What We Have Here is a Failure To Communicate

CEOs, “Cool Hand Luke” & Cribbage

What We Have Here is a Failure To Communicate
“Don’t you ever talk that way to me. NEVER!”

Who can forget the line, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”, from the classic movie, “Cool Hand Luke” (Click image above for movie clip)

To be a success, whether it is in the Boardroom, courtroom, or prison yard, the #1 factor driving your success is your ability to communicate effectively with other individuals. DUH! Tell me something I don’t know. (Ok, ok, give me a few more seconds & I promise this article will be worth your attention.)

CEOs – Leadership, Vision & Understanding

Leadership is all about inspiring others to take action in accomplishing a shared objective. To do so, you must be able to communicate your vision in a way that is both clear & concise. What’s more, you must be able to understand the needs & wants of your team. This can only be accomplished through continuous & effective communication. To be a successful CEO, you must know how to communicate effectively with your team.

Excellent English & Communication Skills

Cool Hand Luke – Listening & Responding

What does the movie “Cool Hand Luke” have to do with communication? Well, other than the famous line, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”, not much, but most Americans have probably heard the phrase & it’s a good reminder that communication is more than just speaking. It’s about UNDERSTANDING.

Unfortunately, many people misunderstand the meaning of “communication”. They think it’s simply about exchanging information, but real communication only takes place when all of the parties involved have the same understanding of what was intended to be conveyed.

This is why so many people miscommunicate. They assume that because they said something, the other person must have understood it correctly. But that’s not always the case. Just because you speak doesn’t mean you’re communicating. And just because you hear doesn’t mean you understand.

To be an effective communicator, you also need to be…….. a good listener. You need to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes & see things from their perspective. Only then will you be able to ensure that they understand what you’re trying to say.

IT Staff Augmentation

Cribbage – Non-verbal Communication

What does a card game played with a board have to do with communication? The answer, everything.

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner

Not long ago I was playing cribbage with a good friend, Bill, and we were enjoying a few cocktails. (His wife makes a great Margarita🍸) Now, we’d been playing cribbage for many years & it was always a good way to while away the time & have some fun. Well, on this occasion, for some reason, we had a bit of a kerfuffle. Unbeknownst to me, I had somehow forgotten how to properly count my points.

As I said, we were playing cribbage when Bill says, “Dude, you’re counting your points wrong”

“What do you mean I’m counting my points wrong? I’ve been counting my points this way for years & you never said anything before”, I replied.

And for 20 minutes we very politely discussed how big of an idiot I was for counting my points wrong. Finally, being the problem solver that I am, I said, “Let’s play another hand & we’ll figure out what’s going on.”

Now, this was a very curious situation. Bill & I had been playing this very simple card game for over 20 years & only now we’re having a problem? Bill is a super sharp guy, so why is he bringing up this issue only now? I didn’t get it.

Now, Bill & I have about as similar a background as you can get. He’s a brilliant engineer who has succeeded wildly on many amazing projects. We were both born & raised in Silicon Valley, went to rival high schools before university & our cultural influences are essentially identical. To top things off, our careers have been in tech, so what’s going on?!

So, we played another hand & when I started to count the points in my hand Bill exclaimed, “There! Right there, that’s what you’re doing wrong!” I replied, “What are you talking about, I have 15 points in my hand (we counted them to confirm) & I moved my peg 15 holes. I had 25 points + 15 points = 40 points, so how is that wrong?”

It was then that we both realized how we had miscommunicated about a very simple activity we had been enjoying for 20+ years. Bill was linearly counting his points, meaning one at a time, while I had just jumped to the correct score (25+15=40) using the reference marks every 5 points. This was the miscommunication?! How silly! Of course, we may have also enjoyed a few Margaritas! 🎯

Communication Breakdown

The moral of the story is this, if two good friends, both with good intent, who have been doing the same, very simple thing for years can suffer a communication breakdown, you can bet your life it will happen in any relationship, personal or professional. It is inevitable. This is especially true the more complex a scenario, i.e., marriage, children, legal issues, a software engineering project, etc.

Ending All Miscommunication

Eliminating all communication breakdowns is impossible, but we can take steps to minimize them. The first & most important is to always remember that communication is a two-way street. It requires both parties to be active participants, not just the person doing the talking. Secondly, we must try to understand the message from the other person’s perspective. Third, & by no means a final step, is the parties must be of good intent.

Transparent Communications

It has always been my practice to supply all the available information to the other parties as soon as possible, both personal & professional. My family, friends, clients, etc., all have a lot of investment in our relationships & they need to be able to make intelligent, informed decisions for any relationship to be mutually beneficial.

What We Have Here is a Failure To Communicate

We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to connect with people. Social media has made it possible for us to connect & work with people all over the world & with new opportunity comes new challenges.

Effective communication is a major challenge when engaging with engineering resources from different countries. If you’ve used offshore or nearshore resources you know that technical English is not the only challenge. The cultural differences can be major, i.e. Low Context Communication Cultures vs. High Context Cultures, business practices, time zones, etc. If you would like to know more about how to proactively reduce your risk of miscommunication when working with international engineering teams, please reach out to Cloud App Developers, LLC. We have a lot of experience in this area & are happy to guide & assist you on your offshore engineering journey. Thank you!


Contact Cloud App Developers

If you need to supplement or scale your software development teams & would like to know more about the options Cloud App Developers can bring to the table, please describe your objectives using the form below & we will respond shortly. Thank you.

Hungary: A Safe Haven for Offshore Software Development

Budapest, Hungary

With its rich engineering pedigree and EU/NATO membership, Hungary stands out as one of the best offshore software development countries in the world.

