Friday, September 7, 2018

Collaboration with Offshore Team

It's not the first time I have offshore team in the project, in my previous company, some of the Siebel CRM developers is in Jakarta - Indonesia with composition of 70% onshore and 30% offshore. There's not really big challenge, maybe because I'm also an Indonesian, so I know their language, culture, and already used to work with them.

But in my current company, 80% of the team is offshore and spread in Bangalore, Mumbai, and Chennai. To be frank, at first it's not easy to manage all of them. Here's some challenges I experience:

  • Different timezone
    • It's not that really big different time, only 2.5 hours between Kuala Lumpur and India. But because they don't follow client's working hour, so we can only have productive work with them after they're already in office by 9:30am (IST) which is 12:00pm (KL time). So most of scrum ceremonies are held after lunch time here. 
  • Different culture
    • To understand people is to understand their culture. Need time to understand on their cultural communication, on how they communicate, not openly speak up, and provide answer/commitment on the task, like answering with "Yes", "Yes, it's possible", "Yes, I will do my best". Understanding body language (e.g. head movement, hand movement, etc.) is another thing worth to learn. Lesson learned from this: instead of forcing and give hard deadline, ask their commitment by when they can deliver and what kind of help we can provide to make it happened. 
  • Strict IT rule and technical limitation
    • Not everyone offshore has laptop (some of them still work with desktop in office), and the IT access to their system is limited (e.g. can't use webcam, can't install software for development, etc.). I still remember, I asked them to turn on their webcam to have video call to have better "face-to-face" communication, but they can't use it. What we did to overcome this: we compile all the issue and the suggestion, and request to offshore manager's approval to open-up the limitation.
  • Lost in translation
    • Sometime when we have meeting, we assume they understand the conversation. Because there's no more question or feedback. Then at the end, actually the message is not delivered as per as is. So, what I did to make it better, we need to make sure to choose the words carefully and explain in detail, then ask them to recap with their sentence to make sure they understand the context.
  • Lose work momentum
    • The employment turnover is quite high, when the people resign then need to have more time to perform knowledge transfer to new guy and need to adapt/adjust again to make sure the teamwork and communication between team still work well. 
    • Some required main PIC team member only come with Business Visa, which is maximum allowed to stay 3 weeks here to gather some requirement, meeting and some works. Then after 3 weeks, there might be another person come to take care the work. The good work momentum is lost, and need to restart again. So, we propose to our management to have main PIC to be 100% onshore to make sure they work here with Employment Pass.
During scrum of scrum, all scrum masters throw idea on best practices, tools being used, or experience with offshore team. Here's some tools that we use until now here to have better collaboration and communication between onshore and offshore:
  • Slack
    • It's cloud-based collaboration tools for team to communicate each others. Accessible via desktop apps, mobile apps, or browser. We utilize Slack to have some features like: 
      • integration with Jira: so everyone can get notification the moment there's new/update activity in Jira, we can comment directly via Slack, and other things.
      • integration with Jenkins: to give notification when build is happening, with information on the developer PIC, code branching information, build start date, build end date, and build status.
      • integration with Google Calendar and Google Drive.
      • reminder activity for any scrum ceremonies.
      • survey polling, to capture feedback from team.
      • simple game in our #for-fun channel
  • Zoom / Appear
    • It's really good tool for video conference. Personally I prefer Zoom, because it's more stable and can have more attendances, even though the free version is limited to max 40 mins. But to be able to see video is really helpful, to know their face expression and better communication.
  • Ideaboardz
    • We use this for Sprint Retrospective, it's easily accessible via mobile and desktop browser. We can configure the section header (e.g. What went well?, Idea for future?), each person can add their feedback in digital sticky notes, and whoever agree can vote by giving thumb-up on that item. 
  • Google
    • Google Calendar: we use this to capture leave plan because the team come from different organizations (Celcom, Capgemini, IBM, TCS) and to capture delivery calendar (e.g. system freeze period, other system deployment, etc.).
    • Google Drive: to use google sheet or google form.
    • We use this to play some challenging mini game. Basically we can have quiz with multiple option answer. Whoever can answer correctly and fast enough, will have more point. We utilize it for game like: Understand about Agile questions, Knowing your team, etc. 
Not to mention must have Agile tools like Jira and Confluence.

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