Trust and Communications in Offshoring


    Very often I hear from software managers and CEOs that we need only good technical resources for our offshore project and then all of our projects will work well and be successful. I have seen this as well in articles interviewing the CEOs of companies which are made up of resources all over the world. Hire only for skills, is what they say. If only that was true, it would be easy to plan and manage a project to success, but such is not the case.  In reality resources need to be able to do a few other things as well, especially when teams are working in a distributed manner.

    When working in a distributed manner, trust and communications are extremely important and very intertwined. For building trust the offshore person/s need to  deliver what they say they are going to deliver, when they say they will deliver. This can include very simple things as well, can you always get in touch with them when you need them, can you always hear from them? Are they will willing to send in status reports via email of what they are working on, issues they are having, and what they are going to be doing next week. If they do this one week, and then not the next two, it is of no help to you. A common complaint I hear from Software Managers is that the people who are working with them in other countries, just seem to "disappear" for a while; not responding to emails or other inquiries. Not with standing of course you should always have multiple ways of getting in touch with your offshore resources, but if the primary means of communication has been via email and IM, if the person does not respond for an extended time period, even if they are a technical whiz they are not helping you by not being able to count on them, i.e. trust that they are going to be there when you need them.

    Are your offshore resources (similar for onshore resources) communicative and willing to say and share what they are working on? If not, they may have the best technical skills, but if noone knows what they are doing, who cares. It is not worth the effort. With an offshore project this is doubly important, you will be working mostly at different times of the day, so the ability and willingness to talk about what you are working on, to be upfront about what issues are occuring, is the work on time or not, etc., is doubly important.

    Can you check for or screen for these qualities during the interview process. Yes and No. Trust has to be built and earned during the course of working together so it is difficult to screen for. When you start working together, you can help build trust quickly by initially having very frequent deliverables, i.e. daily is ideal at least for the first week, then every other day perhaps and so on. You can very quickly see if things start to fall apart. Also if the person is working for a company and not working on their own at home, you do have a level of coverage above them.  Usually most reputable companies have processes in place to assure clear and continuous communications between the software engineers and their client managers.

    Communications skills can be more eaily evaluated during an an interview. If they are going to working on their own, then Interview them if possible via voice communications. If they can talk about what they are working on, their role on projects, what went right, what went wrong, it means they have a fairly good level of experience in relating development status to others. This is usually an issue for many offshore developers, something they definitely have to learn how to do. If they are going to be working on their own, this is extremely important.


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