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Re: [ljc] Managing a Distributed Team

From: Stephen H.
Sent on: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 7:12 PM

On top of what everyone else has said I'd add:

* Try to establish the skillset of each team member individually before starting to assign tasks, especially if you're working with a dedicated outsourcing company as opposed to a different office within your organisation. We had problems initially when working with an outsourced QA team of 5 developers who had been presented to us as "experienced java and sql specialists". In reality the experience across the team varied widely and we wasted a lot of time assigning tasks at inappropriate levels.

* Keep a well-defined backlog of low priority tasks (utility scripts, etc.) in addition to the main project stories. No matter how well organised you are there will always be occasional blockers which need a response from the other office. If you have a backlog the other team(s) can still be productive.

* Anticipate for high developer turnover. Again, mostly relevant for dedicated outsourcing firms. These, understandably, aren't very appealing jobs in a lot of cases and typically developers will move on as soon as they can. The only real solution (apart from not using cheap outsourcing companies) is to document as much as you can and ensure you have a good set of induction material available that's kept upto date.

As has been said by others the best results tend to come from face-to-face contact if at all possible. Even if it's just a one off visit. Being able to put a face to a name in JIRA makes a big difference and can help prevent a lot of the resentment which can easily come with distributed teams.


On 13 August[masked]:47, Gemma Silvers <[address removed]> wrote:
+1 to what Marcin said.  

The two most important things for me are building personal relationships (you need to regularly travel to see your remote teams, and ideally bring everyone together as often as budget permits), and over-communicating - write clear, comprehensive notes on everything and share them widely.

On Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 8:57 AM, Marcin Gorecki <[address removed]> wrote:

Hi Craig,


Fast - Good - Cheap - pick two ;) I hope your bosses understand that. Offshore introduced delays. 


I've been working with offshore teams and I've been part of offshore teams as well. There are couple thing you can do to make your life easier:

* build good relations. You do not "use offshore resources", but you work with people who live a bit way away. If you treat them this way they will go long way to help you. 

* find an offshore leader. Make someone out there responsible for technical approaches/work of the offshore team. Team will say focused all the time, not only when you are online

* establish effective communication channels. Use skype, livemeeting/gotomeeting for screen sharing, msn/lync/icq. Set up frequent short meetings to make sure everyone on the team knows what to do. Work with local leader to triage questions that come to you.

* use proper tools. My favorite one is wiki and onenote. Write down everything (sorry!). Use issue tracker and open defects/work packages instead of sending emails. There will be a single point of truth and you will get design documents for free!

* in-person sessions. That's a thing that I thing you won't avoid - bring the team together for a week from time to time. You will do huge amount of work during a week and the team will be much stronger. If you are bringing people to you pay for their hotel over weekend - let them have some fun. Btw: here is a small trick that works every time: remember to bring a big box of cookies/candy for the first meeting - you'll be the nice guy ;) People like to work with nice guys.

* accept unsocial hours - this is the nature of the beast. Take it or leave it.


Best Regards,



Dnia[masked]:38 Craig Silk napisał(a):

Hi Guys,
Bit of a general question for the group. I'm leading development on a project that uses two offshore teams based in different time zones 3 hours apart from each other and 4 & 7 hours ahead of the UK.
We're just coming out of the design phase (we're not agile) and I found the lead time between a request for my help and me servicing that request to be too long to manage.
Does anyone have any tips that would enable me to work more efficiently with my offshore teams? Getting up at 6am to take calls and review work seems to help close the lead time a little but I'm still asleep through a good portion of the offshore workday.
Any general tips on being a lead for a distributed team would be well received too.

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