Outsourcing

10 things you should know about working with an offshore team

Every project has challenges -- and having part of your team on the other side of the world only amplifies them. But knowing what to expect when working with an offshore group will help you avoid misunderstandings and keep the project on track.

Every project has challenges -- and having part of your team on the other side of the world only amplifies them. But knowing what to expect when working with an offshore group will help you avoid misunderstandings and keep the project on track.


As companies try to get the most for their information technology dollar, it seems the conversation inevitably leads to the merits of offshore services. It should be no surprise that there are both advantages and disadvantages to using offshore resources for some, or all, of your IT needs. A brief treatment of the factors involved is not likely to influence whether your company outsources to offshore. But acquainting yourself with the various aspects of offshoring will prepare you for what to expect and help you be more effective in your interactions.

"Offshore" is broad in its implications and can cover many cultures and types of relationships. For simplicity, we will consider the situation of a United States-based company offshoring the programming portion of its project to India.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: The time difference is good

When you are sleeping, work can continue on the other side of the world. At 9:30 PM Eastern Standard Time on the east coast, your colleagues in Bangalore will be arriving to work at 8:00 AM their time. The design problems you have been mulling over during your workday can be bundled up and shipped off for the offshore team. They can continue their development work, while you get a good night's sleep.

For this to work, of course, there must be good coordination and processes. In fact, it will require more coordination than you might realize. However, if you come up with a process that works effectively, you can leverage the time differential for an operation that runs day and night.

#2: The time difference is not good

Different parts of a project's life cycle require different levels of communication. With a relatively narrow window during which the workdays of India and the United States overlap, it can be difficult getting the answers you need when you need them. When that happens, a question that can be answered in five minutes by a colleague in the next cubicle might take until the next day. In fact, a one-day turnaround might be optimistic. If your problem or question is not understood, the back and forth can result in days passing before a problem is resolved -- a disastrous situation for a project-critical issue.

Fortunately, the problems associated with an offshore time difference can be mitigated to some degree. The work schedules off shore can be shifted later, and/or the work in the States can be pushed up to increase the time for interactions. A 7:00 AM meeting may not be the way you would like to start the day, but your offshore counterpart may not be especially thrilled about staying late, either. The good news is that you really need to do this only when the need arises and not throughout the entire project.

#3: Cultural communication differences can create confusion

This probably is not true of everyone in India, but there does seem to be a tendency to avoid giving negative responses. And if you're dealing with junior individuals, they may not speak up on an issue without permission by a supervisor.

"Yes" is a word you are likely hear quite a bit. If you ask your offshore counterparts if they can have a task completed by the end of business tomorrow, and they say "Yes," you may not have received the response you think. While you think you heard "Yes, it will be done," they are more likely saying "Yes, I understand" or "Yes, I'll do my best." Understand this subtly of communication, and things will go much smoother.

#4: They have a life too

I have, unfortunately, witnessed an attitude in the United States in which offshore resources were viewed as slave labor. I don't think that those situations were the result of conscious thought or mal-intent. But being out of sight and somewhat out of mind, offshore can start to become a faceless dumping ground for as much as you can throw at them. That is just plain wrong on many levels.

Your colleagues offshore have families, lives, and bills to pay just like you do. Treat them like you would a team member in the next room. Do this, and you will have the foundation for a healthy, effective team. Besides being the right thing to do, it makes for better collaboration and is simply good business.

#5: High turnover is a problem

The India IT job market is plagued with high turnover. I have seen figures ranging from 20 to 50 percent. You need to be aware that the person you are working with today may not be the person you will be working with tomorrow. Further, your current team may not have been there very long.

This represents a huge potential for knowledge loss and an overall low level of expertise with your system. Be prepared for it and manage it as best you can.

#6: Different life/business experiences mean different assumptions

You know how your users respond to situations and what their work environment is like. Your offshore team probably does not. Whether it's how an input screen is designed or the way your users utilize reports, you will probably need to be painfully specific in your design because your assumptions will likely be different from those made offshore. Those workers are not inexperienced; they have just had different experiences.

#7: Things may get lost in translation

A number of offshore team members I have worked with spoke better English than some of their American counterparts. That said, you will probably find that there are differences in the more British English they are using in India as compared to American English. Even everyday expressions may come off sounding very strange when heard by a foreign ear.

