What a firm doesn’t measure, it can’t offshore well,” reads a quote from Harvard Business Review.
Effectively managing an offshore team is about measuring their performance. This would mean that the business leader, in conjunction with the members of the core team, must come up with measures that would accurately reflect the attitudes and performance of the offshore team.
Now, here are a few considerations:
- Some of the processes can be non-codifiable, which means that it would not be easy to measure their outcomes. For example, new product innovation or business development. Therefore, the evaluation of these processes must be based on how well they are executed as well as the feedback from the users.
- Some of the processes can be obscure, which means that it’s impossible to realize the viability of their outcomes until and unless a scenario surfaces that needs to be handled via these processes. Therefore, the success of these processes will be based on the subjective elements discussed above – like regular communication, appreciation, constructive feedback, rewards, etc.
- The results from the processes that can be codified must be measurable. Based on the results, you can take corrective or progressive actions.
In essence, all of the processes are periodic and incremental. Therefore, the evaluation of their outcomes should be conducted regularly. That means that you must have project management, IT service management, and data analytics tools in place – preferably a combination of these to prevent fragmentation and data silos.
5. Collaborate with the Right Offshoring Partner
From helping you assess your budget and requirements to providing guidance about the right processes and setting up a team structure, working with a reputable offshore team partner can help you build a steady, successful offshore arrangement.
Not to forget the speed with which the engagement can be organized and carried out – all while assessing the best cultural fit, budget, bandwidth, project requirements, competencies, expertise, and more.
For example, at Clear Thought Solutions, we help businesses with demand management and planning, recruitment and hiring, process modeling and analysis, project management, IT service management and support, etc., to identify the most suitable offshore team to engage with. Get in touch to learn more.