Distributed Teams vs Redistributed Teams - A Caveat
More and more companies are working with distributed teams for software app development. It’s a great strategy when the local talent pool is either too limited or too expensive, and you don’t need your entire team to be co-located. But as with everything else, it comes with a caveat.
The difference between distributed and redistributed teams
There are distributed teams, and then there are redistributed teams. Jobsity is a company with offices that house co-located developer teams in Quito, Cartagena and Medellin. They are distributed teams because they are in a different location from the client.
We are fortunate to draw from a rich supply of local coding and engineering talent in all of these locations, where we employ full teams on dedicated assignments for many North American enterprise companies, in a staff augmentation model.
But what we don’t have is redistributed teams. Everyone comes to work in the same space every day, sharing all the synergies that provides. This is especially important since we’re using scrum and agile devops frameworks a lot of the time. (More about this later.)
Many remote software outsourcing companies don’t use our model. Instead, they’re “redistributed.” The main contractor may be in one place and have one or two people available there; then to fill out a whole team they might use a job board feature on sites like Stack Overflow or GitHub to hire out the rest. Now you have a redistributed team, spread out over several locations, maybe several time zones, and most working from home.
What’s wrong with the redistributed model
What’s wrong with team members working from home or other redistributed locations? Don’t lots of people work from home these days?
Lots of people do, but in the case of software teams there are some built-in negatives.
Team synergy, scrum and agile: In the case of software development teams, a lot of the quality of the finished product arises from the synergy, workflow patterns and working relationships between the team members. Scrum is still possible and can work well with a distributed team through video conferencing, Slack and other tools, but it gets harder when you’re connecting individuals from multiple locations. Technical and scheduling challenges aside, the creative synergy of a good scrum session doesn’t happen when you’re spread really thin. Likewise, it’s harder to use the agile framework in day to day devops. That said, we’ve worked out scrum and agile practices that work well in our co-located teams, integrating with project staff on the client side.
Staff turnover: When everyone is freelancing, there’s always a risk that better freelance opportunities can cause some team members to drop away. You get less consistent, less dedicated teams in this situation. All of Jobsity developers are our full-time employees. As an business registered in Ecuador, we conform to national labor standards that include benefits and job security, and we have very low staff turnover. (We also find our workplace culture is a main reason our employees want to stay.)
A Typical Experience With Traditional Offshore Outsourcing
For a long time we were working with Samir and things were ok. Then one day we noticed the quality of Samir’s work and communication dropped noticeably. When we got on a call with him we realized that “Samir” had left the company, and without telling us the provider had replaced him with another “Samir” whose real name was “Deepak.” - Anonymous Client
Workflows and Timing: Having a co-located distributed team helps assure that clients’ projects stick to a consistently productive schedule. Redistributed teams are often in different time zones from each other, as well as the client, and there’s less opportunity to consult or check in in real time. Jobsity’s offices are all located in the same time zone as US Eastern Time.
Accountability: Most worryingly, you’re trusting your brand’s promise to an unfamiliar company whose developers and management you didn’t hire and who you’ll never meet in person. You have no guarantee that they have the institutional knowledge nor the knowledge of your preferred technology in order to execute well. We give every client with a long term commitment a trip to get acquainted with their new team, the account manager, and even the company owner.
In addition to being a well-formed distributed team, our staff augmentation model allows work to be done with total transparency, not behind a curtain as it is with a professional services model. Your staff augmentation team is 100% integrated into your workflow and operations.
Our secret sauce is our proprietary hiring process that allows us to find the highest quality developers in the countries in which we operate, train them in all the hard and soft skills, and oversee their work.
Contact us if you have a software need you’d like to discuss. You can always find us: we’ll be in the office.