This does not mean you have to worry about what you say or choose your words extra carefully. What it does mean is that you should not assume everything you are saying is being immediately understood. Just as you might wait until after a conversation to look up a word you didn't understand, your offshore team may be doing the same with parts of your speech.

#8: Good in one thing does not mean good in all

Like any other IT shop -- or any other business, for that matter -- skills and expertise may be specialized. Just because the offshore group is well known for its programming prowess doesn't mean that it's capable of creating a test script you would dare show your quality control person. First, make an honest assessment of the team's capabilities. Then capitalize on the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses, just like you would for anyone else.

#9: Remote communication is the norm

When you're on opposite sides of the globe, face-to-face meetings just are not going to happen, at least not very often. This is something you will just need to get used to. Sure, you have been on conference calls and have had your share of meetings via e-mail, but when working with offshore, be prepared for nearly all of your contact being done by remote means.

I would be remiss if I did not share that the most successful offshore projects I have been on have had some degree of onshore presence. Even having a single person who can be your point of contact can make all the difference in the world. Frankly, I believe there is no substitute for some face-to-face contact. With so much of our understanding coming from nonverbal communication, any effort spent to have some face-to-face contact will not be wasted.

#10: Hidden costs are likely

In spite of the distances between the parties, communication still must happen. That will mean telephone calls, telephone conferences, Web-based meetings, and possibly video conferences. All of this is an additional cost to your project. And if you follow the advice above by having someone onsite as a point of contact, the costs will skyrocket. Make sure everyone understands that these costs will be there. Note, however, that these costs are small compared to the costs to the project of not being well connected.

Summary

Every project has its challenges. Having part of your team on the other side of the world only amplifies them. But if you heed the factors described above, there is no reason the experience can't be an interesting and positive one for everyone on the project.

58 comments
reisen55
reisen55

I was part of a superlative IT team at Aon Group, responsive and fast. We rebuilt the New York arm of the network following September 11th. We responded to customer calls quickly. Our helpdesk was entirely local, and end users from admin staff to management knew they could CALL US ASAP for help. Our rule of metrics for SLA - Service Level Agreeements - was simple: RSN = real soon now. Server support was tight and secure. Computer Science Corporation entered 08/2004. Metrics came in. Help desk went out to India. The CIO and the CTO quit the same day the deal was signed, sold their stock and moved to other jobs. One year later: $ 200 million overcharge. 2 months later: 140 IT staffers fired to save the contract. I have been in continual touch with Aon personnel, and done some freelance consulting for several highly placed executives. Why? IT support is so bad is not funny. Procedures, procedures and more of the same. Everything is measured, nothing is done. The helpdesk is helpless. Three times to order a simple blackberry. Saw that happen. Over 200 servers were infected by a worm last year. CSC actually promotes that as a GOOD THING because they applied emergency support personnel to prevent further infection. Wow? How about NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED. I later worked for First Consulting Group (now owned by CSC) at Continuum Health Partners, three NYCity hospitals that made the experience at Aon look just terrific!!! Here, real LIVES are at risk. Outsourcing does not work. Period.

fidlrjiffy
fidlrjiffy

In my experience with an offshore team I can reasonably confirm that the 10 points mentioned here are true, as I would think that anyone would agree. Overall, I think that I would consider the project as successful in terms of budget and quality. However, a great deal of effort was required on the part of our onshore team. Putting aside for a moment the question of quality let's concentrate on the economic factor. There can be not a shadow of a doubt that the attraction of offshore resources regardless of where the resources are located is based on cost. Offshore resources cost anywhere from 50% to 75% less than US based onshore resources. This is hugely attractive to management. More importantly, and perhaps most importantly, the savings immediately affects the bottom line and management is immediately recognized to be saving money. To be crude about it the smell of bonuses is in the air. It is also pretty common, and was true in my experience, that there is not a 1-1 match between onshore and offshore. Cultural differences, language subtleties, time lag, and the extra effort to overcome these and other factors reduce the effectiveness of offshore resources. So, while the cost may be up to 70% less the effectiveness is, for sake of argument 30% to 40% less. Add to this the reduced time related to the effort of onshore resources and a project using offshore resources should take longer than a project using onshore resources. Time equals money and your projects, if you're being honest, maybe end up costing whatever the difference is between the cost saving and the lower effectiveness rate, and they take longer. Management does not like "takes longer". So, invariably because the people cost less you end up buying more of them. The end result is that you end up saving not a dime. Why do we still do offshore, then? Because management can immediately assert a cost saving and no one down the road does the in depth analysis to determine what the project costs and whether or not it qualifies as a success. Bottom line: we wouldn't do offshore if the resources cost the same, not for a second. This in no way should be seen as critical of folks in India, Ukraine, wherever. A lot of great software comes for all over the world. And in a lot of cases I'd rather have 7 guys in India working together on a project as an effective team than a couple of prima donnas based in the US driving me crazy. Offshore should mean that the pool of good resources is bigger and more varied which gives us all a lot more choices. Unfortunately, it mostly means that the rank and file in the trenches are hugely ticked off and work a whole lot harder for what probably amounts to no savings at all.

