11 Tips to Kick Start Distributed Agile Offshore Projects for Success

01 Feb, 2009
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You have opportunity to work on an Agile Offshore project. It simply means now your project can be delivered faster and cheaper if you get it right. I would like to share some tips with you that have helped Distribute Agile Offshore projects become successful:
Before I write about 11 tips to make a Distributed Agile project successful, I would like to start with Tip #0.
Tip #0: You should have technically bright people in the team. This is a prerequisite to make a Distributed Agile Offshore project successful. My other tips will not make technically dull programmers deliver a successful project.

Tip #1: Involve offshore team early in the project
By early I mean start with offshore team members when you are setting up your development environment or doing brainstorm on project vision and technical design. You can start with a small offshore team of 2 persons who can travel to your location.
Tip #2: Minimum 6 weeks collocation during project startup
Make sure that the onsite and offshore teams sit together in the same room for 2 to 3 sprints before the offshore team goes back to the distributed location.
Tip #3: Work hard towards creating one team feeling
Remember that offshore team may be not familiar with your work culture, language and team members. Spend few social evenings together with onsite and offshore team members to create one team feeling. Share lunch table and jokes with all team members.
Tip #4: Integrate project mail distribution list
All communications relevant to the project team members should go to every member of onsite and offshore team. It can be good news, bad news or simple updates. After all offshore and onsite team is aiming for the same goal and vision.
Tip #5: Explain the business value and vision about the project
Offshore team members should understand the business value and the vision of the project for which they have travelled onsite. If you are long involved in the project, it may seem obvious to you but for offshore team members it is valuable information.
Tip #6: Feedback from other stakeholders
When you engage offshore team, the feedback from various project stakeholders who are not part of the development team should also be communicated to the offshore. The other stakeholders could be higher management, marketing people or end users who might not be visible to your offshore team members.
Tip #7: Honest and direct bi-directional feedback
No feedback to offshore team is worse than the bad feedback. You might not be comfortable discussing the difficult matters with an offshore team member because he/she is new to you. However, you should make a conscious effort so that the onsite and offshore team members are able to deliver constructive criticism without being shy to each other.
Tip #8: Provide the same development environment to onsite and offshore teams
A stable and powerful development environment improves developers’ productivity. Make sure that the offshore team has good hardware and working tools so that they can focus upon the project work.
Tip #9: Simulate distributed team for one week
When both teams are collocated simulate a distributed environment for one week. You can move offshore team to another building and let communication go only using phone and video conferencing. Review the experiences jointly when the simulation week is over.
Tip #10: Keep the one team feeling alive when your offshore team is back to their country
You have worked hard for 6 weeks to create one team feeling. When the offshore team goes back, the onsite and offsite teams will not meet frequently as before.
Plan a collocation at the interval of 3-4 months when 2 members of a team can travel to other location for 2-3 weeks. You can also keep a live video connection in the team working areas at onsite and offshore locations so the teams can see each other and remain connected.

Anurag Shrivastava
Started as a C and Visual Basic programmer in 1993 in India. Worked as a consultant in software implementation and software development projects in Europe before moving to India in 2006 to setup Xebia office in Gurgaon.

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