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Insights and tips on hiring an offshore development team

22 min read

Insights and tips on working and hiring an offshore development team is what Hristo, Business Development Manager at Devision, and Sander, CEO of ShoreTeams, discuss along with other related topics in this video. You can find the transcribed version of the video below.

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[Sander] Hi, my name is Sander, CEO of Shore Teams. Today I have an interview with the Business Development Manager of Devision Hristo Proynov.

Devision is based in Sofia, Bulgaria works for clients as ABB, local branches of Bayer,

Allianz and many other small and medium-sized Enterprises, mainly in Western Europe.

We would like you to get acquainted with mr. Proynov and Devision, and ask him to get some wonderful insights about working with an offshore development team. Thanks for being with us today.

[Hristo] Hi Sander.

[Sander] Can you tell me bit about the story of Devision?

[Hristo] Good, so we started with Devision more than 12 years ago originally as web development agency. Back then we did a lot of websites, e-commerce and corporate ones, and a lot of other projects but we were quickly involved in more complex projects where we had to develop different custom web and mobile-based software solutions, applications.

So, we had to quickly adjust our development processes more Agile like process and generally over the years we gradually switched to to this kind of agile software development model where we set an offshore development team on our side working on the more complex and long-term projects or products.

Over the past few years we are heavily specializing in more advanced technologies like IoT, different artificial intelligence and machine learning projects.

[Sander] So, quite a long past and learning. What is your background? How did you start?

[Hristo] Well, we started back in University where I being one of the Co-founders of Devision met with the other partners and co-founders. Of course, we were already knowing each other because we’re involved in different IT contests and events back in High School but we got the chance to meet and spend more time together so we saw that we have the same vision, the same passion for technology Innovation, and that’s why that’s why we decided to start this startup.

[Sander] That’s how it usually works of course. You get to know each other and if it’s there some sort of chemistry and you have the same ideas you can create something beautiful I would say. And how are you you’re 12 years are already here within Devision.

[Hristo] Yeah, absolutely.

[Sander] Okay. So what do you consider to be your secret sauce, you know, for example, what are the three leadership principles that you have discovered that may be executed and that would have contributed to your success?

[Hristo] Well, I would say that first, as already mentioned, our appetite for innovation and our desire to constantly outdo ourselves is the one of our core principles that kept us together. Secondly, our hands-on approach. We generally try to be involved in all the difference projects different collaborations and to help the the offshore development team, the team leads with our expertise not only for the technical aspects but also in the business one, having background in software development and also being entrepreneurs. And also we try to foster transparent environment internally here at Devision and also together with our clients. We have a direct communication so all the problems, issues, goals are communicated and this is generally a very important if you want to build long-term relationship.

[Sander] Yeah, I think communication is probably the most important thing, you know, especially when you work remotely but communication even within an office communication is probably the most important and especially if you work remotely make sure that you communicate everything really well and being transparent, what you said.

Okay, so if we go back to Devision, what are you considering the biggest strength of Devision?

[Hristo] I would say our engineering skills and mindset.We are not the typical outsourcing, staffing or enterprise set up. I can say that we are more or less a group of software engineers with passion for innovation and solving challenging technical problems. Of course, as a company we provide end-to-end service. So everything from UI/UX to manage service, but generally our core strength is within the development and the engineering area and also for the majority of the specialists here.

[Sander] How do you then take care of your stuff? And how do you create team spirit?

[Hristo] Well, if we take an aside all the typically HR activities, team buildings, social benefits and perks, which is something as standard now in the industry. I would say, first, by getting example and being strong leadership, being involved in the project not just standing outside but being inside and helping the team and team leads. This plays a very good role in the company. As I said, also we are not a very big or an Enterprise company. We try to be small as a number and we are very cautious when it comes to hiring new people. We have a very steady growth. For example, we don’t have the plans to double our size in the next or two years. We try to have a family like environment and involve people which fit into our company culture and mindset.

[Sander] I would say that’s also good for a long-term relationship in this unstable situation, right?