godzhesas
godzhesas

Very well thought, actually when we developed http://www.comindwork.com we were thinking about distrubuted team, we wanted to have the projects done on time, so we needed a tool for online project management and collaboration. Of course it doesn't solve all the probelms like for example cultural ones, but never the less i think when dealing with offshore developement you need to analyze who you will manage and coordinate different teams.

mcarr
mcarr

I've worked on plenty of projects with overseas partners - when you live in Australia pretty much everyone is overseas. In my experience, the fewest problems come from the Indians - the Americans are far more likely to be the cause. If I had a dollar for every time I'd heard a sentence start with the phrase "I just thought..." I'd have retired young and wealthy. Have any of you thought about whether the cultural issues are your own? Are you truly capable of clear communication? Would you consider it fair to hang the blame entirely on your partner if your personal relationship was to fail? Wake up.

bill
bill

The article said this: 'Yes' is a word you are likely hear quite a bit. If you ask your offshore counterparts if they can have a task completed by the end of business tomorrow, and they say 'Yes',you may not have received the response you think. While you think you heard 'Yes', it will be done,? they are more likely saying 'Yes', I understand, or 'Yes, I'll do my best. Understand this subtly of communication, and things will go much smoother. Question: If asking if the work can be done by the next day will generate what sounds like the response to a different question, what is the right way to ask the question such that you'll get the answer you really need?

Sarnath
Sarnath

Most of the points noted here are quite valid and informative too! There is a chance of decreased quality from offshore work - if right people are not chosen for the job! Dont be fooled by yesmen. What i suggest is: 1. Conduct interviews before you select people who will work for your project and always have a right mix of people -- i.e. one bright guy with 2 not-so-great guys under him and so on! 2. You need at least one responsible person who can meet your wavelength and understand your requirements and does not bullsh*t. If you cant find one, do not proceed with your project. 3. It would be a good idea to send an onsite coordinator to India who would guide the offshore team to focus on your requirements! - atleast until you are satisfied with offshore productivity! If you do this -- I am sure, you can work out outsourcing pretty well! Note that usually Indian companies would send their people onsite to gather requirements! However, the other way is never done! If you want to develop a killer-offshore-team, you need to send one of your guys for a period of 6 months to get everything in order! Good Luck!

Menace65
Menace65

We too have an offshore team, as well as remote consultants with whom we work. We make it a point to get everything in WRITING, I have actually never spoken to a number of them over the phone because of the time difference, or I feel that the information would be lost. We do have a chat function we utilize, but if I need an answer that is more than a couple of words long, I will ask that the information be sent via email. We have forms that must be completed and submitted to committee before work can be performed (so there are no mistakes/misunderstandings), and we confirm and reconfirm as necessary. I too have found though when speaking with certain individuals from other countries, they yes me to death, but on more than one occasion I have found they really did not understand my question or request, or they just repeat everything I say so they sound like they know what I'm talking about...I find that to be rather odd and annoying behaviour.

jdclyde
jdclyde

you end up with this situation. It is incompetent of any manager to choose to deal with the short comings of the off-shore approach. These same managers would not use a temp service to fill in for critical positions, but in their ignorance, they are doing worse here. all because some bean counters are looking at dollars in savings and forget how they got in business in the first place, by having a quality product with solid support. Companies making these choices should not be surprised that in two to three years, their product will go to hell and they will have lost their customer base. Of course all the bonuses for the short term savings will have long been spent.

Jaqui
Jaqui

That no-one mentions how it looks when people from the countries, like India, where our "outsourced" work goes to, can't even be bothered to actually do their own schoolwork to become developers. This thread is a good example: http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-7343-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=271027&messageID=2565025 It makes every outsourced bit of work suspect for quality when we see things like this. How can they write good code if they only ever pay for or beg code from others? How can we hire them for our project when they have proven they are not capable of actually doing the work?

