Agile Methodology for Offshore Software Development
Outsourcing software services is trending. Using an agile approach to software development is an industry best practice and is about a $92.5 billion market. A large chunk of it belongs to offshore agile software development.
Opting for this approach can help businesses save time and money. And the outsourcing companies implement agile methodologies for optimum workflow and results. This guide discusses the concept, its benefits, challenges, and the ways to effectively manage offshore software agile development.
Introduction to Agile Development
Agile methodologies have quickly earned the reputation for being the synonym of innovation and productivity. That’s why it is highly coveted among the IT fraternity. Basically, it is a set of project management practices that breaks down large and complex development projects into small and easily manageable chunks, which are referred to as iterations.
It allows the developers to evaluate the progress of the project throughout its lifecycle and deliver a quality product in iterations through continuous delivery.
Agile philosophy is integrated into many project management methodologies. The most popular and preferred one by almost 84% of agile teams is Scrum. A scrum team usually consists of seven members including a scrum master product owner, developers, designers and QA experts.
The reason agile methodology is ideal for offshore software development is that it does not involve any kind of hierarchies or subordinate teams. The method also provides agility and flexibility to the team members by enabling them to plan and strategize their tasks ahead of time.
Advantages of Agile Software Development
1. Faster Time-to-Market
Because agile divides the project into small parts, after completing each iteration of the project, a part of your app is ready. So, you can choose to launch your half-baked product just to start building a user base preemptively or to test your MVP.
2. Flexible Approach
The entire concept of agile development is about accommodating changes. So when there is a shift in market trends or any user requirements changes, developers would be able to quickly respond to them. Even in the middle of the development, developers can embrace the new idea to make the product more useful and relevant.
3. Reduced Cost
In Agile methodology, you only have to pay for the resources and features you use. So amidst the development process, if you realize that certain requested features are no longer needed, then you can omit them immediately. This will help you pay only for the work done on the product and your app will also be launched soon.
4. Risk Management
Even in the initial stages, agile methodologies allow you to test your product. It helps you identify the errors or issues with the product or development process. You can then take quick action to resolve them.
With agile software development, testing is ingrained at every step of the process. This ensures that your finished product is of top-notch quality and that you don’t have to work too hard or spend too much time at the end of the development process evaluating and refining the product quality.
Challenges of offshore team management
Although agile software development is extremely beneficial for businesses, especially startups, the team can face some challenges.
1. Agile burnout
Businesses adopt agile to keep up with the fast-paced market changes and trends. The practices of building efficient products and continuous delivery can take a huge toll on the personnel. If such fast-paced work continues for months then the professionals are eventually going to feel burned out.
2. Low team productivity
Whenever the productivity of the offshore teams is appreciated, it is mostly in the context of short-term projects. But when it comes to long-term offshore software development projects, experts agree that over time, agile developers start losing their efficiency. And in some cases, they even lag behind the in-house teams.
3. Poor communication
The lack of a clear, well-defined and efficient communication strategy is another factor that deems offshore agile software development to fail. As the offshore team communicates with the project manager, in some cases this leads to the business owner getting completely cut off from the loop.
4. Sloppy onboarding
When managers get hasty with the hiring process, their work often resembles poor productivity and engagement.
Apart from these, other challenges with offshore development include the lack of face-to-face interactions, language barriers, cultural differences, short-time overlaps and time differences.
Managing an Agile Offshore Software Development Team
In offshore development, your team will be distributed geographically. So it becomes hard to communicate and collaborate with the team. But if you follow the practices mentioned below, it will help you streamline your development process.
Define the Scope of Work
It is important to generate a document called Scope of Work or SOW before you start working with an offshore team. This SOW document will consist of a list of all the milestones of the projects, deliverables for each of those milestones, timelines for those deliverables and the reporting process.
Based on this Scope of Work the developers categorize the project into different iterations with specified deadlines. In other words, this document serves as the center or reference point for both the client and the agile development team.
Having a SOW document enables you to streamline your development process. With every little change, update or feedback making its way into the project this document helps communicate from both ends.
Create an easily navigable product roadmap
After generating the SOW document, you have to categorize every task and allot a specific and reasonable timeline to it. Hence it allows you to build a product development roadmap for your project.
This roadmap will help you provide a comprehensive view of all the requirements of the project that need to be fulfilled to deem it successful. The main aim behind the development of this roadmap is to give clarity on the software development process to the offshore developers.
SOW is a flexible document. Changes can be made in it along the way.
Ensure Effective Communication
Establishing communication channels is crucial for any project. Especially when you are working with offshore developers under an agile approach. It will be your top priority. Therefore, when working with offshore developers, you need to conduct short meetings regularly to enhance the collaboration.
Here is a list of types of meetings that are usually conducted in scrum software development projects.
- Sprint planning and review meetings: These meetings are held to assess the progress of the project and compare it with the sprint goals that were predetermined during the planning stage. If any tasks are pending from the sprint backlog, teh team would discuss them and would prepare themselves for the next sprint.
- Release planning meetings: creating release plans is the purpose of such meetings. These plans will include the details on how to take your project from point A to point B. The plan will also enlist the potential risks and their solutions.
- Regular stand-up meetings: These kinds of meetings are regular calls that are held every day. In these meetings, teams get a chance to check out the activities they have to perform on that particular day.
- Retrospective meetings: These meetings are conducted for team members to reflect on their work and work environment. The members are free to share suggestions for any kind of improvements or changes.
Different types of communication platforms like Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, Slack, Whatsapp and more are used to conduct these meetings.
Conduct regular demos
One of the best ways to improve the collaboration between teams and manage your offshore developers is to conduct demos regularly. At the end of every interaction, a part of your product becomes ready to be deployed.
Conducting the demonstration of how that part functions will allow you and the developers to understand how far your project has progressed and if any improvements are needed in the product or the development process, you can share feedback or suggestions.
At the end of every iteration, team members will gather to assess the work of the past interaction. Together, everyone can pinpoint the positive and negative aspects, as well as brainstorm a solution to solve the issues.
This step demands a high level of collaboration between involved parties but the outcomes will be far better too.
Invest in collaboration tools and technologies
Investing in collaboration tools is a great idea when you have to manage an offshore team. You have to leverage them to ensure that the work process and flow of information in your project are streamlined.
In remote working, your team member lacks the effectiveness of collaboration that comes with sitting and working together under the same roof. But these tools and technologies sure help improve teamwork and allow you to handle your projects better. Some of the most common and popularly used collaboration tools are Slack, Trello, JIRA, and Wikis.
Stick to common agile standards
Adopting agile methodology isn’t complicated. You just have to stick to some standard practices like design patterns, continuous development, continuous integration, coding standards, smart bug tracking and more. When you have an expert offshore team on the job, implementation of these practices becomes necessary more than ever.
Moreover, you have to make sure that your source code is clean and flawless. If you wish to develop a high-quality product then you can’t afford to have a messy and complicated source code. So, communicate your requirements clearly to the both onsite business team and the offshore team.
The effective implementation of standard development practices will help you uncover potential vulnerabilities, or design flaws in your project as well as verify the crucial security controls.
Choosing offshore development allows you to tap into the global pool of resources which would get you the best talent and technology you need for software development. Meanwhile, implementing agile methodology enables you to be quick and flexible with product development, not to mention the increase in the productivity of developers and the efficiency of the product.
Of course, you might face challenges while you tread these paths. But by sticking to the best practices, you can avoid them. In return, you will be showered with the benefits that outweigh their drawbacks significantly. This makes agile offshore software development a valuable approach.