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How to Manage a Global Team

Keith Tan
November 7, 2016

Outsourcing may be the answer to your HR woes, but how do you manage distributed teams?

Managing a remote office is common nowadays, simply because it offers so many advantages: “Distributed teams”, as they are commonly known, can work on projects around the clock and — as we’ve mentioned before —  more affordable and often stronger talent can be found in developing countries.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a stress-free experience for a young CEO.
You’ve got to think about time zones (imagine coordinating meetings with someone in New York, 12 hours behind Singapore — someone’s always going to have to work overtime just to make it). Instilling your company culture in people so far away also poses a challenge. And let’s not forget cross-cultural issues — there are holidays the other teams might celebrate that you’ve never even heard of.

Don’t be discouraged though. Here’s a few simple tips to bridge local and remote offices, so you’ll never realise that your tech talent is in Indonesia, and not with you at the Launchpad.

Spread the love:
Make sure that each team is self-sufficient, so that no one has to wait hours for the other team to come on. Distribute knowledge — of everything, including codes, systems and processes — throughout teams, so that the annual Cuti Bersama celebration (an Indonesian public holiday) doesn’t leave you paralysed.

Get personal:
It may seem expensive, but getting your teams to meet every now and then is priceless. Video conferencing can be an option if it’s not financially viable to organise a retreat. Consider having your team members rotate through your offices on short stints, so they better understand the challenges and strengths of each team.

Clarity matters:
No more vague policies, no loopholes — everything, including instructions, operating procedures and definitions should be spelled out in black and white. This is also useful when teams aren’t online at the same time.

The Golden Intersection:
There’s likely a golden hour of opportunity that allows teams between time zones to interact . Use these for meetings, but make sure they are conducive and effective.

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PS: This is an opinion piece by Keith Tan, Group CEO of Wonderlabs. Wonderlabs is the leading service provider helping companies build and manage software development teams in Indonesia and Vietnam. Across our various shared and dedicated centers, we have over 350+ active software developers. Since our founding in 2015, we have grown rapidly through innovation and our relentless mission focus - Connecting you to success and productivity. Alumni of Wonderlabs have gone on to work at some of the biggest companies in Southeast Asia.
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Why Singapore Startups should consider setting up here

"I started Wonderlabs because I experienced the problems of building and managing a distributed software development team in Indonesia from 2011 to 2015. I wanted to make it seamless and frictionless for companies to build and manage teams. On the other hand, I found that there are so many amazing software engineers in Indonesia and Vietnam and wanted to connect them to employers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta" - Ivan Chang, Executive Chairman, Wonderlabs Group


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