Outsourcing best practices: 7 tips for coordinating internal and external development

Kamil Sabatowski

14 February 2019, 6 min read

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What's inside

  1. Pick the right project management tool
  2. Meet regularly
  3. Avoid re-work
  4. Plan code reviews across teams
  5. Find the balance between control and flexibility
  6. Avoid micromanaging the external team
  7. Identify responsibilities and make them crystal clear
  8. Key takeaway

Partnering with a dedicated team provided by an outsourcing software company can be just as challenging as rewarding.

Internal and external development teams that work on different areas of the same project need to follow a similar pace. Excellent coordination of the internal development team and the partner team can bring out the best both of these teams have to offer.

At Sunscrapers, we often collaborate with the internal development teams of our partners as part of outsourcing projects. Over the years, we have built up a set of best practices that allow us to navigate these relationships smoothly and deliver amazing work.

Here are 7 things we’ve learned about coordinating internal and external development teams that are essential if you're planning to outsource a part of your IT project.

Pick the right project management tool

The most significant challenge in coordinating internal and external teams lies in communication. Managers should put some thought into that subject and educate their teams about when to communicate, how to communicate, and what tools to use. Naturally, company culture is a significant determinant of how you organize the communication habits in your teams.

To avoid email clutter, implement the right project management software. That way, you will develop a centralized system where all the comments, questions, and suggestions are stored where they belong. Sounds better than filling up inboxes and creating multiple strands where details get lost easily, right?

Sharing a place where work is organized and managed, both teams will enjoy the benefits of greater transparency and won't have to update one another manually about the work being completed in each.

Meet regularly

If you're planning a development collaboration between an internal IT team and a software provider, holding regular meetings is essential. By doing that, you'll ensure that everyone advances at a similar speed and all functionalities are integrated smoothly.

It's good to have a weekly meeting of internal and external development teams during which you identify goals, check who will be working on them, and define when they must be completed.

Teams can also use these meetings to share status updates and information about ongoing risks. During your cross-functional development meetings, you need to ask both teams whether they're on track, experiencing any blockers, or have any questions.

Avoid re-work

Another challenge in setting up an efficient communication routine for your teams is avoiding rework by one of these teams. That may happens when, for example, two teams fix the same bug.

By equipping your development teams with a space where members can check what each person is working on you'll avoid duplication of effort.

Granting everyone accesses to code developed by both teams is a smart move as well. That way, you'll make it easier for team members to reuse code the other team is developing.

Plan code reviews across teams

Schedule weekly catch-up meetings where teams share their work and tell you what they're up to. But also organize regular code reviews where teams can have a detailed look at what each of them is writing. Establish close communication between team leaders in that matter as well.

For example:

If you know that the team from your software partner will be adding a component you can use soon, it's better to wait for a little and take advantage of it when it's ready instead of implementing it on your own.

Find the balance between control and flexibility

When outsourcing software development, it might be tempting to either hover over the team too much or ignore it completely, trusting that it's best left on its own.

To stay productive, you need to strike a balance between these two approaches and make the collaboration between your internal and external teams work smoothly.

For instance, establish specific checkpoints and stick to them – but allow for some flexibility. Whenever a task doesn't meet your schedule, find out why that happened and move on.

Trust the external team, but show that their work is critical to the overall progress of the project and needs to meet particular requirements you agreed upon.

Avoid micromanaging the external team

Project managers often find it hard to let go of their responsibilities, especially if they're developers themselves. Instead of focusing on project goals and communicating problems, they concentrate on finding solutions for these problems and offer implementation details so that developers can simply do what they're told.

That practice is particularly dangerous when you're managing remote employees. By doing that, managers will be losing too much time on tasks for which they hired the remote team.

Moreover, the external developers might feel undervalued and unmotivated because they get robbed of the chance to be innovative or creative.

Problem-solving is what developers do for life, so taking that element out of the equation and turning the external team into a group of automatons is a serious mistake that might cost you a lot.

Identify responsibilities and make them crystal clear

You need to define responsibilities as you set the expectations for the project. It’s a good idea to inform the team about deadlines and other requirements at the very beginning of cooperation.

Will the entire project management stay on your side or will you need the support of an external project manager who supervise the work of the external development team? You need to ask yourself this question early on in the process to avoid any misunderstanding and ensure your project proceeds smoothly.

Key takeaway

Just like everything else in life, coordinating internal and external teams is about finding the right balance. You don't want to fall into the trap of micromanaging your teams, but you also don't want to leave the external team to its own devices.

Excellent coordination of these teams will render your development process far more efficient because they will be able to take advantage of each other's work, skills, and expertise. They will complement each other where it matters most.

If you're looking for a team of tech experts, get in touch with us.

Our software development teams have the experience and know-how to make outsourcing collaborations successful.

Want to learn more? Read this article by our CEO, Lukasz, about benefits of outsourcing to Poland.

Kamil Sabatowski

Kamil holds an MA degree in Strategic Management and is currently an Executive MBA student at the University of Quebec at Montreal, Canada. He’s responsible for managing the company operations, ensuring continuous process improvement in service delivery. After hours, Kamil enjoys sports like windsurfing, wakeboarding, and snowboarding - or backpacks across Asia.


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