Dmitry Leskov
Dmitry Leskov

At least some of these (#3 and #5) do not apply to most providers in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Ukraine.

reisen55
reisen55

Just in case you thought the server attack was a bogus story, it happened in 2006. http://www.csc.com/industries/insurance/casestudies/5010.shtml Read the last two paragraphs, scroll all the way down. Amazing story is it not? This is BAD MARKETING too. If you have a disaster happened, and it is more or less on your watch, and only a few inside people know about it, it is HARDLY SOMETHING TO BE PROUD ABOUT. I submit: Why include it at all? Would not the bulk of their article (which is all b.s. anyway) would do in marketing, so why spin a bad tale at the end?

Jerry L
Jerry L

I believe you did a great job framing the issue. Though I think you covered it, I have to reiterate that one of the costs that cost-saving management probably doesn?t consider (possibly because just don?t anticipate it, but maybe because they ignore it) is the cost of the onshore labor to support the effort and keep it a success. When you truly factor in all of the costs, I believe it is wash as for cost savings. Their may be other reasons to offshore, but as you stated, they should certainly not expect there to be huge cost savings. -Jerry

Dmitry Leskov
Dmitry Leskov

What if you cannot hire local people with the right qualifications and experience? This has happened to us a few times. I recall approaching a US company looking for an engineer with a specific skill set. Their requirements matched our experience quite nicely. I asked if they would use our services until they fill that position, and they said "No, we are not interested". But in about six months time they emailed me asking whether we still have resources available, and we signed a contract soon. True, it was cheaper for them than engaging a US=based consultant, but not much cheaper than hiring an engineer full-time.

half
half

Our Telecom here in New Zealand has out sourced the directory service to the Asia. Now that has become a joke,with the Asian locals trying to pronounce our Maori placenames. And not even knowing which island it is in. Some times we have trouble with correct pronunciation,So we use a local way, we know what we mean, but some Asian trying to sort it out is real bad, The result is sometimes the wrong city /town and even more common, the street

Jerry L
Jerry L

What a fantastic question. I am sure there is more than one way to deal the problem. Being aware that there may be a different meaning to the response, you can simply ?verify? what was said by restating it differently. So where I might initially ask ?can you have this done by tomorrow,? I may realize the ?yes? I just heard may need to be verified. I would then just follow-up with any of a number of confirming comments/questions. I might ask what the chances are that they might not be able to complete it, if they are aware of the impacts of not completing it, can they promise that it will be completed without excuses by the deadline, will I have to explain to my boss tomorrow what it is not done, or what risks are there to non-completion. If you are met with a deafening silence to one of these, then there may be an issue. I think you will find asking questions like this will add tremendously to the clarity of communication, and prevent a lot of hard feelings later. I hope that helps. -Jerry

Sarnath
Sarnath

Probably -- when can you complete this -- can bring out the right answer = Dats my personal belief...

Bizzo
Bizzo

"... select people ... right mix of people -- i.e. one bright guy with 2 not-so-great guys" Why employ people that are "not-so-great"? Surely that's where the lack of quality comes from?

Jerry L
Jerry L

While the forms you mention add structure to the communication between your companies, I suspect that it really does not seem to do much to prevent errors. In fact, it probably just adds to the frustration. Of course I realize that such forms likely also serve a change-control function, which is necessary for nearly every project. Ultimately, anything adversarial will just make the flow of information worse, and increase the ill will. I understand your frustration. -Jerry Loza PS. Okay, I have to ask... does "getting everything in writing" help much? Actually, let me take my question further - what would you say is working, and what is not? I?m genuinely curious. Thanks.

Jerry L
Jerry L

The idea of companies picking the low bidder, and finding it costs more in the long run, is not new. That problem exists no matter where the vendor is. Due diligence becomes all the more difficult when companies have the physical separation we are talking about with offshore work. There is certainly talent to be found offshore. Whether a company saves money by sourcing that way, however, is an entirely different matter. -Jerry Loza

Bizzo
Bizzo

Just because it's not been said, doesn't mean we don't think it. A friend of mine once spoke out about the quality of SAP work coming back from our Indian colleagues and was basically told to shut up or they'd fire him for racism. A couple of days later, they started to talk about sending more work their way, more difficult work. Again, my friend, who happens to be black and quite a senior manager on the project, spoke out about the quality and again he was shot down for voicing his opinions, and again they accused him of being racist. At this point, apparently he stood up, handed his managers his phone and laptop, and told them to f*** off and how dare they call him racist, and he quit on the spot.

lcave
lcave

I don't care whether it's India or the West Indies, off shoring or near shoring is not working. Sophos uses US support as a selling tool! I will do anything to avoid using Offshore support. It takes 5 times as long to solve a problem, when it can be solved at all. What about esalation? Escalation to offshore support is to hang up on you. How wonderful! It is difficult to manage consultants that are based in the same town! Give me (and the industry) a break, keep support, consulting and programming at home.

