With an increasing expression, nearshoring technological projects is a strategic alternative that involves the hiring of specialized teams for project development internationally. The quality of the Portuguese technological talents makes our country an attractive location for many European companies to outsource their technological needs/problems or ambitions.
The numerous advantages of nearshore software development also bring challenges when managing a team in an 100% remote environment. Despite the specificities of the teams, projects, and clients, from my experience as a Delivery Manager, I believe that there are 3 fundamental pillars for good team management in a nearshore context: Culture, People and Tools/Processes.
Considering these three vectors and taking into account the particularities of working in nearshore, I share below some tips and general guidelines that I believe to be the main keys for successful nearshore teams and projects:
Communicate a lot and clearly.
It is much easier to remotely create a high-performance culture if all team members understand the client company’s vision by actively participating in the communication. It is important to guarantee and encourage continuous, real-time communication between the team and the client, using tools that allow for agility in physical communication. I like and recommend Slack which is what I use daily.
Use the right tools and frameworks to be Agile.
The Scrum framework and all associated tools work perfectly in a nearshore project environment. It’s important to ensure that the client adopts that mindset, even if they don’t work that way before.
Great culture starts with great onboarding.
Affinity, cooperation with the customer and the culture of the team itself must be reflected in all stages of the operation, and especially right at the moment of onboarding, as the saying goes, ‘there is only one opportunity to make a good first impression’ and it is important that this reflects the environment in which the team/project lives. In the project I lead, for example, despite being a remote operation, we always try to have the first day of a new member spent in person with the entire team. This first face-to-face contact allows people to really get to know each other, generates empathy, but it also serves to show how things are going, how we work, transmitting our vision, values, dynamics and rules in a verbal and non-verbal way.
If possible, visit your clients’ headquarters.
Getting to know the company can be extremely positive, getting to know the people, getting to know the culture, getting to know the internal work processes, etc. The frequency of this physical contact can vary from project to project, team to team, but I consider it very important as it contributes to a greater solidity of the relationship.
Appoint a local team Lead as the single point of responsibility & main contact
Distributed teams face more organizational challenges and need a clear communication and line management structure. Although communication throughout the project must integrate all team members – as I mentioned in the first point – there must be a main point of contact, responsible for the good management of the entire remote operation in order to guarantee structure and organization.
Promote an atmosphere of trust, safety, transparency, openness, continuous learning and improvement.
Even in nearshore teams we often spend more time with co-workers than with our families, so I believe that the most positive and familiar environment possible should be created. All for one and one for all! The unity of the team leads to excellent results.
Choose your team wisely (Core team)
As the project Lead, for me was important to choose the team carefully. Keep in mind that you are going to embark on a project together and it’s essential that you trust the team and its work methods.
Manage Expectations (everyone)
As a project leader, it is important for me to carefully choose the elements of my team. It is important to keep in mind that together we embark on a project where success depends on each one of us and openness, trust and understanding among the members, as well as working methods are essential.
Keep up the feedback loop
It is important to create opportunities for formal or informal feedback on issues such as: motivation, satisfaction with the technological project in which you work, factors that influence your performance both positively and negatively, concerns, future ambitions, etc. Even if the company does it systematically – as is the case with Affinity – it is, in my opinion, of great importance that the team members feel that this space of expression exists with their direct leader. These feedback opportunities significantly contribute to people’s satisfaction, overall team atmosphere, intrinsic motivation and retention.
Resource and mentor your team.
Team members must be prepared for their roles in terms of soft skills and hard skills. The leader must ensure this preparation through coaching the team and/or, if necessary, proposing and providing means and training for the individual development of each one in order to guarantee the skills to carry out the work with quality.
Acknowledge outstanding performance
It’s important that the team members receive recognition for good performance. My experience show me that recognition for particular performance stimulates employees to give their best in favor of the project.
Have fun with team-building activities
In a healthy work environment, all team members should have opportunities to recharge and unwind. A company’s culture based on fun and team-building activities leads to more productive and satisfying work which is as important for a nearshore team as for any other.
In conclusion, I believe that, as in any relationship, it is necessary to promote an environment of communication and trust. A project developed 100% remotely, has some more challenging characteristics that make communication and trust have to be worked on and ensured in specific ways, guaranteeing a total understanding and a strong team culture. With the right tools and work processes that ensure the smooth running of teams and people, we guarantee that the project runs as naturally and efficiently as if there were no physical distance.
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Pedro Esteves is the Delivery Manager in one of Affinity’s key nearshore operations leading a team on a fully remote software development project. With a great experience in project management, when he is not dedicated to technology Pedro does not miss an opportunity to surf some good waves!