Collaboration Tools for Small Businesses to Consider When Offshoring Their Software Development WorkFebruary 17th, 2010 | Online & Small Business Resources,Small Business,Small Business Tips | 3 Comments »
I recently read an interesting post on the Prosperati blog by Colin Wong where he discussed the most important things to consider and common road-blocks to overcome when a start-up company looks to develop part or all of their product off-shore. In the last 5-10 years it has become commonplace for companies of all sizes to off-shore at least a portion of their software development to countries like India, China, Russia, or Malaysia.
One of the biggest hurdles that Colin talks about overcoming with the Malaysian development team they were using to augment their on-shore team was being able to effectively collaborate on new ideas and projects. Using the standard software development process, Colin’s company brainstormed new ideas and developed requirements on-shore and then when it came time to pass the requirements over to Malaysia, the off-shore team took a while to come up to speed on the new ideas and concepts because they had not been involved in all of the upfront discussions and ideation phases of the project. Colin’s team resolved this issue on their next project by having a portion of the team travel to Malaysia for a few weeks to work together to create the requirements and design. He thought that this resolved a lot of the collaboration issues they experienced on the previous project because the off-shore team was very familiar with the concept and design issues they overcame when they started development.
While flying multiple employees to far-away countries is a nice option to have, not very many small companies or start-ups have this option available to them unfortunately so some of us have to resort to using online collaboration tools. One tool that I have used in the past to work with off-shore teams effectively is Microsoft’s SharedView tool. This tool allows teams located in geographically diverse locations to share their desktop online during meetings while allowing others to take control of the shared desktop to illustrate their ideas easily.
Another tool that I have used in the past to work with off-shore teams is eBay’s Skype tool. This tool allows people located in various countries to conduct conference calls at low or no cost while using this Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. I have found the clarity of voice calls on Skype to actually be better than that of line phones and the cost is free if all users are using their computers to connect to the service.
Another free online collaboration tool that I have used successfully in the past to communicate with off-shore resources is FreeConferenceCalls.com. This tool allows teams to schedule and hold team conference calls with a US-based telephone extensions free of charge. Off-shore teams from any country can call into the conference bridge and the tool can accommodate large teams as well. The only charge for this service would be from your local telephone company if you are charged for calling long distance as the service does charge if you want to use a toll free number.
These are some of the tools that I have used in the past to overcome collaboration issues with off-shore teams, what other tools have you used to get past this hurdle?