What Technology is Needed to Manage an Offshore Team?

technology remote teams

If you are bootstrapping a business, there comes a point where you will likely need to hire offshore staff in order to continue growing.

There are plenty of advantages in building an offshore team. In addition to the ability to make use of the disparity of cost of living in certain countries, building an offshore team also negates your business from any tax responsibilities for your staff members.

Despite these advantages, there is a learning curve associated with managing virtual team members effectively. One aspect of this learning curve is creating the right software stack to allow seamless communication, collaboration and reporting between yourself and your team.

Here is a guide on the types of software needed to do exactly that.

The four pillars of effective remote management

When building out a technology stack to facilitate a remote team, we are looking to achieve four key goals. These are:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Productivity
  • Security

Each of these pillars need to be front of mind when building out a framework for managing your offshore staff. Let’s take each of these in turn and look at the technology needed to support them.

Collaboration

When outsourcing work to an offshore team, the preservation of a high quality of work is dependent on having a watertight process which is then broken down into simple parts, and having a team member that specializes in just one part of the whole process.

Having simple, clearly defined roles for each of your team members means that you do not need to pour hours into training staff. Rather you can just provide a guide on doing one task and have them repeat it over and over again until they are highly competent at it.

Your difficulty as a project manager therefore lies in facilitating collaboration between your team members and making sure that there is a seamless transition from one phase of an overall process to the next, even when this involves the passing on of work between people.

Cloud storage of documents and tools holds the key to allowing this to happen. Google and Microsoft both offer cloud versions of the “Office” tools, Word Documents, Excel Sheets and Powerpoint.

Having these tools in the cloud means that they can be accessed by anyone that you grant access permission to. This allows for documents to be handed over between staff members by email. Being on different devices is no longer a barrier to collaboration.

Having all your documents in the cloud also allows for team members to work on documents simultaneously, as well as tag each other in documents to allow accountability to be had for very specific aspects within files. This can help ensure that no work slips through the net.

Communication

The best way to foster effective communication between team members is to implement real-time messaging between yourself and team members, and within the “sub-teams” that you create.

Email alone will not be sufficient for quick, efficient communication due to the difficulty in having communication with more than one party at a time, and the ease at which messages are missed.

Rather a tool like Skype or Slack can give you different “channels” where you can organize communication with different team members at the same time.

This ensures efficiency in communication. Since you can have multiple lines of communication with different people, you are not bombarding your team with irrelevant messages, nor are you having to dig through messages to find the information that is pertinent to you.

Tools like Skype and Slack also facilitate conference calls, allowing you to have regular full team meetings to go over the higher level progression of work. Having all your different lines of communication in one platform also allows you to work as efficiently as possible.

Productivity

Perhaps the biggest fear that business owners have with regards to hiring offshore staff is ensuring that they work productively despite not getting to see them everyday.

When first employing virtual team members, you will likely be paying them by the hour while they get used to your processes, then once they can perform their task competently, move them on to a more incentivized payment structure.

When paying staff by the hour, you will need to make sure that their payable hours are being spent working.

There is time tracking software, TimeDoctor for example, that takes screenshots of your team members screen at regular intervals. This allows you to see exactly what they are doing at any given time, giving you as much a level of accountability as you would with an in house team.

Time Doctor Time Tracking
Image: Time Doctor Time Tracking – Source

When it comes to optimizing your team’s workflow, project management tools like Trello and Asana help you to break down and visualize processes into component parts and see where bottlenecks lie.

This helps you to identify and troubleshoot problems without needing to get stuck into areas of work where your team are working effectively.

The project management tools also allow you to assign tasks to specific people and make these assignments known to everyone in your team. This allows for a healthy amount of “social pressure” to be put on your team members to keep them motivated to work as efficiently as possible.

Security

Given your reliance on cloud storage in managing your remote team, everyone in your team needs to contribute to making sure that documents are kept securely.

Cyber security is an issue that is often overcomplicated. Doing the basics well and consistently, and getting buy in from your team to do this, is more effective than having complex systems that are sporadically implemented.

“The basics” in this instance include:

  • Making sure that your team leaves any work network when they finish at the end of the day
  • Using different passwords for each application that your team members use
  • Using 2 factor authentication wherever possible
  • Using strong usernames (over 10 characters) and having different usernames for each application.

Additionally, there should be local copies of all documents to ensure that months of work does not get lost.

Everyone in your team should be briefed on what these security measures are, and failure to meet these requirements should be seen as a big dereliction of duty.

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