Nowadays, businesses are often focused on considering remote work to unlock a greater pool of talent globally, adjust to employees’ needs, or simply lower operating costs. BCG goes as far as to say that work will never be the same.
As an organization, CSHARK is ahead of the game, as we were one of the lucky few that started experimenting with remote work back in 2014. When companies needed to transition into remote work due to the pandemic, we had the advantage of already being there. We’d been working with our partners for years, utilizing what we’d learned about effective remote and hybrid collaboration.
But impromptu, understrategized, and autonomous remote work is difficult.
Over the years, we’ve explored different models of remote, global collaboration.
In this article, you will:
Companies that turned fully remote due to the pandemic often lack the know-how to provide autonomous and sustainable delivery models, while maintaining work remotely.
We’ll share our insights on models of remote global collaboration that we’ve tested over the years. I’ve chosen 3 that I believe best address even the most complex project needs.
The models aren’t industry specific – they have been implemented within various sectors and industries and are applicable wherever there’s a need to support digital innovation.
However, the models differ substantially when it comes to what problems they solve. Since each organization is different in terms of what it strives to achieve, it’s worth assessing the issues and solutions before deciding on which models of remote collaboration would work for you.
The discovery boost model is best applicable when there’s a need to kickstart a project that’s full of unknown factors.
It’s a series of discrete/time-boxed workshops allowing for alignment and validating the partner requirements. Proven and tried workshop schedule and standardized process of validation sets it up for success. What’s important, it’s characterized by end-to-end coverage – starting from ideation, through product design, market-fit analysis, technology and infrastructure, to the delivery plan.
Discovery boost is the best fit for an organization with a limited initial budget. It can also be successfully applied when:
Additionally, this model is worth considering when you need to jump-start a project and need to align expectations for scaling up.
This model could be used in start-ups, scale-ups, intrapreneurs, and enterprises (new product lines research).
Discovery boost is mostly based on the waterfall project management methodology. This means the development process flows through all phases of the project (analysis, design, development, and testing) just like a waterfall. In this methodology, each phase has to be completed before the next one begins. The phases are executed in a sequence, and, as in a real-life waterfall, going back is very expensive.
If you’re considering going the discovery boost route, you need to start by planning ahead with accountability in mind. Get the right people to form the team. Be able to clearly define expectations and outcomes. It’s also crucial for you to know your organization’s weaknesses, be ready to work asynchronously, and have a secure infrastructure open to work with remote vendors or rely on partners. Agree on milestones if the work needs to be phased.
Don’t expect remote employees to work in the same time zone – this can be supplanted with true asynchronous collaboration. Other risks include trust issues: if you find yourself as being a naturally cautious person, lower the risk of exposure at the initial stage. Start with smaller tasks, to build up trust and normalize the collaboration. Moreover, physical cues and communication are less intuitive in a full-remote approach, so find ways to create rituals that support the culture of open communication and constant feedback.
One of the known variants of discovery boost is offshoring where you move the internal processes to a third-party business.
You can also choose to temporarily co-locate your employees if you need a kick-start the project or alight your and your partner’s company cultures.
In the flexible remote model, as the name suggests, you need to be flexible about resource allocation and enforce a culture of ownership in which autonomous decisions are encouraged.
It’s mostly asynchronous communication using proven tools and patterns. Consultants are managed by clients with partners’ Customer Success team help. It promotes autonomous work and decision-making (close to the problem). Delivery is aligned to overall project schedules in chunks that provide functional value.
Flexible remote works best when flexible resource allocation is what you’re after. It can also be used when:
You should consider choosing the flexible remote model if you’re a start-up, scale-up, small/medium-sized business, or enterprise owner striving for that flexibility.
The base methodology behind this model is Agile and Scrum. Agile software development is based on iterative development, which encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, teamwork, accountability as well as self-organization.
When choosing this model you need to be able to communicate clearly even the finest details of your project and desired skillsets. Then, it’s crucial to agree on standards of deliverables, the cadence of ceremonies, and hand-off points. It’s also important for you to know your organization’s weaknesses, be ready to work asynchronously, have a secure infrastructure, and be open to working with remote vendors or relying on partners.