We’ve been spoiled. For a few decades, we have not had to worry about political stability when choosing an outsourcing country to build our remote teams. Russian aggression in Eastern Europe reminds us that geopolitical factors can’t be ignored when assessing outsourcing risk.

For several reasons, many now consider Hungary a safe haven for Agile Offshore Software Development.

Why Hungary Tops the Best Offshore Software Development Countries

Hungary is a Member of NATO and the EU

Some Eastern European countries, including the Baltic States, are now at risk from Russian aggression. As a Central European country, and being a member of both the EU & NATO, Hungary is considered a stable outsourcing destination.

Engineering Classes are Taught Exclusively in English

According to EF EPI, the preeminent English Proficiency rating body in the world, Hungary’s English proficiency is rated as “Very High”.

All engineering classes in Hungary are taught in English & students must pass the IELTS test in order to enter Engineering School.

In fact, students can’t even enroll in one of Hungary’s many Engineering Colleges without passing the IELTS test.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is designed to help you work, study or migrate to a country where English is the native language.

English-Only in Hungarian Colleges

Highest # of Developers Per Capita in Europe

Hungary enjoys a long-standing, rich Engineering Culture. Despite its modest 10M population, Hungary has the largest software development pool in Central Europe, resulting in the highest number of Developers per capita in Eastern/Central Europe.

Top Developer Skill Ranking

Hungary ranks near the top of all European countries, ranked by developer tech score, according to a 2021 HackerRank study.

Best Offshore Software Development Countries (by Tech Score)

RANKCOUNTRYDEVELOPER TECH SCORE
1Slovakia100
2Czech Republic93.38
3Hungary92.86
4Poland92.74
5Serbia92.59
6Ireland92.27
7Ukraine91.26
8Switzerland91.08
9Germany90.70
10Austria90.15

Hungary has a Low-Context Communication Culture

In her groundbreaking book, “The Culture Map”, Erin Meyer outlines the importance of having a low-context communication culture when blending multi-cultural, geographically dispersed teams.

Hungary has a similar “low-context communication culture” to North America & Europe, which makes communication efficient & crisp.

For more information on how critical low-context communication is for achieving “Agile @ Speed” with your remote development team, read The Secret to Agile With Offshore Teams.

Summary

Hungary is quickly becoming one of the world’s best offshore software development countries. If you would like to learn more about what Hungary can do for you, please visit Cloud App Developers, LLC to learn more, or contact us below and we will respond within hours.

About Cloud App Developers, LLC

With a team of 1,500+ Engineers from 6 countries, we provide multiple options to optimize what’s most important to our customers. Need to scale a large team rapidly? Need same time-zone development? Looking for particular tech skills? We have you covered.

We also offer IT Staff Augmentation Services for Software Development and Data Science Engineers.

Open a Dialogue With Our Hungarian Development Team

Top 6 Tips For Startup Founders – How to Make Offshoring Work

Most Offshore Software Development partners simply don’t understand these critical realities:

Startups can’t afford failures or delays.

They don’t have the bandwidth to micro-manage remote software dev teams.

Startups need software developers who can “get it right the first time with minimal supervision”

Agile @ Speed
Agile @ Speed

This article delivers a formula for Successful Offshore Software Development for Startups.

The ability to “get it right the first time” with “Agile @ Speed” dramatically reduces the risk associated with external development teams & makes offshoring a “Low Risk” + “Low Cost” winning combination.


What Do Startups Need from Offshore Development Teams?

  • Low-cost & Low-risk Resources
  • Excellent English & Communication Skills
  • Product Ownership & Accountability
  • Problem-solving Mentality
  • Quality Code

Critical Offshoring Success Factors for Startups

  • Startups can’t afford failures or delays.
  • Startups don’t have the bandwidth to micro-manage vendors.
  • Waterfall won’t work for most startups. They need “Agile @ Speed” from offshore teams to succeed.
  • Engineers = Agile. Coders = Waterfall. Startups need Engineers.

6 Top Offshoring Tips For Startups

1. Low-Context Communication is Critical for Success

Communication between you and your offshore team will be much easier if they practice low-context communication. 

What is the Difference Between Low-Context and High Context Communication?

high context vs low context communication

Low/High Context Communication By Country

Image source: Tech Tello

Wherever possible, pick developers from countries with low-context communication.

Again, startups don’t have the bandwidth to micro-manage their offshore partners.

Low-context communication leaves nothing to interpretation and is the only way to ensure clear, crisp communication between multi-cultural teams.

It’s easy to identify low-context communication by interacting with the developers 1:1.

  • Send the prospective development partner a few emails with detailed questions and see how they answer.  You are looking for detailed, thoughtful answers that leave nothing to interpretation.
  • Ask to speak in person with a few of the team members that would be on the team you will be working with, looking for low-context verbal communication capabilities.

More information on low-context communication


2. Screen Vendors for “Agile @ Speed”

With the multitude of changes, dependencies, and processes within Agile methodologies, a certain velocity of communication, interaction, and concurrency is required.

Without this velocity of communication, “Agile @ Speed” is simply not possible.

What is “Agile @ Speed?”

Agile @ Speed is an important metric for integrating a remote team with your internal team.

Many companies practice Agile methodologies. But Agile is only powerful as a methodology if it can be practiced with a certain velocity.

Startup teams require remote developers who communicate and interact with speed.

How to Screen for “Agile @ Speed”

The best way to screen for “Agile @ Speed” is to work with the vendor on a small project, as seen in Tip #3.


