The keys to successful collaboration with a global development team

With competition for IT workers ramping up among U.S. high-tech companies, firms are looking beyond U.S. borders to strengthen and diversify their human capital. As many enterprises have discovered, however, those who try to seamlessly bolt on a foreign team to their existing organization can wind up losing significant time and money. The right approach is critical to create a globally distributed team that can deliver.

The percentage of total IT budgets spent on outsourcing for U.S. and Canadian firms rose from 10.6 percent in 2016 to 11.9 percent in 2017, a Computer Economics report found, with many organizations turning to offshore talent. The hot U.S. labor market is one of the main drivers behind this uptick: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of software developer positions available will grow another 24 percent by 2026. Turning to outside resources can also help businesses work more quickly and cost-effectively, gain the diverse perspectives they need to design for a global customer base, and take the first step toward future expansion in new counties. Accenture, IBM and Oracle are just a few of the high-profile players tapping IT talent across the globe to meet these objectives.

Through its partnerships with high-tech, high-growth companies across healthcare, fintech, insurance and more, Creatix’s Slovakia-based development team provides the engineering horsepower to accelerate innovation while maximizing ROI for clients. We’ve helped to extend engineering capabilities, strengthen talent pools, and bring countless projects to market, learning many valuable lessons along the way. Here are our top strategies for enabling effective collaboration across globally distributed development teams.

  • Clear communication. Effective communication is a non-negotiable for any team, but the stakes are even higher for team members who are thousands of miles apart and speak different languages. Both sides should be as specific as possible when making requests, setting deadlines and providing feedback to keep projects running smoothly. To facilitate communication with its U.S.-based clients, Creatix has found success in:
  • Putting it in writing. It can be challenging for team members to understand a verbal request from an offshore counterpart during a conference call. While face time is important for building rapport, sticking to simple, written communication when setting tasks or deadlines ensures that everyone is on the same page.
  • Frequent reviews. Using agile development processes helps teams to align in small steps, tackling items one by one and leading to more thoughtful solutions and sustainable products. During its recent development of EverMarketsExchange, an institutional-grade cryptocurrency trading platform, Creatix and client EMX held daily stand-ups to brainstorm ideas and solutions continuously.
  • Knowing when to compromise. Building a team with different experiences and perspectives can lead to different opinions on project solutions, from coding styles to whether to use “redux-thunk” or “redux-saga.” Both sides should be open to new ideas, while also being able to express their preferences articulately and understanding what’s mission-critical to success versus personal preference.
  • Maximize every hour of the day. When it’s 5 a.m. here and 12 p.m. there, coordinating communication takes careful planning. When executed correctly, however, these overlapping schedules can supercharge overall productivity. Creatix’s Slovakia-based team has four hours daily of joint working time with its U.S.-based clients, which it spends reviewing projects and addressing questions to avoid stalling on projects. Each team can then use the remaining hours of the day to work without distractions — resulting in up to 16 hours of productivity across both Teams each day.
  • Make time for face time. Just like any other team, globally distributed teams grow stronger as they build rapport with one another. Luckily, technology makes it much easier to incorporate face time from day one. At Creatix, investing in reliable equipment, including a big screen for video conference calls, helps team members to connect the code to a real person during daily standups. For longer-term engagements, making an effort to schedule in-person visits can also pay off in terms of team cohesion and productivity.
  • Be flexible. Getting to know team members who are halfway around the world means adapting to different working and cultural preferences. Both sides should be sensitive to those considerations, from working hours to holidays, while being willing to work around the other side when needed. For example, staying a couple hours later to wrap up an important design sprint can go a long way toward building a sense of team camaraderie.
  • Unite teams around a common goal. Developers who have their heads down in lines of code each day may not always see the greater impact of their work. Helping team members understand the bigger picture and the value they’re bringing to the organization can be a powerful motivator. For example, Creatix partners with Chicago-based insurtech GoHealth to power its insurance marketplace, which connects millions of people with affordable health insurance they often couldn’t access otherwise. Regularly communicating about GoHealth’s larger vision and celebrating key wins helps the entire global team feel like they’re part of something big.

With technology making it easier to collaborate from anywhere, globally distributed teams will continue to become more common. Understanding the principles of successful collaboration can help these teams — and their organizations — do their best work.