Flexibility without trust can pose a significant risk, but in a healthy working relationship, it nurtures creativity. The flexible remote work model in crunch time cannot also provide immediate feedback and the perceived lack of control. For such situations, it’s sometimes better to temporarily co-locate key individuals.
Flexible remote variants include:
Hybrid continuity is the best fit for demanding or unstable projects or when products (or ecosystems) are immensely complex. It’s also applicable when you just need to follow the sun and enable organizations that aren’t ready to fully embrace remote work yet.
The remote team is managed by the partner to execute deliverables. Senior roles are present on the client’s side – their job is to support and manage requirement gathering and liaising with the remote team. The local-to-remote ratio is usually 1:5 per team.
Hybrid continuity is often used for demanding or unstable projects, where the client’s requirements are not fully fleshed out or change often. You can also consider it when:
The hybrid continuity model would be the best option for enterprises and partnerships.
Just like flexible remote, hybrid continuity is based on Agile and Scrum principles where the project is executed and validated in small increments.
Integrate the local team into your company culture as you would do with all your employees. Understand that the local team has specific roles to support the process. They mostly include a coordinator, design, and planning roles – not only delivery & execution. Acknowledge that the bulk of the work will be done remotely without your direct oversight.
To avoid risks, it’s good to temporarily co-locate the team for integration (best to do initially). Remember about WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is) pitfall – the team on the ground is not your full delivery potential and available skillset. There may be an expectation from the local team to fill in the gaps ad-hoc, instead of understanding its designated role. The hybrid remote model requires planning and has a momentum of change, so be mindful and ready to adjust.
In place of hybrid continuity, you can also extend your local team with the limited delivery capacity to support ad-hoc changes. The other possible variant is making the local team just focus on ‘design/plan/coordinate’.
We’re all aware that remote work introduces multiple advantages not only for the organization but also for the employees. Let me just quickly jog your memory of those.
Remote collaboration forces you to put more thought into effective communication, better scheduling, and predictability of forecasting.
You’re not limited to your local pool of talent and instead can cherrypick the best fit and skill possible.
Freedom boosts creativity. When people are allowed to work flexibly and with self-discipline, the chance for creative solutions significantly increases.
You will start (or improve) evaluating work based on outcomes, rather than outputs, thus ensuring higher quality and value of the final deliverable.
As you get confident with remote collaboration, the processes and standards within your organization will get more mature and allow for further growth. You will ultimately end up with a better organization.
Remote collaboration cuts time that would otherwise get wasted, i.e. office commute and distractions.
Highly specialized knowledge workers work more efficiently due to autonomy, more personal space, and way less distraction. Thus, more time is spent being focused.
In an extreme scenario, you may even reach extreme efficiency and scale of delivery when having remote teams in different time zones and executing work continuously.
In order to make remote work work for you and not against you, there are a few simple rules to follow.
Trusting your partners is absolutely necessary to establish remote collaboration and should be viewed as the first major objective of the engagement.
Building trust with your partners also relies on building trust inside your organization. Remote teams need to be treated inclusively and equally in your organization’s culture.
Clear Definition-of-Done and hand-off points must be established within the collaboration process. There’s no place for assumptions.
Be prepared for a complete change of mindset. True remote collaboration changes the way your organization behaves on a daily basis and requires alterations in the habits and routines of individuals.
Consider finding a partner with similar company culture an important step towards a successful collaboration. An easy pick will always be CEE companies, as they tend to be a hub between the US, Europe, and Asia.
It’s essential not only to find partners who fulfill all legal requirements but also to remember to make sure that an outsourced or remote team can move within your country’s legal boundaries (i.e. when outsourcing lawyers, etc.).
Make sure you’re working with a dedicated Account Manager who takes care of the processes and relationships on the partner’s side.
It’s worth using dedicated tools that help with remote and asynchronous collaboration, however, they will not substitute excellent company culture. Tools are as helpful as people who use them.
What’s the outlook for the future? For sure remote work is here to stay for good – it isn’t going anywhere any time soon. These days it’s not just a benefit, it’s an expectation from both employees and clients all around the globe.
So, we may say that successful remote collaboration is, on one hand, a necessity in today’s world and on the other, if done right, a great asset that can strengthen your product development services.
Whether you need a steer in the right direction or a complete workforce boost, a trusted partner could help you accelerate your business while utilizing the benefits of a remote collab.