3. Vet Prospective Vendors with a Small Proof of Concept Project

If you absolutely can’t afford to have an “Offshore Vendor False Start”, consider a small Proof of Concept to experience the team’s capabilities before committing. 

This can be helpful if you want to evaluate specific technical capabilities or want to really see if their communication culture is a fit for your company. You will also see if they are capable of “Agile at Speed”.

Pick a project or sprint that can be completed in a few weeks.  In 2-4 weeks, you will find out a lot about a potential dev partner’s capability. 


4. Look for Communication Excellence “2-Layers Deep”

Interview the team leaders AND a few of the key engineers one or two layers down to evaluate their communication skills.  

A common practice of some offshoring/nearshoring software houses is to insert a “customer liaison”, a kind of technical lead who can ensure proper communication between your engineers and the remote team.  This should be a red flag that the team in question lacks communication skills.

There are also other problems with the liaison model:

  • The bulk of communication within the development team happens between developers.  The liaison can’t possibly be in every conversation.
  • Much is lost in translation (see telephone game)
  • “Agile at Speed” is required between various dev team members. A liaison only adds more delays.

5. Manage Political Risk

The recent troubles in Ukraine and Eastern Europe have reminded us of the importance of managing geopolitical risk. Pick vendors from countries with political and economic stability.

Hungary and Poland, having EU and NATO membership, are safer destinations for outsourcing than some Eastern European countries, for example.

Read 7 Reasons to Outsource Software Development to Hungary in 2022 if you would like to take advantage of Hungary’s many benefits and avoid political risk.


6. Make Your Expectations Known Up Front

Never assume prospective offshore/nearshore dev partners understand your expectations.  Be specific on what’s important to you.  Some examples are:

  • Do you expect Engineers or Coders?
  • Agile (not Waterfall)?
  • Expected throughput per engineer
  • Availability and Accessibility of team
  • Seniority expectations.  (What do you mean by “Sr. Developer”?)

Contrary to popular belief, most offshore/nearshore development firms do not “bait and switch” to get a contract.  More commonly, expectations are simply not communicated clearly from the beginning, leading to mismatches.

Summary

Startups who work with development partners who understand their needs, and are capable of delivering the value that they seek are much more likely to succeed with offshoring.

If you would like to work with an Offshore Development Partner who delivers value, please contact wes@cloudappdevelopers.com or fill out the form below.

Contact Us for More Information

About Cloud App Developers, LLC

With a team of 1,500+ Engineers from 6 countries, we provide multiple options to optimize what’s most important to our customers. Need to scale a large team rapidly? Need same time-zone development? Looking for particular tech skills? We have you covered.

We also offer IT Staff Augmentation Services for Software Development and Data Science Engineers.

Nearshore vs Offshore Software Development

Nearshore vs Offshore

Nearshore vs Offshore Software Development. That is the decision many Engineering teams are debating as they struggle to scale remote development teams amidst a global shortage of developers. When looking for the best possible fit for your company, it’s not meaningful to simply lump all worldwide software development centers into either Nearshoring vs Offshoring. 

In this article, we examine the pros and cons of offshoring and nearshoring, but with an important distinction: The nearshoring vs offshoring label you give it means very little.

Both Mexico and Argentina are considered Nearshoring, but there are considerable differences between the two.  The same can be said for Central Europe vs Eastern Europe.

To highlight these differences, we compared these 5 regions in several categories:    

Mexico, Latin America, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and India.

Nearshore vs Offshore Comparison Chart

CriteriaMexicoLatAmCentral
Europe
Eastern
Europe
India
Primary Tech
Centers
MultipleArgentina,
Colombia, 
Costa Rica
Hungary,
Poland
Ukraine
Belarus
Multiple
ModelNearshoreNearshoreOffshoreOffshoreOffshore
Software Dev
Hourly Rates
ModerateModerateLowLowVery
Low
Time Zone
vs USA
0-3 hrs.0-5 hrs.6-9 hrs.7-10 hrs9.5-12.5
hrs.
Size of
Talent Pool
Low/MidLow/MidMidMidHigh
Rapid
Scalability
ModerateModerateModerateModerateHigh
Tech English
Proficiency
HighMediumHighMidMedium
Communication
Culture
Mid
Context
Mid
Context
Low
Context
Low
Context
High
Context
Nearshore vs Offshore Selection Criteria

Global Software Development Hourly Rates

Latin America and Mexico come in at about 50% of the cost of US rates, on average. 

Central and Eastern Europe are next lowest at 40%.

India averages 30% of US rates.

Not included in these calculations are the costs of managing and supporting the remote nearshore vs offshore team, which varies by type of model chosen as well as the capabilities of the dev partner chosen. 

In general, it costs more to manage and support India teams than their counterparts from other regions, due to time zone and cultural communication differences.  

If you want to outsource to India, you will need to allocate more internal engineering resources to manage the Indian dev partner. This cost is often hard to justify for offshore development teams of 25 or less. Nonetheless, India can be a very low-cost option and the best way to scale a large team quickly.

Time Zone Difference vs USA

From a time-zone perspective, a Nearshoring vs Offshoring comparison may not be as straightforward as you think. What may be nearshoring for some may be offshoring for others.  Comparing Argentina and Hungary to EST and PST time zones demonstrates this.   

US Time ZoneGuadalajara,
Mexico
ArgentinaHungaryIndia
PST+2+5+9+13.5
EST-1+2+6+10.5

Latin America spans 6 time zones.  Is it nearshoring or offshoring?  The answer may depend on where your internal developers are located.

