The most important facet of agile development in a fast-moving workplace is communication – without it, processes can fall apart and deadlines can fail to be met. In a blog post, agile coach Lorraine Pauls Longhurst works through some issues she's faced as an expert in offshoring software development to India.
The inherent challenges of working with offshore developers are kind of obvious, at face value: time zone differences, cultural differences and a lack of face-to-face communication facilitates a negative feedback loop in which misunderstandings beget more misunderstandings and traditional Scrum-based agile development spirals out of control.
Due to the lack of face-to-face communication, cultural differences and time zone issues, the developers start to misunderstand requirements. In an attempt to close the communication gap, the product owner starts to use more written communication, which causes more misunderstandings.
The next thing that happens is because the team has never met one another, the onshore developers don’t treat the offshore developers as part of the team.
The offshore developers start to work on their tasks independently, become less likely to clarify aspects of the project, and because they feel that they need to fend for themselves, they start to blame each other when something goes wrong.
In my experience, this lack of communication and teamwork leads to poor productivity and a solution that doesn’t provide value.
Longhurst does offer up some solutions to help manage a mixed onshore/offshore team, including equality in communication, increased informal communication and encouraging a greater feeling of community and teamwork. As more and more teams are created from a mix of folks both in and out of the office, figuring out how to utilize these frameworks becomes more of an interesting challenge.