How to manage teams in a global delivery model

Shyam Ramanathan,

Global Delivery Director 

Published: August 6, 2015

Global delivery model has changed the way IT services are delivered and been at the forefront of all organizations. Going forward, it will be the way of the world. The significant benefits include the ability to provide round the clock services, ensure business continuity, level the playing field through best-in-class consulting and finally provide key cost advantages for all organizations alike.

This onsite-offshore model is one of the key results of the outsourcing trend. It enables cost savings, faster time-to-market, extensive QA and testing, and world-class development and delivery.

The key to success of this kind of delivery model is communication. It is important to clearly articulate the responsibilities of the onsite and offshore teams. Generally, the onsite teams perform account management, requirements gathering, architecture, UAT, environment maintenance and any immediate production issues while the offshore teams perform project management, delivery, development, QA, testing, UAT support and all maintenance fixes.

DevOps is another key trend which impacts the global delivery model in a positive way. Companies that incorporate DevOps practices get more implementations by deploying codes more frequently. The basic premise of DevOps is that there is one team composed of cross-functional team members with diverse skillsets from various disciplines like development, QA, DBA's, engineering, and business analysis. The benefits of having such teams are continuous service delivery, quicker problem solving, faster delivery times, more stable environments and faster time to market.

I have been dealing with multiple teams across geographies over the better half of a decade. Working in this type of team setup is a modern reality. We need to understand how we can operate in such diverse environments. Following are some tips that can help manage teams in a global delivery model:

  • Establish rapport: The first step in managing a remote team is to understand all the team members. When you take the time to understand each team member, it gives them a feeling of importance and makes you more personable. Once you establish this rapport, the team opens up and people share their concerns without any inhibitions. The best way to establish rapport is to have team building sessions on a frequent basis where every member of the team can voice their concerns, accomplishments and what their next set of actions are.
  • Set boundaries: It is sometimes common to expect offshore teams to always work late and attend calls. What I have done over the years is to make early morning calls in which case they don't have to stay late for calls every night. Again, this is so simple but it gets ignored. When you give importance to the time of offshore teams, they will also respond in kind. The sacrifice has to be at both ends to make teams win. It has been well established that the more autonomy we provide the team, the better they perform. Setting boundaries means establishing clear ground rules for monitoring performance but at the same time provide autonomy on how the tasks are to be performed.
  • Face time: There is nothing more important than face time. Travelling to meet the offshore teams in person, again, increases rapport and ensures that they understand the person they are dealing with. While there, it is important to have some team building sessions to get to understand each person well. Having video conferences also help in establishing deep bonding with one another and promote team comradery.
  • Set common objectives: The teams should strive for a common set of objectives. The offshore teams cannot have something different than the overall objectives. There should also be rewards for collaborating as a team. Being clear on expectations lubricates trust and ensures everyone understands what the team's vision is and where it is headed.
  • Establish good processes internally: It is important to establish clear process guidelines so that it serves as a guide on how team members act and react to particular circumstances. Having clear processes on each area of the project is critical to enhance engagement. Lack of clarity is the single biggest cause of misunderstanding and lack of motivation. Once everyone follows the same process irrespective of location, there will be a sense of team bonding which is critical for managing teams in a globally interconnected environment.
  • Manage team's focus: Team members need to understand the work they have to do on any given day as well as what the remainder of their work is. They shouldn't get sidetracked by rumors or politics which can be common place when teams are in diverse locations. Having weekly meetings with the whole team ensures that the team is focused on the key activities. At each of these meetings ensure that everyone gets to speak about their work accomplishments and challenges.
  • Establish key skills: A high-performance team has the skills needed to complete the work on its plate. People understand their strengths and weaknesses, but they are also willing to work outside their comfort area, when needed. This is achieved by cross training among teams across projects. This also increases curiosity and keeps the job fresh. Another approach is to encourage team members to enroll for key certifications in their areas of expertise.
  • Foster mutual respect: Team members need to have mutual respect for each other and trust that the others are working as hard as they are. This can only be developed through regular interactions and by ensuring that all concerns are addressed. When all the teams are working in unison, it fosters greater team unity and promotes trust. There is nothing more important than trust in the establishment of a great team. Great teams work in unison and when there are no slanging matches it results in team unity.

As you can see each of the above tips are easy to implement but hard to follow all the time. The key is to entrench these habits and once they are firmly ingrained, you can manage global delivery teams with full engagement.

Shyam Ramanathan

Global Delivery Director 

Shyam Ramanathan has been working in the IT world for over 21 years, where he has developed a breadth of knowledge and experience in program management, requirements analysis, requirements review, Use case modelling, project planning, test design, test execution, and establishing global delivery teams across geographies and building Center of Excellence. 

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