If you want to maximize daily real-time collaboration, consider which time zone your teams will be in, rather than focusing on a Nearshore or Offshore label.  Keep in mind, Offshore Development Partners are often willing to skew their working hours to maximize collaboration overlap with your team. 

Integrating a remote software development team into your Agile workflow is difficult with less than 2-3 hours a day minimum workday overlap. Make this your minimum requirement when choosing a partner.

Size of Talent Pool

Mexico, along with several countries in Latin America have been transforming their tech capabilities at an impressive rate.  Their future SW development capabilities seem very bright.  And indeed, you can find many talented developers today from these regions, and the near time zone benefits may be very attractive. 

If you are looking for specific technology SME’s, Eastern/Central Europe may provide attractive options. 

However, the size of the talent pool of Nearshoring regions is not comparable to India’s, and for some technologies, nearshore developers are not yet as experienced as their Eastern/Central European counterparts. If you need to scale a large team quickly, you may need to consider India.  And if you are looking for specific technology SME’s, Eastern/Central Europe may provide attractive options.  In this case, the nearshore vs offshore decision has more to do with the country in question.

Ability to Rapidly Scale

Most Latin American and Central/Eastern European SW development partners will struggle to scale large teams rapidly.  Many simply do not have an adequate pool of available in-house developers, and there are not nearly as many developers in the “hiring pool” as in India.  Universities from these regions are churning out more engineers every year, and this problem may be resolved in the coming years, but the number of new tech graduates is not yet comparable to India.   

If you need to scale to a team of 50+ developers in 90 days, you might need to look towards countries like India.

The “sweet spot” for scaling Latin American and Central/Eastern European Software Development Teams seems to be 5-20 developers within 60-90 days. If you can provide a long-term scaling plan,  larger teams are definitely possible.

Technical English Proficiency

When evaluating Nearshore vs Offshore, you should consider regional differences in Technical English Proficiencies that exist between countries.  Within Nearshoring regions, Mexico outpaces Latin America, owing to proximity to the US and a University system that promotes not only English proficiency but also low-context communication.

Engineering colleges in Hungary teach in English, and students must pass English Proficiency tests to be admitted.

Within Europe, Central European countries tend to be more westernized and have superior technical English proficiency as compared to their Eastern European counterparts.  As an example, engineering colleges in Hungary teach in English and students must first pass English Proficiency tests to be admitted. 

India’s technical English proficiency is high, but cultural communication challenges do exist.

Communication Culture

English proficiency is only one aspect of communication.  Cross-cultural communication differences can and do cause a lot of problems with geographically-dispersed engineering teams. 

Cross-cultural communication challenges are one of the primary sources of outsourcing failure. This is due to low-context vs high context communication differences. 

Summary

We hope we have provided some valuable insights into your Nearshore vs Offshore comparison. As you can see, Nearshoring vs Offshoring isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Look for regional strengths that match your most important requirements. And if you need additional information please visit our Services Page for details on each region covered in this article.


Nearshore vs Offshore Development FAQs

What is nearshore development?

Nearshore development is having services performed by a company from another country with similar time zones as your team. Mexico is an example of this for the USA.

What is offshore development?

Offshore development is having services performed by a company from another country that is typically far away with a large time zone difference. India is an example of this for the USA.


About Cloud App Developers, LLC

With a team of 1,500+ Engineers from 6 countries, we provide multiple options to optimize what’s most important to our customers. Need to scale a large team rapidly? Need same time-zone development? Looking for particular tech skills? We have you covered.

We also offer IT Staff Augmentation Services for Software Development and Data Science Engineers.

Our Architects, Developers, Data Scientists, and Data Engineers are extensively screened and have domain expertise in several industries, including Telecommunications, Financial Services, Insurtech, IoT, Logistics, Industrial Automation, etc.

Global Development Centers

Locations: Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Peru

Top Rated In Latin America for English Proficiency

Maximum Time Zone Overlap with the USA

Engineering Culture Alignment

Location: Hungary

Top Rated in Central Europe for English Proficiency

Talented Engineering Pool

Strong Engineering Culture Alignment

Location: Cochin, India

Most Westernized Region of India

Very Low Turnover Rate in Region

Ability to Scale Large Teams Rapidly

Interested in Nearshore/Offshore Software Development?

If you’d like to experience “Agile at Speed”, we’d be happy to schedule a brief call to discuss how we can help you.

Communicate! (with Remote Software Development Teams)

With remote software development teams, you need to be excellent at communicating “asynchronously”, across time zones. Much of your communication will not happen in real-time, so you can’t afford to play “Question and Answer Ping Pong”.  Here are some proven best practices to follow as you address how to manage a remote development team.


Set Up a Communication Framework

It’s too easy to lose valuable information when team members are communicating across multiple platforms like Skype, WhatsApp, Slack, Email, Zoom chat, Google Hangouts, text etc.. 

As difficult as it might be, insist on limiting your technical communication channels to two or three

Email can be used for overall communication between managers and other stakeholders, but technical communication channels should be limited. 

Communication Framework for Remote Software Development Teams:

  • Jira or another project/issue tracking platform can be used for technical documentation and overall project information.  It can also be used to store communication protocol and process information. 
  • Slack could be used for instant communication and to post “group chat and notifications”.  This is particularly helpful if direct communication after hours is used to answer bottleneck questions.  Many delays can be avoided in this way.
  • Video chat platforms like Skype, Zoom or similar can be used for video meetings and to share screens for collaboration.   

Establish Clear Communication Protocols

Very early, establish communication protocols and expectations with your remote software development team.  These will cover items such as:

Daily Collaboration Schedules

Work schedules between remote and internal development teams should be structured to maximize the number of daily collaboration hours.  This is critical in the early stages but can be relaxed once the teams are up and running.  A minimum of 2 hours of daily workday overlap with your remote team is suggested, more if possible. 

