Using These 6 Tactics Will Keep Your Outsourced Developer Team Productive

From Slack to Gigster, entrepreneurs across all industries often rely on outsourced development teams to build their technology. Even in Silicon Valley, startups beef up their business with outsourced developers or even build their entire V1 offshore. However, getting the most out of your outsourced team can be a daunting task. After working with teams from India to Ukraine to Canada to Argentina, and ultimately building a development outfit in Belize, I’ve found the below 6 tactics to be extremely effective in getting better results.

1. Keep your development tasks small

Even the Roman Empire was built brick by brick. If you’re building the next Facebook, remember that your product will be built line by line of code. Development teams become overwhelmed when faced with large tasks. Planning gets harder and progress stops.

Break these big tasks down into much smaller ones so that your team can complete each one in less than a day. Use T-Shirt sizing to estimate task difficulty. Attach a S, M, L, or XL to all your development tasks and work with your development team to define which tasks should be an S size.

Keep an S task to 1-2 hours of work. An XL task may take as long as two days to develop, but the point is to start sizing everything relative to the easy tasks. An XL task may equal eight or more S tasks. Before telling your team to build that next big feature, show them all the little bricks they’ll need to build it.

2. Never miss your daily standup meeting

daily standup meeting gives you the chance to connect with your team, learn about their issues, and guide them through hurdles. Never miss a daily standup meeting. Run your standup meeting efficiently and allow everyone a chance to talk about issues they face. The point of your standup meeting should be to:

  • Start the day on the same page

  • Find areas for improvement

  • Re-prioritize

  • Strengthen the team’s connection

3. Work with your development team to plan deadlines

Do not be afraid to work with your development team on setting deadlines. Your lead developer is intimately familiar with technology and will be able to give you a much better idea of when tasks can be finished. Ask your lead developer why things will take long. Learn from them and rely on them to help you set up project milestones. An achievable deadline leads to productivity. An overwhelming deadline leads to mistakes.

When a milestone is delayed, hold the team accountable. After all, they held an equal role in setting deadlines.

4. Keep it simple

The simpler your product, the easier it will be to develop. Focus on releasing a Minimum Viable Product instead of releasing everything at once. The faster you get to market, the more quickly you’ll see results. Take all that market data and work with your team to improve the product. A simple product increases development productivity and a released product motivates everyone on the team. Don’t get bogged down building solutions for edge cases and unlikely scenarios. Remember the 80/20 rule, 80% of your users will only use 20% of your features. Build for the majority. Don’t let a small number of customers hold up the whole process.

5. Give your team the tools to make development easy

Buying a solid project management tool may seem like overkill, but don’t cripple yourself where it really counts. Save $50 on marketing flyers and buy a project management tool that will allow your development team to focus on writing code. The longer your team spends writing update emails, the less time they spend building your product. Tools like JIRA and Trello allow you to easily manage development workflow, bugs, and new features.

Make sure your development team has a code repository like Git and automated unit testing and deployment set up. This will save important hours that you’ll need for new features.

6. Everybody needs a day off

Whether in-house or outsourced, developers work like crazy. Still, everybody needs a day off. Running a startup feels like a marathon at a sprint's pace, but it is important to give your team the time to mentally tune out. 14 hour days, 7 days a week, leads to quick burn out.

Quality drops when your team is mentally drained. Give your team at least a day, every week, with no work emails or project plan updates. Let them refuel their brains and restore their creative juices. By Monday morning, your team will be ready to go another 110%.

Wrap Up

Working with an outsourced team has its challenges, but there are some clear benefits for startups. Use the above tactics to reduce the amount of uncertainty and risk. Never forget that innovation and uncertainty go hand in hand. So plan with emergencies in mind. You don’t know what you don’t know. Handle emergencies gracefully and keep a cool head. Often times, there is a simple answer to the most troubling problems. When your development team sees confidence and comfort, it frees them up to forget about the uncertainty and focus on development.

Let me know which tactic will benefit you the most!