We are all, to some degree, slaves to our individual opinions and I’m no exception. However, I find it a somewhat therapeutic and mind-clearing exercise to move to the other side of the table and lend my backing and support to something that I generally wouldn’t campaign for.
Today, I’m doing this exercise with the topic of off-shoring and providing reasons for doing so.
A little bit on my experience with off-shoring. In the early 2000’s, I had the unique responsibility of starting and growing an off-shore presence for the software development team that I was a part of. This included interviewing countless number of applicants, hiring the the very first two folks who joined the team and mentoring them until they were fully integrated with the rest of the team.
I must say that I am very glad that I had that opportunity as it exposed me in a first-hand way to what it takes to successfully have an off-shore development team. The long hours of telephone calls, the nights with a couple of hours of sleep, multiple (long) trips to the continent of India, are just examples of the toll that needed to be paid to get things off the ground. I must be very careful here to note that I wasn’t the only one making that investment. The two people who had just joined this team and were trying to succeed where also making a significant investment. The scary thing about it quite honestly, is that I had nowhere the insight into successful collaborations as I do now. Reaffirming once again, in my mind, that most organizations survive not necessarily because they are good, but because no one knows any better (but I digress). This initial investment was made (somewhere between 1 to 2 years) and after that they were able to bring on others to the group by themselves and continued to grow the group somewhat on their own. At the time I left the organization, the off-shore folks outnumbered the on-shore folks on the team and the off-shore team and were generally very productive.
So if I had a good experience (which doesn’t seem to be the case for most people), why is it then that I seem particularly anti-offshoring? Well, because of four major reasons that I can think of right now:
- Most organizations offshore to reduce cost without giving consideration to the fact that there are other variables (such as quality or delivery times) that they are impacting
- Most organizations will not make the investment required to successfully have offshore teams
- Most organizations fail to understand that product development is hugely dependent on human collaboration/interactions and have the misconception that its just about smart people writing code around the clock. (Oh that’s why we’re called resources isn’t it?)
- Those who decide that an organization should offshore are generally least informed about what is really required for it to succeed
So dear technology executive, this brings me to the point where I give you reasons and encourage you to offshore. As a technology executive, if the following things apply to you, then you have every reason to leverage an offshore team in your product development space.
- The end users and the off-shore team are geographically located in the same place
- Lowering personnel cost is more important than costs incurred by from lower throughput (at least in the short-term)
- The products (or enhancements) being developed are not strategic and are more utilitarian or support-oriented.
- You will make a significant technological investment in communication tools to ensure that collaboration is at its best
- The offshore team understands the domain (and technology) fully or an investment will be made to have domain experts present to support the team locally
- You intend to staff all the key roles required for successful software delivery in the offshore team
- You will pay for good offshore talent
- You will make every effort to develop the members your offshore team and provide them with new opportunities so as to reduce turnover (and having to start again)
- You have committed onshore folks who will work to make the offshore initiative successful
This is by no means an exhaustive list, if however, you don’t intend to do these things or the circumstances don’t apply to you, venture in at your own risk. But before you do decide, seek the advice of those who really know what product development is about (and no, just because someone has a computer-related degree, it doesn’t make them knowledgeable).
A word is enough for the wise.