Meeting Frequency

  • Scrum meeting times and frequency
    • Scrum Masters and relevant Team Leads from both teams
    • Daily at first, less frequently over time.
    • Keep recurring meetings at regularly scheduled times.
  • Monthly Technical Management meetings
    • Attended by Technical Managers from both teams
    • Track key KPIs and manage expectations
  • Quarterly Executive Meetings
    • Executive Engineering Management from both teams
    • Roadmap discussions and executive feedback.

Low-Context Communication Expectations and Standards

Set specific standards and expectations for low-context communication from your remote software development team.

 Avoid the “Question and Answer Ping Pong”

  • Each email and direct message should be precise, meaningful and thoughtful.  Short, vague emails usually trigger Q&A Ping Pong.
  • Coach your teams to write emails with as much information as possible.  Nothing should be left to interpretation. 
  • All team members should develop a habit of reviewing and proofreading emails and direct messages before sending.  The simple question to answer before hitting send is; “If I were the recipient of this message, would I understand it without sending another email to clarify something?”

Once your remote team understands the importance of low-context communication, these improvements become a matter of practice. 

After Hours Communication (for bottleneck questions)

Even with the best asynchronous communication between teams, it’s important to have the ability to get quick answers to bottleneck questions.  Without this in place, project schedules often suffer the “death of a thousand cuts”. 

Project schedules often suffer the “death of a thousand cuts”, waiting for answers to bottleneck questions.

We highly recommended that you get permission and cooperation from your offshore developers to periodically answer quick bottleneck questions sent to them after hours (on slack or another instant message platform).  Being available (only as needed) just a few hours before and after the remote team’s formal workday can save weeks in schedule.  A good remote team will see the value of this and agree.


Consider Developing a Glossary of Terms (Wiki)

Most teams use industry jargon without even realizing it.  In fact, even technical jargon deemed common in the US might be misunderstood by a remote developer.   It’s a good idea to develop a Glossary of Terms or Wiki to define any terms and definitions deemed relevant.  



About Cloud App Developers, LLC

With a team of 1,500+ Engineers from 6 countries, we provide multiple options to optimize what’s most important to our customers. Need to scale a large team rapidly? Need same time-zone development? Looking for particular tech skills? We have you covered.

We also offer IT Staff Augmentation Services for Software Development and Data Science Engineers.

Our Architects, Developers, Data Scientists, and Data Engineers are extensively screened and have domain expertise in several industries, including Telecommunications, Financial Services, Insurtech, IoT, Logistics, Industrial Automation, etc.

Developer Screening, Testing & Training

With the multitude of changes, dependencies & processes within Agile methodologies, a certain velocity of communication, interaction & concurrency is required. Our screening processes ensure our teams can deliver “Agile @ Speed” in your development workflow.

Technical English Proficiency

For Agile, “English At Speed” Is The Standard

Communication Excellence

Developers Trained For “Low-Context” Communication

Problem Solving Aptitude

Our Customers Expect Engineers

Code Testing

Code Quality

Code Reviews For All Developers


Interested in Agile Remote Development at Speed?

If you’d like to experience “Agile at Speed”, we’d be happy to schedule a brief call to discuss how we can help you.

The Secret to Agile with Offshore Teams

Agile Offshore Software Development

The secret to agile with offshore teams lies within the differences between low-context and high-context communication cultures. As many of you may have already experienced; focusing solely on developer skill and experience does not guarantee a successful offshoring experience. Agile offshore development performance requires “Agile at Speed”, which is difficult to accomplish without a certain velocity of communication. This article focuses on how this is accomplished.

“The biggest single problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 

-George Bernard Shaw

How appropriate this comment is for agile offshore development.  Language barriers and cultural communication differences can lead to misunderstandings that can hamper a development team’s throughput, foster mistrust between teams, and (worst case) contribute to disastrous consequences.  

But in the context of geographically dispersed, culturally diverse engineering teams, what do we mean by effective communication? We examine two important communication elements that are critical to Offshore Agile Software Development: Technical English Proficiency and Cross-Cultural Communication.


Agile Requires Technical English Proficiency

Effective communication clearly requires moderate English proficiency, at a minimum.  However, Conversational English Proficiency is quite different than Technical English Proficiency

There are many tests that can identify technical English proficiency, including the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), offered by Cambridge University’s Cambridge Assessment English (CAE) exam board. 

The Hidden Problem of Cross-Cultural Communication

The hidden problem of achieving agile with offshore teams is the difference between high-context and low-context communication cultures.”

Cross-cultural communication challenges are the root cause of many offshore/nearshore development failures.  This hidden problem causes mismatched expectations between customers and their offshore/nearshore vendors. 

Low-Context vs High-Context Communication

An excellent article detailing the cultural communication differences across the world, which summarizes Erin Meyer’s ground-breaking novel:  The Culture Map, can be found at Tech Tello.  A summary is provided below.

Low-Context vs High-Context Communication

Low-Context Communication Cultures

In low context communication cultures, effective communication must be concise, straightforward, and explicit for the message to be passed on successfully. 

“Low-context culture requires stating it as you mean it.”

The rule-of-thumb for low context communication is as follows: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them”

This process is designed to quickly identify and correct misunderstandings before they become problems.  It also serves to reduce pointless, time-consuming debates.

In low context cultures, communication occurs assuming that knowledge of each other’s histories and backgrounds is not present. Neither is most of the communication shaped by long-term relationships between speakers.

