What to Consider When Outsourcing to Remote Teams

Is outsourcing to remote teams a good choice for startups?

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the ways in which we live and work are constantly evolving.

Over the last six months, we have seen significant acceptance of remote workers and remote teams. Our typical methods for working together may no longer be possible with the pandemic in question. But, on the flip side, we are no longer limited as much to in-person interactions.

Now, our concept of work has expanded to include “remote work” as an everyday reality and, with this shift, the concept of remote teams may seem less daunting.

Ashish Sant
Ashish Sant

We connected with Ashish Sant, an EIR (Executive in Residence) with 25+ years of experience in the technology industry, to discuss how startups can leverage offshore teams when considering remote work options. Ashish developed considerable insights on this topic through his experience in managing a 450+ global R&D organization spread across four countries, building mission-critical diagnostic imaging software for Radiology and Cardiology.

His thoughts on key areas startups should consider when thinking about sourcing out work to offshore  teams are even more relevant today as thepandemic continues to evolve how we live and work.

We asked Ashish: When is outsourcing to remote teams a good choice for startups? How can startups outsource to remote teams? What should they consider when deciding on an offshore partner?

Communicating Clear and Realistic Requirements

Ashish provides the caveat: “Most offshore vendors will give you exactly what you ask for and no more. So, it is very important to ensure that the scope of work is clear and well defined.”

It is crucial, says Ashish, to lay out clear and realistic expectations.

“If your requirements are not clear, the offshore resources will often go underutilized as they wait for you to clarify the specifics,” says Ashish. “Moreover, if your acceptance criteria is not clear, they will build what they think is right, not what you really need.”

Ashish recommends that companies considering outsourced development create well defined requirements for the work to be done by the offshore teams. In situations where this is not possible, the two teams should plan to have regular communications so there is ongoing alignment between the work that is to be done and the work that is actually being done.

Assessing Offshore Workers’ Skill Sets

Questioning the level of experience, knowledge, and skill sets the offshore team has when considering whether to work with them is of utmost importance.

For example, if you were working with developers, you would need to ask yourself: How high up are the offshore developers in the software development value chain? Are they going to be architects and software designers, or simply write software code based on the architecture/design that you provide? Will you have any software development on your end, or do you intend to fully outsource this and only keep customer-facing roles (product manager or analyst) within your organization?

When you need higher value work from your outsourced team, Ashish suggests going with companies that have experience in end-to-end product development rather than simply software development experience.

Other factors to consider include whether you need expertise in any specific technologies, unique regulatory requirements, and domain knowledge.

Ashish advises also considering the scale of your team in the future. The smaller the team, says Ashish, the higher the risk to your work, due to a possibility of attrition of resources.

If this happens, you need to find a company that has solid processes for ramping up new resources and can retain the knowledge of your product and domain through this turnover.

Considering Time Zones

One of the main things a startup needs to consider is the time zone difference between teams, especially when evaluating the “fit” of an outsourcing company. He also suggests asking yourself how you intend to use the outsourcing team, as a means of gauging who might be a good fit and then narrowing down your choices from there.

In terms of the time zone, it may not be as critical as the team’s ability to independently get the work done

 So, if you have a mature, fixed, and well-defined scope of work to source to the offshore team, then time zone may not be as much of a factor when considering who to work with.

Another useful thing to consider, Ashish says, is if you intend to embed the team into your daily scrums.

If so, the time zone then becomes a relevant aspect; however, Ashish knows of teams where the resources were all over the world (from Seattle to China and India) but companies were still able to make daily scrums come together. This means that while important to consider, a time zone difference may not make daily scrums impossible.

Last But Not Least: Final Considerations

Incurring Costs

Ashish, who clearly knows a thing or two about working with offshore teams from his years as an offshore developer and overseeing remote teams, hopes that people also consider the additional costs that companies can incur over time when hiring remote teams offshore.

“Many companies,” says Ashish, “Often underestimate the management and communication overhead they incur when outsourcing. This depends again on the nature of work, maturity of development processes and product requirements, and experience of the offshore vendor. The more mature your offshore partner is, the less overhead you have to spend to manage their work”

Travel Considerations

There is clearly lots to consider when working with offshore teams in any capacity, but in a post-pandemic world, you can add travel to the list of factors that may get in the way of working together smoothly. Will you need to travel to the remote team’s offshore location or vice versa at any point? If so, visa considerations, travel costs, ease of travel, and other related factors become important considerations to keep in mind.

In a pandemic-ridden world, working with offshore remote teams may be something to consider in order to be able to access capacity for yourself and others in a virtually distributed reality.

Reach out to our team at SFU VentureLabs if you’re interested in learning more!

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