09/11/2022

Make remote work… work. 3 remote collab models – which ones are for you?

Table of contents:

    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:

    • learn what are the three remote collab models – discovery boost, flexible remote, and hybrid continuity – and when it’s best to apply them, 
    • choose the remote collab models that best fit your project, taking into consideration their methodologies, variants, as well as known risks and fixes,
    • discover key benefits (some unusual) of remote collaboration,
    • get tips on how to implement remote work smoothly.

     

    Remote collaboration models

    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.

     

    No. 1 – Discovery boost

    The discovery boost model is best applicable when there’s a need to kickstart a project that’s full of unknown factors

    What is it? 

    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. 

    When to apply it?

    Discovery boost is the best fit for an organization with a limited initial budget. It can also be successfully applied when:

    • deliverables and objectives can be agreed upfront,
    • entrepreneurs are overloaded and need tight time scheduling,
    • dedicated time from key participants can be allocated.

    Additionally, this model is worth considering when you need to jump-start a project and need to align expectations for scaling up.

    Which organizations are the best fit for it?

    This model could be used in start-ups, scale-ups, intrapreneurs, and enterprises (new product lines research).

    What’s the methodology behind it?

    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.

    As a client, you need to…

    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.

    Known risks and possible fixes

    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.

    Variants

    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.

     

    No. 2 – Flexible remote

    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.

    What is it? 

    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.

    When to apply it?

    Flexible remote works best when flexible resource allocation is what you’re after. It can also be used when:

    • you’re starting to build a culture of autonomous decision-making,
    • you want to try asynchronous collaboration for the first time with no prior experience, but have the right partner,
    • the organization has already established initial processes and infrastructure allowing remote work.

    Which organizations are the best fit for it?

    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.

    What’s the methodology behind it?

    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.

    As a client, you need to…

    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.

    Known risks and possible fixes

    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.

    Variants

    Flexible remote variants include:

    • remote individuals – when you hire a remote specialist to take care of the work,
    • remote teams – when you find a remote team of specialists with various skills that can handle the work from start to finish.

     

    No. 3 – Hybrid continuity

    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.

    What is it? 

    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.

    When to apply it?

    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:

    • more working hours are required in daily delivery (follow-the-sun delivery model),
    • you need help with establishing healthy habits and a cadence of cooperation,
    • it’s very clear when things are done and when we can move to the next deliverable.

    Which organizations are the best fit for it?

    The hybrid continuity model would be the best option for enterprises and partnerships.

    What’s the methodology behind it?

    Just like flexible remote, hybrid continuity is based on Agile and Scrum principles where the project is executed and validated in small increments.

    As a client, you need to…

    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.

    Known risks and possible fixes

    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.

    Variants

    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’.

     

    Key benefits of remote work

    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.

    • You’ll organize better

    Remote collaboration forces you to put more thought into effective communication, better scheduling, and predictability of forecasting.

    • You’ll have access to the best talent, not just local

    You’re not limited to your local pool of talent and instead can cherrypick the best fit and skill possible.

    • You’ll experience thriving creativity

    Freedom boosts creativity. When people are allowed to work flexibly and with self-discipline, the chance for creative solutions significantly increases.

    • You’ll focus on outcomes, not outputs

    You will start (or improve) evaluating work based on outcomes, rather than outputs, thus ensuring higher quality and value of the final deliverable. 

    • You’ll get more mature

    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.

    • You’ll waste less time

    Remote collaboration cuts time that would otherwise get wasted, i.e. office commute and distractions.

    • Your knowledge experts will work better

    Highly specialized knowledge workers work more efficiently due to autonomy, more personal space, and way less distraction. Thus, more time is spent being focused. 

    • You can experience parallel execution

    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. 

     

    What to do to succeed?

    In order to make remote work work for you and not against you, there are a few simple rules to follow.

    • Trust your partners

    Trusting your partners is absolutely necessary to establish remote collaboration and should be viewed as the first major objective of the engagement.

    • Build trust inside

    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.

    • Agree on the touchpoints

    Clear Definition-of-Done and hand-off points must be established within the collaboration process. There’s no place for assumptions.

    • Shift the paradigm

    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.

    • Align the culture

    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.

    • Consider jurisdiction

    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.).

    • Be accountable

    Make sure you’re working with a dedicated Account Manager who takes care of the processes and relationships on the partner’s side. 

    • Remember that tools < culture

    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.

     

    Let’s talk remote

    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.

    Maciej Rohleder CSHARK
    Maciej Rohleder
    Co-founder of CSHARK and Managing Director of CSHARK SINGAPORE PTE. LTD. Maciej has a strong tech background, having worked as Senior Solution Architect for Irish FinTech unicorn - Fenergo. Overall, he has over 17 years of experience in R&D, product development as well as professional services and management, 10 years in FinTech and RegTech, wanting to spread his knowledge to help companies scale.