In low-context communication, the meaning of messages is more dependent on the words being spoken rather than on a shared understanding of subtle cues.

High-Context Communication Cultures

“High-context culture requires reading between the lines.”

In high-context communication cultures, effective communication is nuanced, layered, and sophisticated.  High-context cultures rely upon shared history and experiences to communicate. 

A high percentage of words can be interpreted in multiple ways, depending on how and when they are used.  This can be very effective and efficient if all members of a team have the same background, history and experiences to understand these subtleties. 

However, when this shared history and understanding is absent, as is the case when people from high-context cultures communicate with people from low-context cultures, the communication breaks down. 

In fact, the highest chance of miscommunication exists when two people from different high-context cultures try to communicate.  In this scenario, both parties try to communicate using nuances that neither is aware of. 


Communication Cultures by Country

Image source: Tech Tello

As you can see, the United States is the lowest context communication culture in the world, with most of the westernized countries leaning towards the left of the scale. 

All the countries that speak the Romance languages, including European countries like Italy, France, and Spain, as well as Latin American countries fall in the middle of the scale, while Asian and African countries are solidly on the right of the scale. 

Japan is the highest context communication culture in the world. 

Clearly, excellent software engineering can be found along the entire low/high context continuum.  This scale is not meant to measure communication effectiveness.  It merely points out how well people from two cultures can relate to one another. 


The Secret to Agile With Offshore Teams

If clear communication is the goal, multi-cultural teams need low-context communication and processes.

What matters isn’t where either culture falls on the scale, but rather the relative position of the two cultures that must work together, in this case on Software Development.  The larger the gap, the harder it will be to communicate with your Software Development Partner, on average. 

When US-based companies with low context cultures work with SW Development partners from high-context cultures, there is often little basis (context) for shared non-verbal, nuanced communication, causing frequent miscommunication. 

Agile development programs will suffer if half your team is communicating non-verbally, with assumed shared understanding, and the other half is not.  Even moderate time-zone differences between geographically dispersed teams can magnify this problem. 


Selecting an Agile Offshore Software Development Team with Low-Context Communication

The easiest way to ensure low-context communication is to pick a development partner from a low-context communication culture. 

But you may have other reasons to outsource from a country that is not low-context. In this case, pick a Remote Development Team that:

  • Understands the importance of crisp, clear, low-context communication
  • Has put in place the proper screening, testing, and training to ensure low-context communication
  • Understands it is the responsibility of the offshore/nearshore vendor to adopt a low-context communication style to aid in communication.

In our opinion, it’s the responsibility of the offshore/nearshore vendor to adapt to their US-based customers’ communication culture.  It’s not about who’s right or wrong, but rather about workability.   The high/low context communication combination usually does not work unless low context processes and communication are established.  This is especially true in Agile Development Environments.



About Cloud App Developers, LLC

With a team of 1,500+ Engineers from 6 countries, we provide multiple options to optimize what’s most important to our customers. Need to scale a large team rapidly? Need same time-zone development? Looking for particular tech skills? We have you covered.

We also offer IT Staff Augmentation Services for Software Development and Data Science Engineers.

Our Architects, Developers, Data Scientists, and Data Engineers are extensively screened and have domain expertise in several industries, including Telecommunications, Financial Services, Insurtech, IoT, Logistics, Industrial Automation, etc.


Developer Screening, Testing & Training

With the multitude of changes, dependencies & processes within Agile methodologies, a certain velocity of communication, interaction & concurrency is required. Our screening processes ensure our teams can deliver “Agile @ Speed” in your development workflow.

Technical English Proficiency

For Agile, “English At Speed” Is The Standard

Communication Excellence

Developers Trained For “Low-Context” Communication

Problem Solving Aptitude

Our Customers Expect Engineers

Code Testing

Code Quality

Code Reviews For All Developers


Need Agile Offshore Development?

If you need “Agile at Speed”, send us a message using the form below to schedule a meeting to review how we can assist with your offshore software development efforts. Thank you.

How Can a Remote Developer Team Thrive in Your Agile Environment?

Some Remote Developer Teams struggle in agile environments, while others seem to thrive. But how can you predict which teams are more likely to succeed? Identifying any “Agile Gaps” within a prospective remote development team upfront is critical to your dev team scaling efforts, especially if you can’t afford an “Offshore Vendor False Start”. 

Remote Developer Team


Table of Contents


Beware of the “Waterfall Trap”

As early as possible, you need to determine whether your prospective remote development team can thrive in your Agile environment (with its multitude of changes, dependencies, and processes), or if they are limited to Waterfall (with its clearly defined tasks and clear boundaries between development teams).  

remote software development teams

This “Waterfall Trap” has bitten many unsuspecting Engineering Managers as they scale their remote teams, only to be disappointed with the results.  Keep reading to discover the root causes of remote developer team failure and how to prevent falling into the “Waterfall Trap”

“Agile At Speed” Should Be the Standard

“In the time it took me to explain things, I could have coded it myself.”


-Typical complaint about remote developers

US customers usually expect their offshore dev partners to be an extension to their internal agile team. With the multitude of changes, dependencies, and processes within Agile methodologies, a certain velocity of communication, interaction, and concurrency is required. 

This “Agile at Speed” is difficult to achieve unless your offshore dev team’s communication culture matches yours.  Without it, project schedules will slip, and your offshore partner will be a source of inefficiencies, causing a rippling effect across your entire dev team. 

Effective Cross-Cultural Communication

An excellent article detailing the cultural communication differences across the world, which summarizes Erin Meyer’s ground-breaking novel:  The Culture Map, can be found at Tech Tello.  A brief summary is provided here.

high context vs low context communication
Image Source: Tech Tello

Low-Context Communication Cultures

“Low-context culture requires stating it as you mean it.”

