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Tips On Building Good Communication In Software Outsourcing

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Posted 20th January 2014 at 07:04 AM by MobiDev

Communication is the pivotal part of outsourcing, no matter if we talk about software development or something else. The impossibility of 'being in a nearby room' bears many potential complications. Meanwhile the definition of communication is also rather obscure and depends on the goals you need to achieve. If the goal is a working software product (which undoubtedly is), you are surely exposed to such problems as expressing and understanding requirements, quickly clarifying and managing any changes along the project development, and so on. The solution lies with making the process of communication better. How can it be done?

Clear Project Documentation

Creating a clear project documentation is a perfect solution without a recipe; although not impossible, it's very hard to accomplish. The thing is, you must go for it together with the team. You have to agree on how requirements will be developed before they will be actually developed. This will help minimize and structure the inevitable flow of questions that the team will have. It also has an element of learning, that will prove good for future work, so that misunderstandings will be tackled faster and more efficiently.

The Three Barriers: Language, Culture, Time Zone

Barrier 1. First you'll have to take notice of these three barriers that stand between you and an offshore contractor. As for the first, English is an international language; this fact also covers the sphere of computers and software. That's why professional designers, developers, and QA engineers may not be technical translators by education, but they surely have experience and knowledge in specialized IT terminology. On the other hand, there are professional project managers, who possess a high level of foreign language(s) - B2 and up. Surely this doesn't mean that everything will go without complications, since very often English happens to be non-native for both parties; but here clarification of terms and expectations, the pre-development work, is the cure.

Barrier 2. The second one, the biggest of the three, is culture. It adds to the language problem, and people of different mentalities can interpret the simple 'yes' differently. If you are inclined to work with people who have similar mindset (for example, European offshore companies), you'll be able to focus more on their professional merits, such as work process and portfolio.

Barrier 3. Time zones are all about location of your contractor, but you can always agree on time of conversations that will be convenient for both parties. This difference is an obstacle that is tackled by proper scheduling.

Project Management

Too much communication is extremely tiring, and project managers are the ones who partly take this burden for you, along with evaluation and scheduling of developers' and QA teamwork. A project manager saves your precious time: you pay for this person's services, but it's a worthy investment. If your project is middle to large in size, or if you don't have advanced technical skills, having a dedicated PM is absolutely necessary. You don't get involved into the routine managed within the team, and at the same time you are on the know. Tasks are planned and set considering both technical and business perspectives. The other side of project management is a decent online tool for tracking the progress, setting tasks and reporting bugs (such as Redmine).

Scheduled Conversations

Simply put, talk until everything is clear. And undoubtedly you need to keep an eye on how the project proceeds. Frequent conversations (weekly and daily) mean an irreplaceable solution to the problems mentioned above. You have a dedicated project manager and project documentation to start with - and then there you go with, possibly, Skype. The details that are less urgent and important can be managed via e-mailing or asynchronous chatting.

To sum it up, you'll naturally ask questions about the company to know the way it works, and decide on how you can work together with best results. It requires attention and transparent work from both sides. There cannot be communication without problems and complications, but at the same time there is none of them that cannot be overcome. Working with a trustworthy and professional team will reduce the chances of inaccuracies and misunderstandings of your needs and business tasks.

See also:
Hiring A Project Manager: What Do You Pay For?
Software Development: In-House Or Outsourcing?
Infographic: Freelancer Vs. Company
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