Is a Time Zone Difference Really a Problem?

A developer hits a roadblock. Two possible solutions, two different outcomes—and neither one is exactly what you, the client, want. The developer is confused. He needs to talk to you. Now.

But the developer is nine hours ahead. And as he stares at his code, frantically trying to figure out what to do, you’re sound asleep.

The wide-eyed developer can do nothing but wait.

That’s why it’s a terrible idea for your West Coast-based company to hire a team that works overseas, in Prague. The end.

Right?

Of course not. Because a number of details outlined above simply do not happen—if you hire a professional team with a specific focus on working with a different time zone. And if they’ve mastered an organized collaborative approach.

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WHAT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN WHEN HIRING PROS

Let’s dissect the scenario above, whilst under the assumption that you are working with experts who have a strong system of communication in place.

Rarely will an accomplished developer (or designer) be confused, frantic or wide-eyed because he can’t reach you.

That sort of uncertainty signals insufficient communication and, more importantly, a lack of experience with time differences.

A design & dev company with a track record of working with businesses overseas knows what’s needed to predict and avoid issues.

By utilizing sensible internal rules, practical tools and time-tested management methods, an experienced team understands the client’s needs and expectations top to bottom, and certainly isn’t afraid of a time gap.

So if there’s an issue while you’re sleeping, it’ll probably be resolved with maximum dexterity by the time your morning alarm starts buzzing.

HOW STRV HANDLES ANY TIME DIFFERENCE

STRV doesn’t work with American businesses on occasion. We partner with companies outside of our time zone—most often in West-Coast U.S.—exclusively.

What does that mean?

It means that from expanding our client’s team with additional skills to delivering full products, we’ve tailored everything we do to suit a time difference. From the very first meeting, all the way to the finish line.

Our designers, developers, product managers and QA team know that they might be asked to fly to a different country for a few days, weeks, even months. They know that their working hours may differ from one day to the next. And they’re cool with it.

The STRV approach is built on flexibility. And only those who thrive in this unique environment join our team.

With more than 400 apps successfully delivered since 2004, we know how to make the best of a time difference. (In fact, we’d confidently argue that being hours ahead is actually an advantage. More on that later.)  

Here’s what we prioritize.

PROPER TEAM MANAGEMENT & TAILOR-MADE STRUCTURE

A well-organized team is crucial to proper communication with the client. Depending on the size of the project, the scope of necessary skills and the type of collaboration, we ensure that there is no guesswork in our planning process. And no work left unaccounted for.

From Product Managers to Dev Leads, the team structure we ultimately land on must allow us to guarantee three things:

1) The entire team is absolutely clear on what is expected of them and the project as a whole

2) The product or skills needed will be delivered successfully and on-time

3) All deadlines we establish can be realistically met, regardless of obstacles

METICULOUS LONGTERM & SHORT-TERM PLANNING

With a suitable team structure firmly in place, planning is a huge factor in whether or not things will get done right, and on time.

The foundation of a partnership spanning multiple time zones lies in going over the schedule and availability of every person involved. On both the STRV- and the client-side. People often don't realize that there's actually a significant time overlap during working hours, which makes the process of deciding on suitable meeting times quite easy.

Our developers and designers work on one project at a time. Add to that the mindset of incessant flexibility, and you’ve got an exceptionally available team. Additionally, past projects have taught us that things change. As a project evolves, so does the form and frequency of communication with our partners. Stand-ups may need to be less frequent, but might end up being more productive at a different time.

We’re prepared for these changes and make sure that they’re carefully considered and implemented.

After establishing availability, we organize all communication to make the most of the time overlap. This includes:

  • Longterm roadmap outlining milestones and leading to the main target(s)
  • Regular (i.e. daily and/or weekly) stand-ups, which are short meetings meant for discussing specific details, not general progress
  • Agile methodology - STRV utilizes its own approach based on SCRUM, but not quite as strict as pure SCRUM, which implements the “sprint” concept
  • Regular meetings and activities during development sprints (i.e. backlog refinement, sprint planning, daily updates, sprint ending demo and report, plus review and retrospective)
  • In-person internal meetings and online client meetings, the frequency of which depends on need and type of project
  • Jira and other tools, all of which we have configured to suit us and our process for optimal delivery of digital products

This thoughtful planning and clear communication ensure that:

  • After finishing a task, our team doesn’t have to wait for a meeting to find out what’s next; so if there is an issue that requires the client’s feedback, they can work on numerous other tasks in the meantime
  • Every aspect of past and future work has been discussed, and our designers and developers can deal with issues immediately—without having to check with the client—because everyone has the same goals in mind
  • The client has grown to understand and respect the team’s skills, experience and insight, and therefore trusts us to direct them on some decisions as experts in what we do
  • Things are handled proactively instead of just reactively; surprises will come up but the majority of the time we are predicting the next problem that may occur, calling it out and tackling it together before it becomes a major issue

THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A TEAM 9 HRS AHEAD

“You’re saying there are benefits of being across the world from what is essentially a part of your team?”

That’s absolutely what we’re saying.

  • You wake up to a full overview of what’s been accomplished during the day. (Remember, this is the day that has just started for you.)
  • The review can be in the form of a thorough written overview, or a (virtual) face-to-face stand-up that allows for full-fledged discussion. Whichever you prefer.
  • You have the entire working day to review what’s been accomplished, organize your thoughts and settle on what you’d like to go over in detail, reconsider, expedite, comment, etc. (Having the time to write things out and think decisions through can help remove some emotional, in-the-moment bias.)
  • Depending on priorities and deadlines, you can set up a second time to communicate with the team— in order to go over the next day’s tasks, or any other relevant topic.
  • And when you and your entire in-house team go to sleep, you’ve got another team fully alert, watching over your product or service. That’s 24 hours a day of someone ensuring everything is functioning as it should.

That kind of productivity provides a competitive advantage. Not to mention peace of mind.

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Linda Krestanova

Linda Krestanova

STRV's copywriter. Traveler, hiker, journalist — with a love for weird food and curiosity at peak levels.

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