In low context communication cultures, effective communication must be concise, straightforward, and explicit for the message to be passed on successfully. 

The rule-of-thumb for low context communication is as follows: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them”

This process is designed to quickly identify and correct misunderstandings before they become problems.  It also serves to reduce pointless, time-consuming debates.

In low context cultures, communication occurs assuming that knowledge of each other’s histories and backgrounds is not present. Neither is most of the communication shaped by long-term relationships between speakers. In low-context communication, the meaning of messages is more dependent on the words being spoken rather than on a shared understanding of subtle cues.

High-Context Communication Cultures

“High-context culture requires reading between the lines.”

In high-context communication cultures, effective communication is nuanced, layered, and sophisticated.  High-context cultures rely upon shared history and experiences to communicate.  A high percentage of words can be interpreted in multiple ways, depending on how and when they are used.  This can be very effective and efficient if all members of a team have the same background, history and experiences to understand these subtleties. 

However, when this shared history and understanding is absent, as is the case when people from high-context cultures communicate with people from low-context cultures, the communication breaks down.  In fact, the highest chance of miscommunication exists when two people from different high-context cultures try to communicate.  In this scenario, both parties try to communicate using nuances that neither is aware of. 

Communication Cultures by Country

Image source: Tech Tello

As you can see, the United States is the lowest context communication culture in the world, with most of the westernized countries leaning towards the left of the scale. 

All the countries that speak the Romance languages, including European countries like Italy, France, and Spain, as well as Latin American countries fall in the middle of the scale, while Asian and African countries are solidly on the right of the scale.  Japan is the highest context communication culture in the world. 

Clearly, excellent software engineering can be found along the entire low/high context continuum.  This scale is not meant to measure communication effectiveness.  It merely points out how well people from two cultures can relate to one another. 

The Secret to Agile With a Remote Developer Team

If clear communication is the goal, multi-cultural teams need low-context communication & processes.

What matters isn’t where either culture falls on the scale, but rather the relative position of the two cultures that must work together, in this case on Software Development.  The larger the gap, the harder it will be to communicate with your Software Development Partner, on average. 

When US-based companies with low context cultures work with SW Development partners from high-context cultures, there is often little basis (context) for shared non-verbal, nuanced communication, causing frequent miscommunication. 

Agile development programs will suffer if half your team is communicating non-verbally, with assumed shared understanding, and the other half is not.  Even moderate time-zone differences between geographically dispersed teams can magnify this problem. 

Read our full article The Secret to Agile with Offshore Software Development Teams here.

How to Ensure Low-Context Communication When Selecting a Remote Development Team

The easiest way to ensure low-context communication is to pick a development partner from a low-context communication culture. 

But you may have other reasons to outsource from a country that is not low-context. In this case, pick a Remote Development Team who:

  • Understands the importance of crisp, clear, low-context communication
  • Has put in place the proper screening, testing, and training to ensure low-context communication, and
  • Understands that it is the responsibility of the offshore/nearshore vendor to adapt a low-context communication style to aid in communication.

In our opinion, it’s the responsibility of the offshore/nearshore vendor to adapt to their US-based customers’ communication culture. 

It’s not about who’s right and wrong, but rather about workability. The high/low context communication combination usually does not work unless low context processes and communication are established.  This is especially true in Agile Development Environments.


About Cloud App Developers, LLC

With a team of 1,500+ Engineers from 6 countries, we provide multiple options to optimize what’s most important to our customers. Need to scale a large team rapidly? Need same time-zone development? Looking for particular tech skills? We have you covered.

We also offer IT Staff Augmentation Services for Software Development and Data Science Engineers.

Our Architects, Developers, Data Scientists, and Data Engineers are extensively screened and have domain expertise in several industries, including Telecommunications, Financial Services, Insurtech, IoT, Logistics, Industrial Automation, etc.

Developer Screening, Testing & Training

With the multitude of changes, dependencies & processes within Agile methodologies, a certain velocity of communication, interaction & concurrency is required. Our screening processes ensure our teams can deliver “Agile @ Speed” in your development workflow.

Technical English Proficiency

For Agile, “English At Speed” Is The Standard

Communication Excellence

Developers Trained For “Low-Context” Communication

Problem Solving Aptitude

Our Customers Expect Engineers

Code Testing

Code Quality

Code Reviews For All Developers


Interested in Agile Remote Development at Speed?

If you’d like to experience “Agile at Speed”, we’d be happy to schedule a brief call to discuss how we can help you.

Are Communication Skills More Important Than Technical Skills?


Are communication skills more important than technical skills? Having worked in Offshoring for 25+ years I can tell you a primary driver of success is the technical communication skills of customer-facing engineers.  English proficiency provides a foundation for this, but that’s only one part of what constitutes effective communication in a modern engineering context.   

In the “New Normal” of remote, geographically dispersed development teams, the need for effective communication is more important than ever.  This is especially true when outsourcing in the Offshoring / Nearshoring models, as it can be challenging to maintain Agile and DevOps processes and practices.

Development Managers, tasked with finding scarce development skills in a hot market, have increasingly turned to Offshoring and Nearshoring.  This strategy can pay off handsomely, provided English proficiency is a major consideration in your vendor selection process.  At a minimum, proficiency in communicative English is essential for engineers when interpreting technical information and creating solutions as a team. However, an effective Agile/DevOps culture requires even higher proficiency standards.  Below are a few suggestions for enabling effective technical communication across your outsourcing base. 


