Startups · Business Development

What's the best way to work with country remote partners?

Bernard Ang

September 2nd, 2016

I've been working on a few platforms for awhile and still learning from my real life MBA. 

In the course of this journey, I've worked with both local and overseas partners to develop the technical aspects of my startup projects. 

I started working with someone who's based in the same country as myself, but a remote team managed by him. In the end, it was a lot of directives from me, which means I took on project management and the coordinator was just a translator. Needless to say, there were no fireworks.

I've veered towards working directly with someone who's in the same country as me, for ease of meeting face to face. Boy was it a mistake. The passion and drive to complete the project was lacking and the project sat on the shelf. 

I've since pivoted and am considering the option of a highly recommended team overseas. They have been prompt and professional so far, but the fears still linger in my mind, especially so when the team is based overseas and there is no security. 

I'm considering assigning a smaller scale project to this team to "try" them out. At the same time, I would like to avoid the issue of signing a contract where upfront payment or payment on 1st milestone is made but I end up with an unfinished junk. 

I'm wondering what's the best way out of this?

Kirill Pertsev

September 2nd, 2016

I've been in this person shoes as well as in shoes of the remote team. Now I'm mostly in your shoes and decided to put my thoughts on the "paper" so that someone in the same shoes might find them useful.
https://medium.com/@kikap/how-to-not-lose-big-with-outsourcing-cdb98b2cd7d0#.91853rg69

Your idea to start with a small project is great and if you have an idea not to increase the size of the project as you move along, it's even better. Even if you have a large project in mind slice it into smaller subprojects, each of which may have a separate value. It means more work from you, but you'll be much safer.

Ananth Agasthya Principal Facilitator at ILIFESigmoid

September 2nd, 2016

Dear Bernard, My suggestions are: Have a criteria of fulfillment at each milestone and clarity on how you will jointly evaluate what is not stated but will become vital or important later. Unstated or implied needs have to be fulfilled as that is expected to be known to someone in that business. Second, have a stage gate process by which you have a right to go or no go. However the objective must be to work together and make it work. Therefore the philosophy of why we are here together and what is the win- win for each must be well understood. Instead of mechanistic application of contract, there is a negotiated recovery that is possible in the interest of both. An increasing payment model that is not linear may be an incentive. Understanding the leadership and getting them committed beyond just the contract is the ground work that will be useful. A next higher level contact and communication to act as a balance would give you options of raising the level of attention in the group. A weekly report structure must be given close attention at the beginning and the format can vary for different stages of the contract. Arbitration clause and where the arbitration would be held would be essential and that must be agreed mutually in the beginning. You may like to understand the gaps in understanding arising out of cultural and business practice differences You may like to reflect on your style and see whether it has some impact on the outcomes that you have experienced. You can contact me for any further explanation. What I have stated above is based on what I concluded from what you have mentioned. Best wishes Anantha Agasthya Sent from my iPad

Brett Gentry Program | Product | Operations | SaaS/IaaS Engineering

September 2nd, 2016

It takes time to build trust. I've been working with the same company of ~500 Indian engineers for the last 10 years and our trust level is very high. The one other suggestion is when working with distributed teams you must invest in more training, documentation and expectation setting than you would with a local team. As you note, milestones are good so you stay in alignment. Good luck.

Maria Morozova Independent IT Outsourcing Consultant

September 3rd, 2016

Hi Bernard,


If you are not a tech guy, it is highly recommended to find a local good and enthusiastic Project Manager/CTO. It would be a good idea to further sparkle his enthusiasm by offering him some equity ownership. At the same time, your project is your baby. So you will never sit aside, but will regularly give recommendations or new directives.


As for development team, I’d chose an offshore company with years of experience and lots of clients to ask for recommendations. (Why? After working as a Business Development Manager at an Offshore Software Development Company for many years, I have a strong opinion that offshore teams work not worse, but often even harder and with more dedication than local teams. Besides, this is cheaper.)


Be sure to ask the company for experience in similar projects and for client references, for whom they have developed projects on technologies selected by you. Pick up those with a long cooperation history, as well as new clients - the fresher, the better. 