Jaqui
Jaqui

because the Indian companies undercut the Eastern Europeans price wise, so they get the majority of the US dollars for outsourced work. danged typos. I really shouldn't touch a keyboard before my first pot of coffee.

Jerry L
Jerry L

Thanks, that was an interesting write up they had. In the first part of your comments you said outsourcing is bad. Is outsourcing bad, or is outsourcing to offshore bad? Thanks, Jerry

fidlrjiffy
fidlrjiffy

As I mentioned in my post the use of offshore resources to simply broaden the base of available resources would be a good thing. And as you mention that appears to be the case here. Still, the number one reason is cost saving and, as I believe I argued, it is perceived cost saving. I for one would be happy to put somewhere further down on the list the ability to acquire resources unavailable elsewhere. I believe that you are also implying that there also exists a bias against hiring offshore resources in some cases. There is no doubt that it is true that companies will act against their self interest and waste six months rather than hire a qualified offshore resource, which they eventually did anyway.

Jerry L
Jerry L

I purposefully chose to write the article within the context of a development team, because its nature implies a somewhat higher skill level. I have to admit, I have had a frightening number of bad offshore support experiences (not just India). I wonder, however, how much of it is really the result of someone choosing the cheapest solution, or skipping training on the local aspects of the customer. As with nearly everything offshore related, the fact that it is offshore just aggravates deficiencies (like going with the cheapest solution). -Jerry

Sarnath
Sarnath

The management whoever outsourced must have taken some sessions (recorded sessions) on how to spell words and so on! This is what happens when people just shift responsibilities and then go back to do something else! Outsourcing requires some amount of monitoring, training and relationship maintenance.

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

There is a need for people who will just do grunt work. You explain in detail what this minor thing needs to do and exactly how you want it done and then you can use the bright guys to do the non-tedious and more difficult work. Why waste the really good guys on grunt stuff. That is a good way to lose employees.

Jerry L
Jerry L

I apologize for putting words in Sarnath's mouth, but might the "not-so-great guys" be ?junior? team members? Rarely are teams comprised of all senior/expert members. There are typically also a number of junior members on a team as well. The danger, of course, arises when you lack a strong lead role, which I believe is Sarnath?s point. This sounds simple, but when the relationship is offshore, it is difficult to see if the ?senior guy? really has the experience, and if he has what it takes to effectively direct the activities of the more junior members. Further, once the team is established who is to say that the 1:2 ratio of senior to junior members does not become 1:6 or 1:10? Making this determination is more difficult that it sounds, and that is probably why quality frequently winds up in the tank - so to speak. -Jerry

Sarnath
Sarnath

I am not denying "potential" loss of quality! But one can mitigate it through proper communication and strategy. And if you do that correctly, you can reap the cost advantage correctly. If you just assume things will work and refuse to communicate -- dats a big risk. Moreover, The not-so-great-guys may not be individual performers.. But if initiated in the right direction and guided properly - these people can deliver!! There are many people like that! Thats the way teams work out of here! Moreover, Technology evolved from west! The business requirements that drove a technology are well known and understood by the west! So, if you are giving work to India (for a big project) -- Dont assume that they will know everything. They may know to code well! But you need to underline your "bottomlines" explicitly! "bottomline" oriented thinking is not very much understood or practiced in the east. So, if you spend some time in bringing them in your plane -- You can reap the cost advantage in the long run! There is no free lunch in this world.

