7 tips for effective communication with an outsourced app development company

13 min read
April 25, 2022

Effective and honest communication is one of the building blocks for a successful business.

It increases productivity, strengthens interpersonal relationships, enhances satisfaction, and reduces costs.

But it’s damn hard. 

An Interact survey showed that a whopping 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their team members.

Now imagine what the number would be if they surveyed people working with outsourced app development companies!

Yes, it may seem overwhelming, but you can communicate effectively even on long-distance. 

We’ll show you how.

Set clear and realistic expectations 

Before your new outsourcing partner and you dive into building your app, set clear and realistic expectations.

The more clear and concrete they are, the team members will do their job with ease and be more motivated. Also, there won’t be misunderstandings which can, as we all know, lead to a strained atmosphere and overall lower productivity.

You’ll have to give your team both general and project-specific expectations.

Here are some general expectations:

  • Doing their tasks diligently and according to set deadlines
  • Open and honest communication
  • Conducting professionally
  • Follow set standards and protocols (e.g. NDA, security measures)

Expectations regarding the development process will depend on the specificity of the project and the role of the team member.

When you’ve drawn them up, it’s time for action!

Arrange a call, video meeting, or if possible, meet with the team in person and explain all the requirements for the project and your expectations.

When explaining, accentuate why are your requirements and expectations important so the team members will have a clear understanding of their job. 

Now, don’t do all the talking. 

Leave time for the team to think of questions or any dilemmas. Make sure to ask about their expectations about the project and you too. You’ll gain a wider picture of the project and think about how to align expectations from both sides.

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After the meeting, send your requirements and expectations as a presentation or via email. Don’t be afraid to reiterate that you’re open to questions and feedback.

Later in the project, you’ll need to evaluate your team’s performance and progress. The expectations you’ve set can be a great guideline for whether the project is going according to your plan.  

Doing the basics may take some time, but only with realistic and clear expectations can your team and you create an amazing product.

Focus on a few, but the best communication tools

The worldwide web is chock full of free and affordable communication tools, so it’s easy to download a bunch… and use them hardly at all.

To avoid this scenario, focus on the ones that make everyday communication seamless and simple. It may take some time to try them out and see what fits best, but it will be worth it in the end.

For a little inspiration, we’ll do a short breakdown of the tools we use at DECODE.

Slack

Don’t want to use apps like Skype or Google Hangouts because of connectivity problems? Or you’re looking for a tool that can accommodate a larger team?

Then Slack may be the solution.
It’s pretty intuitive and easy to use and, most importantly, it’s great for communicating with outsourced developers. 

Not to mention that we use it here at Decode. We love that we can integrate Slack  with our other tools. For example, we integrated Slack with Google Calendar. There’re no awkward situations when barging in on someone during a meeting.

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Source: Slack

Slack can also be integrated with project management tools like Jira, Asana, or Trello.
There are a lot of us now so the #channels feature comes in very handy. We divide our communication based on projects, departments and even personal interests. 

This saves time and makes our communication more focused and efficient.

Google Docs

Ok, Google Docs isn’t technically a communication tool. But its easy-to-use comments feature makes editing documents a real conversation. 

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Source: Google Docs

So, when you’re drafting important documents or technical documentation that requires feedback Google Docs will serve nicely. 

You can also view file history, share your documents and edit other people’s – of course, with permission only. It’s also connected to other Google apps and your Gmail, so you can easily send documents to other team members. 

When you’re in a meeting in Google Meet you can share your document to the whole team. 

Google Meet

When working with outsourced development teams you’ll probably use video conferencing tools daily. For us, the most helpful tool is Google Meet. We hold video or voice calls with clients and other team members. If you’re working with a larger team, no worries – up to 10 000 users can join meetings. 

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Source: Google Meet

Also, it’s secure so you don’t need to worry about sensitive data (although caution is always good) and great connectivity means you can talk to teams from anywhere.

Keep cultural differences in mind, but don’t let them overwhelm you

Outsourcing often includes working with people of different cultures. Many treat this tiny, but important detail, just as an afterthought. 

The consequences can be ugly.  According to an Accenture study, more than 60% of all outsourced projects fail because of bad cultural compatibility. 

outsourcing app communication

Source: Accenture/Santex

There can be many issues, the most common ones are:

  • Language difficulties
  • Different time zones
  • Different development methodologies

Of course, you’ll have to resolve some of them before sealing the deal, like time zones. Let’s say you’re in Washington, USA and your potential team is in Canberra, Australia.

That’s a time difference of 14 hours. You’ll have to think twice – unless you don’t mind sacrificing sleep.

These days most developers know English. But that doesn’t mean language difficulties can’t creep into any part of the development process. If misunderstandings happen during the requirements phase, it can be very tricky to resolve them. 

This goes especially for communication styles that are more implicit than those in Western culture. If you’re dealing with teams from Asia, mostly they won’t be forthright or assertive in their communication. 

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So, if your outsourcing partner is from a different culture, keep that in mind. Set achievable and measurable goals everyone on the team can understand. Also always communicate clearly and explicitly what are the requirements of the project.

At DECODE, language is never a problem with our clients. Our software engineers and other experts have a great command of English which makes communication bump-free. 

Overcoming cultural barriers is also easier when you share the same development methodology with your outsourced dev team. 

We and our clients are the happiest with Agile methodology. The project is divided into sprints, mostly 2 weeks long. 

During that time, communication with the client is constant. After every sprint, they can check out our progress and even test the app. 

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Source: DECODE

We use project management tools like Jira and Trello which makes it easy for them to view and comment on our progress. 

Keep an eye on these few details. Communicating with outsourced teams will definitely be easier, despite cultural differences.