Ask the company to give estimation of your project, having provided them with specification and all available information. Try to evaluate proficiency of their work already at this stage (quality of specifying questions, promptness of response, readability of their offer, transparency of their estimation). 


When you set up your mind on proceeding with a certain company, get acquainted with the development team, but first and foremost with the Project Manager / Team Lead, to understand his proficiency level and dedication. You should be comfortable in communicating with him. And he should be easy to reach.


If you could start with a small test project, this would be good, so you could check manner of work and results.


Weekly reporting is a must.


Clear documentation and readability of code is also required. Who knows, perhaps, one day you decide to change a team. Or upon development completion you will hire a person to support the project, which is very likely.


BTW, everything mentioned above is also valid if you decide to hire a local development team.


But if you lean to a team overseas, drop me a line at FD, and I will connect you with a few trusted IT companies, whom I can only recommend!


Kind regards,

Maria


maria@itlords.com

+4917657648108

Shweta Dubey Business Development Manager at ALEA IT SOLUTIONS

September 6th, 2016

Hi Bernard, Yes this happens with quite a lot of clients who hire overseas development team and now the clients are getting insecure that they are not getting the work for which they are being paid.

Being in a development team I can mentioned some of the things to take care which may leads to good trust and easy to work for both parties in future. We need to thoroughly examine the expertise level the overseas development team have. We need to go through there portfolio and kind of the work they have done previously.

The communication needs to be strong and there needs to be at max 2 point of contact. There needs to be regular chat and update on email, skype, project management tool etc. The amount of the work and efforts development team put should be visible in output you get. There needs to be set defines module breakdown in parts and milestones set for them. We should close off the parts module by module which will be easy to work on.

Valeriia Timokhina Eastern Peak Software: Custom software development

September 14th, 2016

I think I can offer you some useful articles. I work for an outsourcing company and we have an extensive experience of working with remote clients. So we gladly share our experience on the blog and regularly publish tips on remote collaboration best practices.

K. Robbins Head Moose at Moose WorldWide Digital

September 14th, 2016

I've been doing offshore since '95, have run an onshore/offshore digital interactive dev house successfully for the last six years.

These answers from sales folks are all great but they miss the two most important aspects of working with ANY developer in any country anywhere:

1. Take the time to understand the person's culture.  Embrace the differences, they are what make life interesting!  

2. Take the time to build the relationship.  There are honest, trustworthy, hardworking ethical people in every country in the world, including your own.  There are also liars, thieves, criminals, and dishonest people in every country in the world, including your own.  

If you're going to put a significant sum of money into a remote location, you absolutely need to travel there and spend at least two weeks.

Good Luck!

Max Garkavtsev CEO at QArea, TestFort

September 2nd, 2016

Hello, Bernard.
Pity to hear, but we all pay for our learning from own pocket, it's life :).

>At the same time, I would like to avoid the issue of signing a contract where upfront payment or payment on 1st milestone is made but I end up with an unfinished junk.

Qarea can work without prepaiments in certain case. Get in touch with me. I will give you referneces not worse then the company you refer to has.

Mikhail Velichko Corporate development manager at Intend

September 2nd, 2016

Dear, Bernard. You can use Upwork platform to try them. Upwork block money, until you confirm that the work in this milestone is  done. On the other hand, the team is also secure, because for a start, you need to put money into your account in Upwork. And run through the platform the first  milestone. This will solve your task, you will get "insurance" and opportunity to check developers team  without signing a contract. 

Maciej Gudan VP of Engineering at Trialbee

September 2nd, 2016

Hi Bernard,

Both approaches are correct, having someone local and remote, you just need to find someone with same passion as you have and take into account culture differences in management. Many of software consultancy companies and freelancers focus on completing given tasks, but sometimes developing the product together with you, being proactive and thinking outside of the box is needed, like in your case. If you want I can give you contact to some companies I worked with successfully.

In terms of payments, there are different models. Some allows you to pay per iteration, every two or four weeks and stop the development after each iteration.

PS. Trying them out is a good idea.

Best Regards,
Maciej