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

I was running the US segment of a huge system for a major bank. There were also segments to be done in London, Frankfurt, Japan and Australia. Every Tuesday we had to have conference calls with the major big bosses in NYC here along with reps from the 5 sections working on the project. These calls would go on for 3 hours or more to cover all the different problems. Unfortunately each of us only had reason to listen to parts of it dealing with our problems and how we were solving them. The rest of the time we sat there glued to the phone and twiddling our thumbs. My group in 2 years of the project had a grand total of 12 problems that took less than a week each to solve, all but one. We needed to send messages to a warehouse server in Europe. It took them 5 weeks to get an address to sent the messages to and then it was the wrong address. That added 3 weeks more. None of the other groups had less than 45 problems and most of them took a minimum of a month to solve using more people. We offered to pick up some of their problems for them and send them the solutions to help them out but got turned down. The project ended up being late but not because of anything the US people did. It was a failure to communicate between the groups and nothing in writing. The words just did not mean the same thing when spoken as it would have written down and agreed upon. Very frustrating. So glad I am retired now.

Menace65
Menace65

you can absolutely prevent errors, but the more structured (and clear) the communication, the better for both parties. There are a few issues to contend with when communicating, the initial language barrier, but also the layman to technical consultant barrier. I can speak to any number of consultants about the same thing, but the language is different depending upon how they learned (and when). It's almost an art form learning to communicate with consultants to the point where there is a mutual understanding. Once that understanding is struck though, it makes life a good deal easier. I have always been a good listener, and one who can read between the lines, so my being the liaison between the business and the technical consultants has been a beneficial one for my company. This has also been an experience which will benefit me should I choose to go into consulting. I do believe that getting everything in writing has been beneficial, especially when a change is made to the system, we have documentation to track the change to start the process of fixing it. Our consulting company is very good, and very responsive when a problem occurs. They don't play the blame game should a problem arise from a change they made, they acknowledge it, resolve it, and move on to the next change/problem at hand. We are a relatively small company compared to others who use the software (SAP) we do, which makes it easier on us to manage the changes and keep a close eye on our consultants.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Heck, even people that work in the same building but on different shifts have lots of issues. You add in a different time zone, different language, and different culture, all are things that increase the chance of total failure. In the case of most India support, you get what you pay for, which is not very much.

Jaqui
Jaqui

The company your friend quit from couldn't see any difference between a "Black" man and a "White" man, yet they did when it was an Indian and non-Indian. Guess which is a racist viewpoint? ;) I do understand that the reason we get the "requests" from India / Asia / South Pacific areas is cultural differences. Most International [ North American and European ] business is a drastically different ethic when it comes to business than the Indochina areas. Little things that are just normal practices in that area are considered incredibly insulting by North Americans and Europeans.

jdclyde
jdclyde

If you do not have a VALID reason, just cry racism. Many, even though they KNOW it is BS, will back away because that is a fight they don't want. Damn this politically correct world where people can be so easily manipulated like that.

ruthie56
ruthie56

Well I have to say I somewhat agree here for some different reasons. I do have to say, in all fairness, there are parts of offshoring that come in mighty handy... like when we don't have time to finish something but it has to be done by OUR workday tomorrow... offshore can do it while we are sleeping and it's done by our morning... that helped ALOT. On the other hand, you do get alot of "Yes I can do it" and then it's not done, or they didnt understand it correctly,... and THEN there are the ones who purposely make it take longer. I have personal experience in this area of someone scheming and manipulating to stretch the work out so they get more hours. Granted this is NOT the majority of them, but it does happen, you have to be very careful who you employ. Get references. Get contracts that guarantee you will KEEP the same people throughout the project! And watch out for the ones who think they are so cute they are above the rules.

Dmitry Leskov
Dmitry Leskov

... everyone would have driven People's Car from Tata Motors (http://www.tatamotors.com/peoples-car.php). Wait, it also comes from India! More seriously, the _total_ cost also depends on quality, adherence to specs, commitment to schedules, and so on. We do not compete on price.

Jerry L
Jerry L

What a fantastic story. It illustrates perfectly what I think most of us already know, but can?t easily prove. I have to admit, however, that the truly amazing part of your story is that you ultimately did received the call - essentially an admission that he was wrong and you were right. What a good boss, and it is lucky that you were able to work with him. -Jerry

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

I was interviewed for a job. They offered less than I would take. I told the guy if he could find someone who could do the job without the boss looking over his shoulder every step of the way they should hire him, otherwise call me back because that is what I would do. The boss called me back 2 weeks later and hired me at my asking salary. He told me a year later that I saved him money because I kept him informed of what was going on, if I needed him to do something I did not hesitate going to him and I did exactly what I said I would do on time and right the first time. I told him it would save money to hire the right guys in the first place rather than hire those who could not do the job and then have to spend all his time micromanaging them. I think this is one of the major problems in a lot of the industries these days. Penny wise and pound foolish is the old saying. You save a couple of pennies at the beginning but when you look at the whole picture you have spent a whole lot more for krep.

