5 Tips to Improve Communication in IT Outsourcing
One of the most common problems of offshore outsourcing is communication. It is sort of the Holy Grail of outsourcing. Almost every company that has worked with foreign vendor and has faced communication challenges. But however, every business mentions quite different issues under the term of ‘communication problem’:
‘Teams were sitting in different offices in different countries
and couldn’t interact as good as the colleagues, who worked
in the same room. It stole a lot of time from us.’
‘ We were totally lost in reports and updates. It was
impossible to handle all that documentation flow.’
‘It seemed the team understood a task and was aware of
terms,but in the end we received not what we had expected.’
Let’s think about prime causes of what people in offshore outsourcing call ‘communication problems’. I divide them in two groups:
- Omissions in the process
- Cultural differences
Today I would like to start with reviewing omissions in the process. I want to share 5 simple tips with you. Take these steps and you will accelerate performance of collaboration with your outsourcing partner, for sure.
Tip 1. Schedule regular meetings and standups
This step is the simplest to take, but it appears to be one of the strongest tools of organizing and controlling the outsourcing process. When people have a regular opportunity to discuss the details and problems of the project, make corrections, communication problems happen to solve themselves. People from different offices become one team and are always engaged in the streamline communication.
There can be daily standups or weekly meetings. You can choose any frequency, considering the needs of the project. Sometimes regular meetings can even replace problem solving sessions, as daily communication can identify and prevent a problem in advance.
Tip 2. Use solid project management tool
Should I even explain why an online project management tool is essential for outsourced projects? This will help you to track all the activity, updates, changes and bugs, but only in case when online system is used by everyone the same way. Start with writing the clear guidelines on how to use the tool and then control whether people use it in planned manner.
Very important is to upload the summaries of all calls, mails and chat discussions to the system. Nobody will be able to remember a Skype call discussion details or find ‘that’ message in team chat after a month.
Tip 3. Create clear guidelines on developing requirements
Absence of clear guidelines on writing requirement documents can cause a situation when one team spends hours to write documentation and external team answers with hundreds of questions caused with that document. There should be one format that is easily understood by both, the author and the reader.
And be sure not to turn everything into flow of messages and mails. Often it is faster and more effective to have one hour call, discuss all issues and then write them down, instead of wasting days trying to understand each other in mails. Let your systematization be smart.
Tip 4. Arrange face-to-face meeting
Invest your time in meeting your external team, or at least main team leaders, in the beginning of the engagement. For example, our company has a practice of visiting offices of our clients. From time to time our developers meet their project manager and team they are working with. People tend to be more open to communicate and interact, especially on the phone, after they have met in person at least once.
We also use Skype video calls. That lets the teams to communicate in more personal and friendly manner. People are able to trust more, if they see a real person in front of them, how he looks like and reacts.
Tip 5. Don’t be a control freak
Be very careful not to micromanage. Remember that you outsource for IT skills and expertise. Too many managers are controlling freaks who are scared to death to delegate any of the functions. It’s common for them to over-dictate how the project should run. Let your external team bring the ideas and help you in reaching your business goal. You will be surprised how developers can improve your project with their expertise and experience.
Clear process of communication can increase the productivity of delivering your project incredibly. But there are also cultural differences left. Very often they play a big deal in your outsourcing experience. To find out what to expect and how to overcome all the challenges of cultural diversity, subscribe and read my next article.
And I can’t wait to hear your tips to improve communication in offshore outsourcing. Comment and share your thoughts and experience.
By Anna Muzychko