If you don’t, you don’t have the need or the desire to double this fast and you have more of a focus on know people who feel welcome and were part of the family, part of the offshore development team, you know, which creates an environment where people want to work and want to stay which is good for the client, as well. Right?

Because the longer they stay and the longer they’re happy, you know, the better it is for, of course, Devision but definitely also for the client, because, if you can enjoy the the people for as long as possible and if you create you said the environment that they are actually enjoying themselves and they don’t want to leave right because they can earn something more somewhere else or whatever for what reason, because, they simply like it, because it is their family. I would say that’s the perfect set up.

[Hristo] Yeah, absolutely agree.

And yeah, I would say that here in our team there are people which have more than 7 years which for an IT is a long time.

[Sander] Yeah, it’s a long time. So what tools for collaboration and remote work do you or does your offshore development teams have experience with?

[Hristo] In general we work with the tools, infrastructure and systems of our client. For example some of our clients use Azure, Azure stack like Microsoft Teams, Azure DevOps. Others use Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket, GitHub. So, we are very flexible in this area and we use the tooling and infrastructure provided by our clients and we augment into their development process. Internally we use GitLab, Slack and Trello boards currently.

[Sander] And so would you recommend those also to anyone who isn’t using anything yet?

[Hristo] Yeah, absolutely. Generally, it works well for us this combination and more or less it is important to have a very well-structured environment, development environment, development process, which is already set up.

[Sander] And what would be the ideal start for a team? Can you explain your typical process?

[Hristo] Yes. So for every new project or offshore development team, we usually have a short to discovery stage. We typically involve some of our Technical leads at the beginning. And we work well with our clients and their development team to identify the requirements, business goals, risks, and the idea is to have all the necessary artefacts before we start the actual development process. So for us the most important artefacts are to have all the necessary development and collaboration tools in place, to have a very well-defined backlog. And to have an automated continuous integration and continuous delivery pipeline set in place and also all the necessary, like coding guidelines, all the other policies, for example, testing, testing coverage. In some of the cases where our clients have this all in place we just have to review it. Sometimes we provide ideas for adjustments, improvements of the process more or less if the client doesn’t have experience working with an offshore development team. So our idea here is to just augment their existing development team and here we can relatively quickly on board developers and begin the actual development process. In other situations we have to start from scratch. So there we involve some of our most experienced technical experts which have more than 10 or 12 years experience with enterprise-grade applications and project so they setup all the necessary tools, infrastructure, processes, policies and generally the next important step is to identify the Lead developer. For us, this is the most important person which is responsible for like, not only the development, not only consulting but providing ideas and suggestions, recommendations for technology choices and selection, design, sometimes architectural decisions, but also this person works together with the team, do coaching, code reviews. So once we identify this person, we then gradually on-board additional developer mid or senior level, sometimes junior, QA engineers and others. And then we begin the actual development process. It’s usually Scrum sometimes Kanban but depends on the project the clients, and the particular case.

[Sander] Yeah, well, at least you have a lot of different options and you have I believe a well structured way of getting started, which is good for, you know, for any company, if you want to start with an offshore development team, it’s good to have the guidance. So if you have maybe some processes in place, you know, you have the experience, you can adjust it where necessary and then improve the way of working out which is really strong. Now, nowadays, you know, with Covid, you know, the world is changing and how is it changed your business models, processes and so on?

[Hristo] Yes, Covid is a real challenge, this lockdown situation. Probably in IT we are one of the industries and sectors where, for now, the effects were not as heavy as, for example, other industries like automotive and aviation. I remember back in March when they announce this lockdown we had to quickly transform our workflow for this remote setup. So it was like on Friday we decided to do it, like from next week we are remote. It was a bit of a hassle over the weekend, but on Monday, actually we continued working remotely and we continue with this kind of model. It was a bit of an overhead with the communication at the beginning we had to book a lot of additional slots daily, weekly, etc not only internally but also with our clients, with other offshore teams. When I look at my calendar and my colleagues I see that it’s full until Thursday some free time slots on Friday. So this was one of the changes. The other one is that now we are more or less remote-first company. It’s has proved for us that it works well. We think we’ll continue this way.

