How many of your clients have you or your sales team met in person? Depending on your industry, you may have a personal relationship with every one of your clients—or none of them.
In today’s global world, it’s no longer necessary to do business with the closest vendor or simply hire local talent. The companies you work with aren’t hemmed in by geographic constraints, either. The best programmer or QA analyst may be in Memphis or Mumbai.
But managing a distributed team takes more than holding an occasional conference call. A project manager must recognize the differences among team members. Those differences can be obvious, like time differences, language barriers and cultural differences between people from widely divergent countries.
There are other challenges to consider, too. For software development, there can be differences in skill levels as well as in approaches to coding that can result in failed projects if these differences are not considered. Finally, there are differing skills needed to manage a team of 10 than a team of 50. To be successful, a distributed team should be able to scale up and scale down as different parts of a project are started, ready for testing or completed.
Management Through Process
At Pyramid Consulting, we are adept at managing talent across the globe, whether managing our own distributed teams, working in conjunction with your engineers (wherever they are) or some combination of the two.
While there isn’t one tried-and-true method that works every time for managing distributed teams, there are commonalities that greatly increase the chances for success.
1. Establish a framework for success through software key performance indicators (KPIs). You must know what success looks like from the outset in order to complete a project to the client’s satisfaction. Many consultants miss this step.
2. Gauge the abilities, educational and cultural differences within your distributed team. Too many chefs trying to guide the process will bring in-fighting, fragmented software and a failed project. Recognizing and acknowledging these differences will help everyone get on the same page.
3. Develop a plan, but be flexible. Roles and responsibilities must be assigned, as well as design metrics, KPIs and other architectural elements. The focus should be solely on delivering a superior product to the client, which requires a bit of flexibility as a plan takes shape.
4. Expect the unexpected. Political instability, geographical specific holidays and unforeseen problems can affect the functioning of your distributed team. Savvy IT consultants spread the work around the team and do not rely on one geography to deliver a specific piece of the project.
5. Build your team to scale, up and down. The client doesn’t care about how the sausage is made—he just wants his software to work. Be prepared to scale your team depending on what’s being delivered at that time.
Successfully creating and managing distributed teams takes an empirical approach that maximizes success while acknowledging the potential challenges. It’s not rocket science, but like rocketry, distributed teams find success when the myriad pieces work together flawlessly.
Pyramid Consulting has been creating and managing distributed teams for decades. We have the people, the skills and the agility to complete your next IT project in a satisfactory manner.