8 Best Practices To Overcome Cultural Differences In Offshore Software Development


Are you curious about how to encourage a better working relationship between your offshore and onshore software development teams? Do you want to improve the efficiency of your software development project? Even more, are you looking to overcome culture-related conflicts with your offshore development team? 


If you answered ‘yes!’ to any of these questions, then you’ve come to the right place. Dealing with cultural differences when working with an offshore team is a common problem that many businesses face. As a supplier of professional offshore developers in the Philippines, at Cloud Employee, we understand the problems you may be experiencing. That’s why when hire developers through us, we not only handle recruitment, but also regular performance reviews and all local administration; including licensing, permits, payroll, and general HR. This further limits the chances of the miscommunication caused by cultural differences.


That being said, to help you maneuver your way through this issue, this article addresses eight effective practices to adopt to overcome cultural differences in offshore software development.


1. Consider low-context versus high-context cultural aspects

When it comes to communication, how decisions are made, and personal relationships are formed, countries can be classified into low and high-context cultures. Low-context cultures follow a more logical decision-making style, encourage and obey written commitments, have individualistic working styles, and do not typically encourage personal relationships formed in a work environment. 


Countries like England and the US fall under this category. On the other hand, high-context countries have a more intuitive decision-making style, place more value on oral agreements, have team-oriented working styles, and usually encourage personal relationships being formed in a work environment. These relationships have the power to influence business decisions. 

Countries like China and India fall into this category. 


Understanding these cultural differences will make you more in tune with specific differences that could lead to friction between your offshore and onshore team


As such, you'll be able to handle them better. To reduce the chances of experiencing cultural conflict, start by communicating your company’s culture early on, and motivate the offshore team to do so the same. This ensures that everyone has a clear understanding of each other from the get-go.


2. Cultural awareness training programs

It is not enough to know the differences between low-context and high-context cultures if these differences cannot be communicated to both the onshore and offshore teams. They need to be aware of the cultural differences, but they also need to be trained on how to address and handle them. This is where cultural awareness training comes in. 


Cultural awareness involves putting together training workshops for the onshore and offshore teams so that both sides can be adequately educated on each other’s cultural practices. Workshops like these ensure that both teams understand each other enough, and as a result, this promotes a better working relationship between them. Keep in mind that with a program like this, you will have to set aside resources to fund it, but the cost advantage is often worth it.


3. Choose an effective development methodology

The two most common types of development methodologies are the waterfall and agile methodology. Teams that adopt the waterfall methodology prefer clearly defined tasks at every stage of a project and a clear line that separates each stage. A lot of countries in Asia, like India and China, work better when given tasks using the waterfall methodology. Alternatively, the agile method involves a more laid-back approach to executing projects, with the possibility of change even during the development stages. 


Countries like the US and Ukraine respond better to the agile methodology. Understanding these types of methods can help you when choosing an offshore team—selecting an outsourcing agency that adopts the same development methodology you use can make your working life more manageable. 


But, suppose you choose a team with an opposing development methodology. In that case, it is crucial to understand how they work and to provide them with tasks using processes they are familiar with.


4. Honest and regular communication

Communication is one of the most common approaches to dealing with cultural differences, and for a good reason too. You see, it is also one of the most effective methods. No business relationship can work well without effective communication. Merely being aware of this takes you one step closer to successfully executing a successful software development project. 


You need to establish a good communication strategy and channel between your onshore and offshore teams, which means that merely communicating through emails will not suffice. Thanks to technological developments, you can hold video conferencing team meetings on platforms like Microsoft team and Slack. 


Ensure that you set up meetings where any project or cultural related issue can be discussed openly and honestly between team members. Just as important as it is to be open in communication, being consistent is key.  So, make sure that your onshore and offshore teams connect regularly.


5. Try to encourage offline meetings

Collaborating online is a workable process, but as often as you can, try to encourage physical meet-ups between your onshore and offshore team members. Doing this at the beginning of your project allows both teams to get a feel of how they work. More so, putting in an effort to include your offshore team members in company team building activities will encourage better communication and relationship between both teams. 


Besides, there are several benefits of face to face interaction in this context. For example, both the onshore and offshore teams get the opportunity to meet people from different cultures, and they learn from each other culturally and work-wise. They can also share technology expertise and adopt better working approaches to execute software development projects.


6. Establish and communicate clear goals

When working with team members from different cultures, it is paramount that you establish a clear set of goals, tasks, and priorities. Setting goals is essential because it gives each person a set definition of what they need to get done. If you do not set clear goals and communicate them with both the onshore and offshore team, you leave room for conflict. Alongside establishing and sharing your project goals, you also need to establish the quality of work that is considered acceptable. 


This ensures that no team member is delivering subpar work that can compromise the overall quality of the project. In fact, a clear description of the acceptable standard of work should be included in the contract drawn at the beginning of the collaboration to avoid any conflict or confusion.


7. Test before making a commitment

Choosing a remote team that is compatible with your current onshore team can be a very tricky process, which is why it is best to check how well the teams collaborate before signing any final contracts. You don’t have to test their collaboration by assigning them huge tasks. 


You can start with something small. Doing that allows you to gauge the quality of your work and the performance of both teams when they work together. With that in place, you'll get a general idea of how well the onshore and offshore team will work together. This can help you avoid unnecessary conflicts in the future.  


8. Provide adequate leadership

Even with outsourcing your software development, you need to ensure that there is a clear leadership role being filled. Establishing and communicating a chain of command to your onshore and offshore team members is essential when combining in-house and remote workers. 


The manager should be able to discuss tasks, address communication issues, and assign work. If everyone knows who they are reporting to, this drastically reduces your chances of running into any communication or cultural related issues with your teams.



  • What are some examples of cultural differences?

Some common examples of cultural differences in the working environment include the individualistic vs. a collective style of working, a low vs. high gender egalitarianism view, and even the high vs. low level of assertiveness in the workplace. 


  • Do cultural differences cause problems?

There is a very good possibility that cultural differences will cause problems, especially in the workplace. This will most likely happen if there is no effective communication or training program to create awareness and educate team members on dealing with these differences when working together.


  • How do you encounter cultural differences?

Cultural differences in a work environment are commonly encountered when people from different parts of the world work on a given project. This creates an opportunity for them to witness differences in behavior resulting from the differences in culture.


To Summarise

Encountering cultural differences when working with an offshore software development team is very common. This doesn’t mean that you should fret if you come across these areas of conflict. It is important to remember that cultural differences present you with an opportunity to learn something new, treat those issues with patience and direction, and think of them as a learning curve. 


In addition to that, implementing the eight different approaches addressed above can help you better handle any cultural conflicts you might face. It equally facilitates better working relationships between your multicultural team members, which typically results in a well-executed project.


We hope you found this article useful. Here at Cloud Employee, we assist companies looking to hire dedicated offshore developers across many technologies. Talk to us, learn more how Cloud Employee works, or see our Developer Pricing Guide.

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