When NOT to offshore ?
Posted by sureshkrishna on June 29, 2007
Recently i have started realizing the side effects of offshoring. I have already worked with off shoring projects for many years and and i was pretty convinced with this model. Its been almost from past 10 months that i am seeing some (more) challenging topics in this model.
Probably let me explain with the current model that we have. Its a product development company, we have engineering, product management, sales and QA teams wide spread across continents. Engineering team it self is spread out. Now… this product has a LOT of innovation, few resources, lot of accountability and responsibility on each team member. I am sure many of us do have this kind of scenario….but i want to publish my own observations.
Vision : Off shoring team does not share the same vision as ABC Company. The future technology direction, how to move swiftly in the competitive market, what does the sales team need, what does the end customer/user needs, etc.. are different kind of questions that basically makes our thought process to go in a single direction. When these kind of questions and answers are not visualized in individuals mind, its very difficult to drive everyone for a common goal.
Communication : As the company is very small the decisions are very fast and some time its very very difficult to communicate each and every decision taken. When decisions are taken and communicated, we are very notorious in just mentioning What you need ?. And now for the people sitting across 10,000 distance, it difficult to comprehend the cause-effect scenarios and especially Why you need something ?. Because of the geographical and cultural barriers, we tend to get offended to lot of mail communication. We are too good at arguing and sending some nasty mail chains till some one puts an end to it.
Innovation : First things first. Innovation needs motivation. People need to understand that even to work within their 8 hours/day contract also needs motivation. The very common aspect of the offshore team to be inert is that they tend to think that other guys (customer/coordinator) is sitting in a beautiful country, Why should i break my head for him. When you do not have motivation, you dont care about anything. You are least bothered about the innovation, you are good at repeating the same job again and agin and thats it.
Incremental development : Oh man….never ever do this. I mean Incremental development spread across the geo graphies on the same module. You would see night mares. It might be OK, for initial few months, but once you get a initial shape to the product/module then you will start realizing many things. The module coherence, coding styles, redundancy in code, fix the bugs, revert again, etc… If you can , have the complete modules distributed across. But dont distribute a single module. Some time with these kind of decisions you can ruin your product delivery dates.
Estimation and Scheduling : Do not ever estimate and schedule for a team in teh offshore. That would be like keep a time bomb in your shoe. Understand that the offshore team is with a different mindset, different culture, diffeent personal problems and priorities. Let them estimate and decide when they want to do and just ask them a delivery date. Of course you can always influence and negotiate the deadlines. On that level i feel, its better to kind of macro manage on the estimates and scheduling on the tasks and do a micro management on the delivery dates.
In the end, if you are a Director, Program/Project Manager, VP involved in off shoring, you know what i have written, but the only thing i want to highlight is that you need to take the offshoring decisions consciously. You need to keep in mind all the effects and side-effects of it. Its better to be informed about effects of decisions rather repent the decisions.