How to Ensure Strong Technical Communication from Nearshoring & Offshoring Partners

  •  Pick the right test

General English tests are considered insufficient for assessing global communication competency in an engineering context.  Assessment exams, like the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), offered by Cambridge University’s Cambridge Assessment English (CAE) exam board can be very useful in measuring technical communication skills.  CAE processes 5.5 million candidates per year and is recognized by 25,000 employers and institutions worldwide.  (See table below)

The Common European Framework divides learners into three broad divisions (A, B, C) that can be further divided into two levels.  For each level, it measures performance in reading, listening, speaking and writing. (Only levels B and C are shown, reflecting relevancy in an engineering context)

CEFR Framework Levels

Level groupLevelDescription
B
Independent user
B1
Threshold or intermediate
Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
B2
Vantage or upper intermediate
Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization.Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
C
Proficient user
C1
Effective operational proficiency or advanced
Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning.Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
C2
Mastery or proficiency
Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.Can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.
  • Choose outsourcing partners from countries ranking high in English skills

If you plan to scale-up a team rapidly, it’s important to pick Nearshoring/Offshoring partners from countries ranking high in English skills, as it is easier for the partner to scale a team for you if the pool of engineers with English proficiency is larger.  EF EPI is an English Proficiency Index that covers 100+ countries and regions, based on over 2.2 million test results.  Here’s a snapshot of their current testing results:

  • Make your communication expectations clear with potential outsourcing partners

Sub-par communication is often thought of as a “necessary evil” when working with lower cost regions of the world.  This does not have to be the case.  Universities and development partners are beginning to realize the importance of building technical communication excellence into their organizations.  All potential development partners will claim they are good at communication.  Ask them to show you.  Pick a partner who demonstrates excellent technical communication skills during peer-to-peer meetings and calls as you evaluate them as a potential outsourcing partner.  Don’t settle for “the way things are”.

We hope these suggestions offer some useful guidance to improving your technical communication levels within your outsourcing base.

DevOps – A Super Brief Introduction

WHAT IS DevOps? DevOps practices enable multiple teams (Development, Operations, IT, Quality & Security) to better coordinate their efforts to produce superior products, faster. We hope you find this article, DevOps – A Super Brief Introduction, interesting and helpful.

BENEFITS OF DevOps? DevOps practices enable High-Performing Teams to increase customer satisfaction & facilitate:

  • Accelerated Time-to-Market
  • Improved Adaptation to Market & Competition
  • Maintenance of System Reliability
  • Improved Mean Time of Recovery

DevOps APPLICATION LIFECYCLE

DevOps has four phases; PLAN, DEVELOP, DELIVER & OPERATE. Each phase is involved with & relies upon the others to some extent.

PLAN

During the Plan Phase, DevOps teams define & describe the applications & systems to be built. Progress is tracked at low & high levels of granularity – from single-products tasks to tasks that span portfolios of multiple products. Planning methods include creating backlogs, bug tracking, agile software dev with Scrum, dashboards, etc.

DEVELOP

During the Develop Phase, the DevOps team writes, tests, reviews & integrate the code. This includes building the code into build artifacts usable in multiple environments. To increase the pace of development, the DevOps teams use a variety of productivity & automation tools & practice continuous integration using automated testing. 

DELIVER

Deploying applications into production environments in a consistent & reliable way is what makes DevOps so powerful. During the Deliver Phase, the DevOps team clearly defines the release management process, which include manual approval stages. Automation helps make these processes scalable, repeatable & controllable as the applications move between development phases.

OPERATE

During the Operate Phase, applications in production environments are maintained, monitored & troubleshot/diagnosed as necessary. By adopting DevOps, teams work to ensure high system reliability & availability while aiming to achieve zero downtime. DevOps teams endeavor to identify & mitigate issues before they affect the customer experience.


THE DevOps CULTURE

Cultivating a DevOps culture begins with the people within it. When organizations commit to DevOps they can create the opportunity for high-performing teams to develop, which enables automation & process optimization through technology.

DevOps PRACTICES

Real implementation of DevOps helps to accelerate, automate & improve specific practices during the application lifecycle.

CONTINUOUS INTEGRATION (CI) & CONTINUOUS DELIVERY (CD)

Configuration management tools help development teams roll out changes in a systematic, controlled fashion, which reduces the risk of system modification. These tools also enable dev teams to track system state & configuration drift. Practiced in conjunction with Infrastructure as Code (IaC), system definition & configuration are easily templated & automated.    

DevOps & THE CLOUD

The adoption of The Cloud has transformed the way development teams build, deploy & operate applications. By adopting DevOps practices, development teams have a great opportunity to improve & better serve their customers.

Cloud Agility

Development teams can quickly configure & provision cloud environments & gain great agility in deployment of apps. No longer do teams have to buy, configure & maintain physical servers. Teams can very quickly create complex cloud environments & shut down when no longer needed.

Kubernetes

More applications are using containers & Kubernetes is viewed as the industry solution for containers at scale. Automating the process of building & deploying containers with CI/CD pipelines & monitoring these containers are essential practices in the age of Kubernetes.

Serverless Computing

Moving the management of infrastructure to the cloud provider enables development teams to focus on their apps. Serverless computing can run apps without the need to configure & maintain servers, while reducing the risk & complexity of deployment & operations.


STARTING THE DevOps JOURNEY

At first, DevOps can be a bit overwhelming. A key to success is to start small & to learn from the experiences of others. The Cloud App Developers teams have a enjoyed a great deal of success in building & deploying cloud apps & we are happy to guide & assist you in your business / digital transformation.