Don’t Confuse “Time zone Issues” with “Communication Challenges”

Once you open your mind to the idea of external talent, the next thing you should be thinking about is: which geography?

It turns out, it’s not a simple question.

When clients ask us, “where’s the best country to outsource?” and we almost always reply, “it depends!” - and it’s almost always an unsatisfying answer.

The reason that “it depends!” is that it’s less about geography (yes, really!) and more about aligning requirements and culture

If your organization is “traditional” (one primary HQ, co-located staff, limited experience with external providers) then your risk appetite will understandably be lower - external groups should be from a time zone that largely overlaps with your working day so that the main variable is the fact they sit external to your core group(s).

By contrast, if your organization already has experience with more flexible arrangements (extensive remote workers and/or “work from home” employment arrangements) then you can afford to cast your net wider geographically. Your internal teams will already be versed in the tools and techniques required to execute projects successfully without being face-to-face 40+ hours a week.

It’s also important to characterize the type of work you expect your external vendor to perform. If the work is largely “execution” in nature (well-defined scope, minimal check-in required between milestones, binary-style pass/fail deliverables) then the overlap in working hours is less critical again. For work that requires your consistent input (more “co-created” outcomes, or true agile delivery), a regular ability to check-in is helpful.

Any of these scenarios can be overcome with techniques and training, so we like to say that in the software outsourcing game “nothing is impossible” - it’s simply more of a function of the effort and organizational “lift” required to execute successfully.

Regardless of your organization’s aptitude for managing external groups, or the time zone of the vendor you select, keep in mind that any communication management strategy should really be designed to achieve one primary outcome: to avoid your external vendor from burning an entire day being blocked on something which they needed your input to unblock.

That’s it. Truly.

Avoiding that outcome can be as simple as creating a short period once a day (it can be as little as 1 hour) when both you (or whoever is actively managing the external team) and the external team lead (and ideally their developers) are available to answer any questions and unblock any issues. 

The rest of the discussion about “which geography is the best for outsourcing?” really comes down to preference and sensitivity: cultural issues and matches, price sensitivity and so on. Great communicators can come from any region, so it’s less about “who’s best?” and more about “what fits my needs best?”

Outsourcing, done well, accounts for your needs and strengths, and then finds a match in your external vendor partner that plays to those strengths and mitigates or supports those weaknesses. It’s not easy but it is being done every day to great success - just don’t fool yourself thinking time zones are the primary variable, or that conversely asynchronous time zones are the primary issue.

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