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Why nearshoring and agile form a golden combination

Aug 10, 2019

The agile development method is indispensable in the modern IT world. This is hardly surprising since this way of working offers plenty of room for experimentation, scalability and the generation and processing of feedback at every stage of the development process. But it is not always easy to put together the ideal team for your agile project at an affordable price, certainly not on the Dutch IT market. Nearshoring often offers a solution in that case. In this article, we show why agile and nearshoring form a golden combination.

Far away and yet close by

Partly due to the tight Dutch IT labor market, many companies nowadays choose to have complex IT applications developed abroad. Offshoring was often used in the past, but nowadays more and more modern companies use nearshoring, certainly when it comes to agile IT solutions.

Especially when working remotely, the agile method is very suitable for building a bridge between customer and developer. Because the development team is at a distance, a customer can naturally wonder “what exactly they are doing there”. The big benefit of agile over other working methods is that it is a way of developing in which all stakeholders are in constant contact with each other.

This contact between the customer and the development team can take place in many forms. “For example, we closely involve customers in daily updates”, says Typeqast CEO Sonja Meijerink. “In addition, there is a lot of communication about the specifications of the product to be built, which often happens via a clever channel such as Skype. There is also a demo every two weeks through a video call or a physical meeting between the customer and our developers in Croatia. And finally, there are the retrospectives before the start of every sprint: which things went well during the previous sprints and what could be better? In the end, there have been so many contact moments that it seems that the development team was sitting next to you all the way, instead of far away. And it is precisely that feeling of “far away yet close by” that is at the base of a good partnership.”

Scalable and flexible

It often happens that you need different people at different times during the execution of a project. For example, UX designers and DevOps are used frequently and for a longer period of time during the first phases of the development process, but less in later sprints.
In such a case, the combination of agile and nearshoring offers a solution because you can easily scale up or down capacity at an affordable price. A skilled resource planner oversees this process and knows exactly which people are available at what times to strengthen the development team and provide the needed expertise. The result: customization and the ideal team for that specific phase during every stage of the process.

Points for attention when combining agile and nearshoring

With the right approach, the combination of agile development and nearshoring is golden. But there are, of course, several important points that you must take into account to get the maximum return from the agile nearshoring combo. So it’s time to take a closer look at those factors that make agile and nearshoring beneficial.

Be proactive

Working agile means that you have to be proactive in asking questions and drawing up specifications to get the wishes and needs of the customer as clear as possible in the picture. You have to know what you are building. “At Typeqast, we therefore deliberately recruit people who can keep asking questions and retrieve specifications remotely”, says Meijerink.

Nearshoring lends itself much better to such a proactive working method than traditional offshoring. With offshoring, you often have to deal with complicating factors such as different time zones, larger language barriers and/or deeper cultural differences. Indian IT people are, for example, generally less direct than Europeans and therefore often lack the spirit to keep on asking. The problem is that you are not always sure if they have understood you and know exactly what needs to be built. The result: as a customer you run a greater risk that something will be delivered at the end of the ride that you have not actually asked for.

Proper communication

Agile is a work form that relies heavily on the principle of good and fast communication. The developing party must know clearly what needs to be built, while the customer must have the opportunity to watch in the meantime and ensure that the product to be developed meets his most important requirements, wishes, and needs.

“Success stands or falls with understanding what you have to build. What I often notice is that it helps in practice that both Dutch stakeholders and our Croatian developers communicate in English, the second language for both parties. By using simple and understandable English instead of your native language, there is a much stronger tendency to keep asking questions. In your own language you are more likely to settle for half sentences because you sooner (think to) know what exactly is meant”, explains Meijerink.

Stick to basic principles and contact moments

The power of agile is that it is not based on a plan set in stone. This allows both customer and developer to respond quickly to new developments or changing needs. Due to the absence of a black box that presets all development phases down to the smallest details, certain laziness can arise within some agile projects on a contact level. Do you want to prevent this? Then, especially for longer projects, it is important to consistently stick to the basic principles and agreed meeting and contact moments. Consider for example the daily updates, fixed weekly overviews, and scheduled demos.

Also, make sure that you continue to use the ticketing system properly. This is especially important for continuity. There is always the possibility at both parties that during the execution of a project a change of guard takes place. If you have the ticketing in order, new people or people who board later can immediately see what you have worked on and how you have done it.

Choose a partner with the same corporate culture

Agile and nearshoring only work well together if the parties involved really fit together. As a customer, therefore, choose a developer who maintains a corporate culture that is closely aligned with yours. “Do you have a flat organizational structure with short and direct communication lines? Then you would like to see that limited stratification with your partner. And if you need a small and dedicated team, it is not wise to work with one of the traditional IT giants. You often dangle at the bottom of the customer base, making it difficult to get things sorted out quickly. Most of the resources at such a company go to the larger projects”, says Sonja Meijerink.

In addition, she notes that many customers like to know who their developers are and appreciate direct contact with the development team. “That is mutual, by the way, because our developers prefer to work that way. Such a method also yields better results than when there is a construction in which one project leader is the central and single point of contact.”

A foothold in the Netherlands

It is wise for a Dutch company to work with a nearshoring partner who has a firm foothold here. The connection with the Netherlands has many practical advantages. Being able to work under Dutch law, for example, is very useful in the event of an escalation. By choosing a partner who has experience with Dutch customers, you also bypass many cultural cliffs. You know that the developers have experience with and feeling for the Dutch business culture (open, direct, not strongly hierarchical).

Pitfalls of agile and nearshoring

With the right approach, agile and nearshoring complement each other perfectly. There are, however, a few pitfalls that you need to be aware of.

Limited availability of a product owner

Combining agile and nearshoring is not a one-way street and also requires a bit of dedication from the customer. In practice, it sometimes happens that the product owner of the customer is insufficiently available. Especially in the case of agile, this is disastrous for the development process. Because not everything has planned out in advance and functionalities are perfected while building and testing, urgent questions must be answered quickly and properly to the right end result.

Scalability has its limits

Scalability and flexibility are important advantages of the combination of agile nearshoring. But sometimes this is exaggerated. If you are looking for a nearshoring partner where your demand for developers fluctuates strongly per day (one day 1 or 2 and another day 10) or you are looking for ‘half an IT person for the coming weeks’, you are not working correctly. Such an approach is equivalent to discarding knowledge and indicates poor planning. In the case of agile and nearshoring, the adage “one is none” applies, especially since you need at least two people to be able to continuously share new knowledge and insights.

The role of the development team

In the case of nearshoring, there is, of course, a physical distance. It is therefore important that the customer is aware that the remote development team works for you. Informal contact moments (such as celebrating a birthday with cake at both Dutch and foreign locations or a fun activity when you physically meet each other) help to strengthen the ties between Dutch stakeholders and the foreign development team.

Conclusion: utilize the opportunities of agile and nearshoring

Agile and nearshoring are potentially a golden combination in the development of smart IT solutions. But to get the most out of this promising combo, it is important to develop a good strategy and to take into account several important points for attention. Take a proactive approach, with the emphasis on clear communication and regular contact moments. Furthermore, it is important that the corporate cultures of the customer and the nearshoring partner are the same. And last but not least: realize as a customer that the development team works remotely for you and is a direct extension of your own organization.

Curious about the specifics and benefits of agile working and nearshoring? Do not hesitate to contact Typeqast. We have the right expertise and a wealth of experience in the field of agile development. Besides, we can retain the best IT professionals from Croatia, motivated and technically competent people with a passion for development.