Sarnath
Sarnath

If the quality is so poor and worse -- Why are companies that r outsourcing not falling down?? Our team @ India have developed firmware, right from scratch, for a start-up company and our client was acquired by LSI for that product and things r still going fine! You just need to find the right guys! If the management nose-dives into an outsourcing spree -- that is where the problem starts.. Know the guys technically - before entrusting anything! Most companies do pilot projects before starting a rigorous outsourcing phase.

Dmitry Leskov
Dmitry Leskov

This applies not just to offshore, nearshore, onshore outsourcing, but also to your own staff. Quality translates to increased revenues (because customers are happier) and savings (e.g. lower techsupport costs.) Would you hire someone for a full-time on-site position just because his/her salary expectations are lower than those of other candidates? I hope not.

reisen55
reisen55

I will qualify a few things here. As an independent consultant, I rather consider myself an "outsourcer" (heaven forbid) but do so AMERICAN STYLE. No long distance support desk, no 12 hour time difference and I understand my clients and their needs. Transporting work half a world away to a staff that has no direct connect with a company is foolish. I rather believe there is not one flavor of, for example, Windows XP but literally millions of them because all software interacts with the operating system differently!!! You cannot solve issues reading a script. Remote control helps a bit. Some tasks cannot be outsourced far away, such as backup management or restoration. How can you restore a tape to a device from half a world away? Some tasks outsourced locally are given to true idiots. The team that replaced us at Aon were the dumb of the dumb of the dumb, one was a pizza delivery boy (last job). But they had one advantage: CHEAP SALARIES. Some tasks might be outsourced far away such as programming, something I do not do. Even here, your support team again needs to be intimately involved with your company on a daily basis. Conference calls and video calls, however marvelous, lack depth of contact. I also miss the IN PERSON meeting we are losing these days. Pardon me, but sitting down in a room with your client instead of on a video screen is not the same thing. If outsourcing was done with QUALITY in mind, you would have a different scenario in some cases, but all too often it is done for cost (presumed cost savings really) by management hell bent on saving money at any price. And that price is the quality of the job. Doing a thing once locally as opposed to doing a thing three or four times. Also, CSC loved procedures. Endless procedures that go in the way of DOING WORK and really doing our jobs. Procedures work great in Government work where they flourish like a wild forest. But not in the outside world where RESULTS COUNT. My 5 cents. I would say 2 cents but I've paid my dues. Oh, employees in India are losing their jobs because of expense related cutbacks and they are upset about it. Sooooo sad.

Jerry L
Jerry L

Those are some good examples of the due diligence that everyone should do with respect to a project team. It, of course, becomes especially important when teams are separated by an offshore situation. -Jerry

Dmitry Leskov
Dmitry Leskov

...unless all members of the team a qualified for their roles. If you can get local consultants at, say, $100/hour, would you rather hire an offshore team that values its work at $10/hour, or a team with a proven track record whose members your engineers have interviewed extensively and concluded they are at least as good as those local consultants? (Hint: these two cannot be the same team) "If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants." David Ogilvy

pramodrathod007
pramodrathod007

Hi, I am also working as a developer (offshore). As per me the most important factor that decides the quality of the end product is the ?right information? & the? right person? doing the ?right work? at ?the right time/phase? on the ?right project?. Most of the time we are not at all clear about the requirement that we are asked to code for. When coding and requirement understanding are the parallel activity, how good the programmer you are, you really can't give your best. One of the main reason apart from the tight schedules and communication problem is the "right person" is not doing it. We all will always talk about a bad performer, but we also need to look at the reasons. I have seen many people who don't have any IT experience and not even proper IT education, join IT Company. Then they are assigned to the project they don't know anything about. In the worst case most of us are asked to write a code form the day one. These are the worst situations. Here we can only expect the output and not the quality output. The point I want to bring forward is that in most of the cases we expect too much from a developer who is having no or little experience in using a particular technology and zero knowledge about the project they work on. Another factor is that at offshore most of us are asked to work on the technology they never worked on, which eventually affects the quality. What will happen to a J2EE web project if a bunch of mainframe programmers are writing a code for it? Please forgive me for any grammatical mistakes.

