Nov 21, 2008

Sustaining communication with offshore teams

Each visit to the offshore development center highlights the vast communication gap that exists between onshore and offshore. These teams don't fully understand each other's goals, issues etc. and don't have shared views on organizational priorities.

On a recent visit, I noticed two issues with this communication gap:

1) disconnect: lack of knowledge and/or understanding of each other's priorities. E.g. there are no common posters at onshore and offshore; technical priorities weren't known to the technologists offshore; onshore members doesn't realize/understand/appreciate the state of offshore - many advancements it has made in several areas...

2) lag: shifting priorities, goals were not well communicated and understood resulting in the offshore teams focusing on "old" priorities.

Geographical and time separation, project focus (narrow), not a priority for anyone are typical reasons why this has continued for several years.

This gap is counter-productive and slows down the speed at which the we can improve as a development organization.

To leap from the current state (ODC is at an inflection point), we've identified sustaining communication with offshore teams as a priority and want to make significant traction on it from now on. The guiding principles for the solution are:

1) establish something that we can sustain (not high activity for a few months that dies down later)

2) create a "need" to communicate (optional doesn't stick/sustain)

Here are some ideas we've discussed so far (more to come). We need to evaluate these against the guiding principles (Can we sustain it? Will people do it?) to select the right ones to focus on...

Let everyone know its a priority

Build trust and understanding
- e.g. periodically conduct offshore week, where onshore teams we come in early so that offshore can leave on time (not at 9pm their time)

Make it someone's responsibility
- Assign the responsibility of information radiators (or making sure its happening) as someone's "day job"

Distribute the work of information radiators

- onshore members (technologists and some BA and PM) mentor/coach/connect with offshore members

Connect the champions at each location

- Each initiative onshore and offshore should have champions/radiators in the other location

Attend each other's events virtually

Offshore/onshore townhalls, monthly meetings, CoE discussions

Socialize virtually
- Hang out virtually
. Spend time without any agenda (water cooler conversation)

Use technology

- Newsletters/posters
- AppDev TV
- Internal Twitter anyone?


  1. Another strategy that a firm can plan to devise, is to have a healthy onsite-offshore rotation in case of distributed teams. Doing so will ensure rotation of experience/ ideologies and in turn will help in reducing the geographical barriers.

  2. I believe the beginning is not communication itself, but procedure. Of course it will help if we provide staff exercising in interaction and if we show them how the social variations effect interaction. But the key to achievements can be found in a obvious procedure.

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