Present important information visually

Sometimes it’s hard to express ideas verbally, especially complex ones. Having non-native speakers on the other side of the screen makes it even more difficult. A badly explained idea can only lead to misunderstandings and, eventually, bad results.

That’s why using visuals can get across your idea much more effectively. What’s more, many studies have shown the power of visuals. Did you know we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text?

When it comes to app building, it’s all about visualization. If the team can’t see your idea, how can they create your app?

That’s why you should always make a simple blueprint of your app, that is, a wireframe.

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Source: DECODE

It will enable your team to easily envision the real product. Later in the process, the wireframe will serve as a guideline for adding additional elements. 

Most importantly, it will shorten all those hours spent on explaining the intricacies of your app, and rid you of misinterpretations. 

Wireframing is not the only visual tool great for getting across ideas, plans or project changes to your team.

Make sure to use:

  • Data visualizations (flow charts, graphics, tables, etc.)
  • Presentations
  • Videos

Visual tools are a must in dealing with outsourced dev teams. Not only will they make your ideas more coherent, memorable, and understandable. They will also simplify the development process for the developers. 

Beware of micromanaging

Micromanagement became a dirty word in the business dictionary.
No wonder because surveys show that micromanaged people report a negative impact on their productivity. 

When outsourcing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of micromanaging. You’re not in the same office. It makes you anxious. You don’t want the team to make mistakes so you need to control them more. That need is natural, but if not kept at bay, micromanaging can blow the project to smithereens. 

What’s even worse, team members have less and less motivation, they stop caring for the project, and eventually, they even leave.

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Source: DECODE

And you don’t want that to happen, do you?

That’s why you should give more freedom to the team. No, that doesn’t mean you let them do whatever they want. It just means to leave them to their own devices and work on their tasks as they see fit. 

They’ll gain confidence in their skill and they’ll know how to solve problems by themselves. Also, it will free up your time too so you can focus on more important aspects of the project.

Give and ask for feedback

Communication is a two-way street. It’s not talking to someone while they wait for their turn, or talking at someone. It’s about exchanging ideas and information. 

Surveys confirm that by showing that 65% of employees want more feedback. When people get feedback on their performance, their strong and weak points, it’s easier for them to stay motivated and be more productive. 

So, when you give feedback make sure it’s:

  • Specific – sure, you can say to Mike – Good job, Mike! But that is too general. Instead, always be specific. If you want to compliment someone on doing a good job, say exactly what they did right.

    The same goes for giving negative feedback. If you just say:  “You’re not acting professionally these days”, that’s just a vague statement. Instead, be more thorough: “I noticed that recently you’re running behind deadlines. The project is getting to a close, so all of us need to push just a little bit more. Let’s discuss it and see what we can do.” 

    The more details you provide, along with an invitation to solve the issue together, there’ll be fewer misunderstandings
  • Constructive – First, identify the problem by giving examples of what the employee didn’t do right. Then ask them for an explanation. Listen actively to their perspective. When you find out their side of the story, think of helpful feedback.

    Make sure to avoid emotional words or phrases like “good”, “bad”, “fault” or “you never/always”. Always give feedback calmly and focus on the problem, not the person.
  • Timely – don’t wait for two months after you notice an employee is slacking off to tell them about it. If you don’t react on time, your feedback won’t be noticed or even worse, it will confuse people, especially if they work out that problem by that time. 

As much as it’s important to give feedback, you also have to hear opinions of other team members. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. 

If you’re wrong about something, admit it, or if a team member points it out, thank them and consider their point of view. In case of negative, but kind and constructive feedback, take it rationally, not emotionally. 

When giving and receiving appropriate feedback becomes a routine, you’ll notice how your team is much more productive.

Build trust with your team

With trust, your team members will feel more comfortable coming forward with their dilemmas, problems and suggestions. 

A team that is trusted:

  • Is more motivated
  • Has deeper interpersonal relationships
  • Is goal-driven
  • Is more innovative than teams with bad rapport

Sure, it’s difficult to create trust from the other side of the world or continent, but it’s not impossible.

Here are a few things you can do to boost trust:

  • Be there for your team – if you’re surrounded by a hardworking team of trustworthy people, be there for them in bad and good times. Communicate to them that they can always rely on you. You don’t have to be their psychologist, of course! When you’re open, empathetic and non-judgmental, people will trust you more.
  • Don’t play the blame game – when the going gets tough, you need to talk about it with your team. If there are people who are directly responsible for a missed deadline, or a crash just before launching, hold them accountable, but without the finger pointing.

    Instead, talk to them in private without raising your voice and try to solve the issue as best as possible.

    Most people don’t make mistakes on purpose, so it’s always a better idea to steer them to the right solution instead of just blaming them. Childish behavior will leave all of you frustrated, strain the atmosphere, and stretch out the app’s launch.
  • Be transparent – you may be the product owner, but your future app is just as much the team’s as it is yours. This means everything has to be on the table, both the good and the bad stuff.

    When your team is aware of everything that is connected with their job, they can plan their activities accordingly and make informed decisions when building the app. 

Trust is the most important when building relationships, not only in private life but in the workplace. Only through open and sincere communication can you get your teammates to trust you. 

Communication can always be improved

Communication is like building muscle. The more you work on it, the more it gets stronger. 

When communicating with your outsourced team focus on:

  • Setting clear and realistic expectations
  • Using few communication tools
  • The importance of cultural differences
  • Visual presentation of information
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Trusting them

It may seem not as important as the technical and business side of your app, but there’s no success without a friendly and connected team of experts.

Always remember that you’re working with people, no matter how far they’re from you. 
With DECODE, communicating is simple as ABC. We’re easygoing, passionate and professional.  So, if you’re looking for a friendly smile and a helping hand with your app, we’d be happy to talk to you.

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Written by

Luca Kozina

Content Writer

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