I originally published this series back in 2006, but recently I have heard some of these reasons again for not working with a remote software development team, so I thought I would repeat at least part of this series.
The first one I wanted to review again was what I had listed as Reason #4 – We have to be working when they (the remote team) are; we have to be up at the same time as they are in order for this to work.
What this means: The concern is that if we are not working the same hours as the remote location, they (the remote team) will not really be doing any work.
What do they mean? The remote team could not possibly be working during their normal business hours and actually get work done without us being in constant contact with them. We do not have time to do this, we do not see the value in doing this, and we can do all work ourselves faster.
Actions to take: Engage in a conversation with your VP of Engineering revolving around the following topics: Do you often answer questions every hour for your in-house software engineers? Can they work on their own at all? There should be no question that would stop a remote team from getting any work done for an entire day. The same as your in-house software engineers are able to grasp concepts and move on and work on their own, you want your remote engineers to do the same thing, to take initiative and show independence and innovation in their work. Foster that type of independence and initiative by holding them to deliverables and coming up with solutions, rather than pinging them every hour to see if they are at their desk and working.
I know persons who think they have to be working at the same time as the remote team. I have managed remote teams for years, and I never do this. Why, because it defeats one of the major benefits of having a team working at opposite hours from you. They can be doing work while you are sleeping and vice versa. I do not mean working on the same code, but this could be testing in one location and writing code in the other, or writing requirements in one location and reviewing them in the other location, etc. If you are working opposite hours, you can always have results waiting for you in the morning. It also does not wear you out. It is not easy to keep an overnight schedule in the US and still keep up with your family and the rest of your life. The same goes for the offshore location, do not force them to overlap their entire work day with yours (unless of course it is a call center and they are supporting customers during the work day in the US). You will lose a major advantage in this way.