[Sander] Yeah, I can imagine this for a lot of companies the remote first way of working is going to be the new way ofworking, you know, we all are forced to work from home and to find solutions and I think it’s not only you but the other companies as well. They have made shift in days, now what will usually take years for companies to accomplish they can do it in days, you know, you did it over the weekend. And of course, of course you are in the industry and in the business that you know how to work remotely, right, it’s part of your business still you have everything in office and you have meetings and you have everything scheduled like many companies and I think it’s a good example of, you know, how change can take place how quickly we can do it. It’s only a mindset actually of doing it and, you know, that if you can get everyone aligned and if it only takes a weekend to get it done, you know, you’ll have your issues. Yes, of course everyone will have the issue of. But in the end, I think it’s a it’s an amazing achievement not only for you but for a lot of other companies, of course, who did this.

[Hristo] Absolutely, we have all the technology or policies like information security, quality assurance, ISO certifications, but it was Covid that actually prompted us to do this change. Actually, we were already thinking about this a few years ago, but it was now with Covid that we actually did it. And I believe for other companies as well.

[Sander] It’s simply because you have to and so yes, it’s a terrible thing, you know, everything that’s happened in the world. On the other hand, it opens new doors and new ways of working which is in my opinion very interesting, as well, you know. So hopefully we can get it under control really, really, soon on a global level and then we can move forward with a new way of working. But that would mean that we would actually benefit from now on from the fact that it happened.

[Hristo] It has happened, so we shouldn’t focus on the negative aspects and more or less focus on the new challenges and opportunities.

[Sander] I agree, so what do you think about Shore Team?

Actually, we collaborate with Shore Teams for more than 2 years now. So I’m very pleased with the communication, with their process and all the opportunities that we have managed to work on together. I’m very satisfied because they’re in a way targeting what we are currently looking for as a company, in terms of technologies, in terms of projects.

[Sander] Yeah, okay. That’s great. Of course. And and what do you think is the biggest strength of Short Teams?

[Hristo] Yeah, I already mentioned this. I am quite please with the number of leads and opportunities we have received which fit perfectly into our technical expertise and also in terms of projects that we are looking for.

[Sander] Okay, so I believe we’re getting towards the last question.

So what do you think in which direction is IT moving in the let’s say coming 5 years?

[Hristo] The most difficult question as the [Sander] For sure. [Hristo] final one.

[Hristo] If you asked me this months before Covid, I would say blockchain, artificial intelligence, all the buzzwords and generally now after Covid I think it will be difficult to somehow say what will be the future because things are quite dynamic. But I think that there a lot of challenges currently that we all face so it is up to technology that has to provide some meaningful solutions. In terms of, first, the challenges with the logistics, supply chain, aviation, restrictions. I believe in distributed technologies, like blockchain, artificial intelligence that will provide new solutions and more smart ways.

Actually, we already do some kind of startup for Smart Energy. We see a huge demand for this because of the climate change topics, renewable energy sources, decentralisation and this is also affecting a lot of other industries. So I think we’ll see a big changes in the coming years and I believe technology will be the solution for digitalising and transforming some of the legacy industries and processes that are currently in place.

[Sander] So that deal with situations like Covid. In the end, I think we can look at it was a bright new future ahead of us in IT but I would say also outside IT, because IT will provide solutions for a you know, I would say more sustainable way of generating energy and, you know, any other problems we currently have.

[Hristo] Absolutely, absolutely, agree with this.

[Sander] Okay, thank you very much for a for your time today, for your insights, and of course for introducing yourself and Devision. You know, it was please talking to you as always. So, thanks for now and I hope that the viewers will enjoy these insights.

[Hristo] Thank you for your time as well and all efforts done for us.

[Sander] Okay. Thank you. Bue

[Hristo] Thanks. Bye.

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