Sarnath
Sarnath

Oops.. That muss have been a bad experience! You almost got my point right!! "Refusing to communicate" may be an overkill term for what I intended to say! Thats y I said "There is no free lunch!". You need to do your part as well. After all, 1 Euro is 85INR :-) Dats Business, economy.... Nature has a unique way of balancing itself! :-) But even before you outsource -- you need to do a prototype test, identify the set of people you want to work with and then proceed! For example, one of our clients asked for 100 lines of C code, assembly code written by each and every potential offshore team member before they even gave the project to us! So, dont rush into big engagements before doing a litmus test or a technical evaluation from your team! Thats all I can say! Offshoring can be a business booster -- but u need to handle with care! Good Luck! Best Regards, Sarnath

Bizzo
Bizzo

I am an IT person in the UK, working for a company where a large percentage of work is now being offshored, (administration, testing and now development) this has resulted in a lot of redundancies in the UK. The loss of quality is real. Why should I be happy about sending work to a colleague who is "not-so-great" and "may not be an individual performer". What use are they? If I have to hand-hold people for 5 months of a 6 month project, which overruns by 3 months, what is the point? You're saying that we "refuse to communicate"? Is that the problem? Basically what you're saying is that for us to reap the benefits of offshoring work to India, we have to change our communication and strategy practices. Not assume anything. Have to deal with under-achievers and people who don't perform. We have to handhold people and "micro-manage" them. We have to send an onsite coordinator over to india to guide the offshore team? Is that right? As you can see, this is a bit of a sore point for me. I do admit that a lot of this is a generalisation, as I do work with one or two offshore colleagues that are very good at what they do. I just don't see why we have to deal with the people that can't actually do the job they're employed to do. If they were employed in the UK, they would be fired.

Jerry L
Jerry L

Thanks for the feedback. It sounds like you are leveraging your company?s size very well. It also sounds like the things you are describing really apply to nearly any development situation, and not specifically a product of the offshore arrangement. Thanks again for sharing. -Jerry Loza

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...Mobster Mayor Daley just announced that they're looking at a $492 million budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2009. I can understand a couple of million, maybe (prices rose quicker than expected, unforeseen repairs, whatever). But $492 million....are you kidding??? Then I looked at the list of highest paid government employees in C(r)ook County, and it made sense. You have some people pulling 2 six figure incomes from 2 different departments. I'm not sure what's worse, the fact these people are obviously abusing the system, or that the numnuts that still live in the city continue to vote them into office. As for electing ANY politician that got their start in Chicago/C(r)ook County (which is where Hillary is from, I may add), I have two words: caveat emptor.

jdclyde
jdclyde

After all, Our savor Obama was a community activist there, so it HAS to be running smoothly, right? And now he is going to bring the same "hope" to the rest of the WORLD that he brought to Chicago...... Edit to add comment about the story. [i]"because wealthy communities spend thousands of dollars more on each student than do poorer districts."[/i] Duh, if you are successful, you have more money to spend on everything, including schools. Nothing new here. You should see the schools in Midland, Michigan. Dow dumps a buttload of cash on the schools every year.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...that 'the functionally dumb' were added to the endangered species list way back when (the time when morals, education and initiative actually meant something); which explains the surge in population over the last couple of decades. See this for proof: http://preview.tinyurl.com/5tmvxv "The kids are doing poorly in school, so let's pull them out for a day"...seriously, WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Words cannot adequately express my pleasure in having moved out of this city. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, they prove me wrong. I almost would like to see the Olympics come here in 2016; for sheer comedic value alone.

jdclyde
jdclyde

to protect the people that vote for Obama.... An Irish Point of View on the American Election race.. We, in Ireland , can't figure out why people are even bothering to hold an election in the United States . On one side, you have a woman who is a lawyer, married to a lawyer, running against a lawyer who is married to a woman who is a lawyer. On the other side, you have a war hero married to a [b]good looking woman who owns a beer distributorship. [b] What are you lads thinking about over there???

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

"stupid" was going to be added to the Civil Rights Act as an officially protected class.

ben
ben

Most of the advice you give - basically, be careful who you choose for your project team, make clear objectives and concrete completion criteria, try and retain the same people through, and avoid the cronically cute, is good avice for any project, anywhere you do it and however you slice it! The cultural differences between different companies here in "silicon valley" is sufficient to make colaboration a challenge, add in some deeper cultural differnces and 12 time zones, and it gets interesting. But it can work. The most important of the top 10? Recognize the hidden costs. Hands down, this is the one I see missed most often.

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