Building a remote distributed team. Our experiment with oDesk
Building an independent dev team of more than 5 people in a fortnight can be difficult. Here’s what to expect if you’re still considering between a dedicated team that takes longer to recruit and onboard versus a remote team put together quickly.
Each recruiting scenario has it’s specifics and we’re firm believers of trying everything out to improve the chances of finding what works for you. So take this with a grain of salt but feel free to use it as a guideline.
Our requirements going in where to find a PM and 5 people that could work independently as a team and had a clear output based on our core team’s data input.
We had various people mention oDesk as an option to consider for sourcing and managing the whole team going forward. It looked like a good option as we didn’t expect timezone being a big problem due to how we structured the activity. oDesk’s contractors seemed to span a very broad skill set with decent rates per hour too.
After an intro to someone at oDesk their team helped us with setting up the job posts. They also curated a few candidates for each of our jobs, which was great. After going through a few oDesk contractor profiles and CVs we were impressed by the skill set and experience of some. We were about 2 days in at this point, so time-wise everyone moves quick.
Moving in to interviews and a hands-on test for the PM role is were things started to fall through the cracks though.
Communication problems, not really sure on wether simple tasks were understood or not and a general lack of dependability were common problems with some contractors. And we all felt the same way about this. We ended up not even pursuing interviewing for the other 5 roles which would have been the PMs role.
Unfortunately it was difficult to differentiate between contractors as most of them have good ratings on past projects. And while it’s understandable why you can’t see more details about those projects, it’s also not helping with the overall context of assessing someone’s work. The rates were between single digit dollars per hour and ended up topping $50/hour in some cases.
There’s probably good reasons why that’s not possible, but going deeper into what (& how) contractors delivered in the past would help a lot with finding a good fit for your projects. The current model of factoring in a CV, their rate per hour and more or less positive but vague reviews from past projects feels… limited.
I’d recommend using oDesk for some smaller projects and contractors will probably deliver efficiently on that. There does seem to be a direct correlation between price per hour and quality of work and I suspect you’ll find good fits for smaller projects with a short scope. And the support we’ve received from oDesk’s team was above average, if that’s consistent through their support teams you’ll be in good hands.
But expect to put in a lot of time to find a promising needle in a haystack and then pull the trigger on trying it out. If you can tie that risk to your objectives and live with it then pursue confidently. And don’t forget that oDesk is a marketplace, so don’t bash them if you don’t find what you’re looking for.
It’s all pretty fast too. Our team burned through this option in a short timeframe of 6 working days from initial contact to interviewing and testing a few people. In the end we decided to onboard early on the extra weight of recruiting a dedicated team in a remote office and we’re happy with our choice so far.