Case study: OVPN

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We came to Beetroot on the recommendation of friends who’ve had a team at Beetroot for a few years.

Setting up

At OVPN we have a lot of in-house technical talent but with this new team we were out on a limb as we hadn’t hired C++ resources before and couldn’t assess technical seniority. So, it helped that Beetroot provided the tests.

Before starting talks with Beetroot, we had already been looking for a while. Because of this, we were happily surprised by how quickly our team got started. It can take one or two months to get up to speed depending on the size of the project and how much existing code there is to get to know. We were able to extend the trial period to make sure things were working out before committing entirely to Beetroot.

Challenges

It’s not all plain sailing though; language and cultural barriers are there. We’ve learned that when Russian language translates into English it sounds very rough, especially when writing over Slack! They don’t have the niceties or use all the little words to make feedback polite. As an example, they may just write “yes” “no” when answering questions.

One can’t expect that hiring a consultant via Beetroot will work by itself. Managing a team via Beetroot is no different from managing an in-house team. After initial barriers were overcome, we still need to put a considerable amount of work into improving project management, providing feedback for coming sprints.

Another realization we came to is that technical developers, regardless of them being consultants or in-house developers, aren’t necessarily end-user value oriented. One should expect that some effort has to be put into making sure that developers learn that “better code and solutions aren’t always what the product/project needs.” Better code and solutions come at the cost of time. A project manager must know and very clearly explain where corners can be cut, to save time and avoid inefficiencies in the development process. This is obviously a challenge that exists in in-house teams as well, but language barriers and cultural differences can make it tougher to convey.

However, there are definitely things you can do to minimize language barriers. We’ve visited the team a lot and devoted time in getting to know them. We have developed a great bond and we’ve learned how clear we need to define specifications for their tasks. We’ve arrived at the point where we are all comfortable criticizing each other and pointing out things that could be done better. Now the barriers are as low as they can be.

Beetroot has been responsive and flexible towards our needs. For example, we wanted to make some changes to their standard HR and IT processes and they’ve met our requests within a short period of time.

Benefits

In general, it’s been a huge improvement over contractors. We felt contractors were always out to sell more hours. The permanent guys we have now instead care about the product, take responsibility and work very hard.

In Sweden full-time resources are expensive. Salaries in Ukraine are obviously lower which means we get more for our money. However, working with Ukrainians is not just better financially. They are also technically strong and there is a good social match between Sweden and Ukraine. Before we started the Ukraine team we were lagging behind on product development but now we are growing the Ukraine team and things are moving in the right direction.

The office hours are different in Ukraine and as we get more done when we the whole team is working at the same time, we’ve actively asked our guys to always be in the office between 9-9.30 am (8-8.30 am our local time), which is relatively early by Ukrainian standards. If you require matching hours for meetings and team synergies, we recommend making the working hours clear in the beginning.

Even though our consultants are co-located we feel we are beginning to get a welded team. Some barriers are inevitable when having the team split into two locations, but it feels good that Beetroot provides a calm and good working environment in which we know our guys enjoy working.

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