Lessons from an international outsourcing team

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As an outsourcing software development partner for international organizations, Saratoga provides customized, innovative and sustainable technology solutions that create real business benefits for our clients.

One of our long-time international customers is a UK-based company that develops warehouse management systems for customers around the world. With over 40 years of experience providing innovative supply chain solutions, our client is a leader in their field.

We have partnered with this organization for a number of years as a trusted provider of outsourcing services, and a dedicated team of our technology professionals work closely with client stakeholders to complete various projects.

Sharon Hendricks, Scrum Master for the outsourced development team, shares some of the many lessons they learned from working closely with this global client.

Next Generation Technology

A key project for our client is the next-generation technology platform it is developing, which will enable its customers to automate and manage their complex omnichannel supply chain operations with a scalable, flexible and easy platform. use.

The project team for this platform spans four continents, making standardization of processes and tools extremely important to the success of this project.

From a technical perspective, Saratoga was instrumental in advising the client on which tools would best suit the development team to communicate project deliverables.

The key to the success of this team was to establish a unique communication process to enable constant engagement between the various stakeholders. Implementing scrum agile processes has created consistency in communications between remote teams working from South Africa, UK, US and Australia.

World team

The scrum team for this project is a very diverse cross-functional team with the Cape Town-based scrum master, a US-based product owner and a UK-based release manager, while the development team consists of four developers and an enterprise architect. based in Cape Town and a development manager working in the UK.

Additionally, business specialists, systems analysts and testers contribute to the team from the US, UK and Australia. The final layer of stakeholder complexity is a supporting element for the project as the platform is currently live and in production at major warehouses in the UK, US and Australia.

While working with technology professionals from around the world brings a number of advantages in the range of skills and knowledge within the team, it makes the communication practices and process management of this project an essential factor in enabling successful deliveries.

Key processes for team success

With team members based around the world, this project has a complex Solution Delivery Lifecycle (SDLC) with multiple time zones for the team to navigate. With the advice of the scrum master, the team has adopted the scrum methodologies – the ceremonies of which it follows as closely as possible. For example, team stand-ups take place at 3 p.m. (Central Africa Time) to maintain an inclusive work environment for the entire project team.

Sprint planning is one of the trickiest ceremonies to master because there are many client platforms with different release cycles and code versions. Retrospectives can be just as challenging, and due to the size of the team, they must maintain a living list of action items that are reviewed at each retrospective.

One approach that has proven effective in better managing retrospectives has been for the team to initially organize their retrospectives into smaller teams and then communicate any specific issues to the entire project team. The actions resulting from the various retrospectives feed into the quarterly performance dashboards of each business unit, allowing continuous feedback and monitoring of areas for improvement.

Due to the complex nature of these processes and the number of stakeholders involved, the team is continually looking for ways to improve the processes in place and the effectiveness of the extended team.

Communication tools for a connected team

As this project team has been working as a globally distributed team long before COVID, the team is well versed in communication technologies that have recently become more prevalent with remote working.

To effectively manage communications between different stakeholders and time zones, the team integrated the following tools into their project processes:

  • Microsoft Teams is used for all Scrum meetings and ceremonies.
  • Jira is used as a ticket management system and facilitates stand-ups and planning sessions.
  • SharePoint and Confluence are used as storage points. The key to streamlining project processes is well-structured storage with easy access to business and technical specification documents, test scripts and test plans and to optimize the storage of individual customer infrastructure specifications.
  • The development team stores coding best practices and onboarding requirements for all new team members in a wiki on Confluence.

“My experience as Scrum Master on this project has been interesting and always stimulating. The expectation and norm is to have stand-ups first thing in the morning to get you ready for the day. This was the first change of mindset and the first hurdle for our SA team. You could say that with our project team so spread out, it’s at least first thing in the morning for some team members! Practicing Scrum principles kept us focused and helped create a mindset for change within the team. Our attention has been focused on people above process and it has allowed us to operate as an effective global team. – Sharon Hendricks, Scrum Master at Saratoga.

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