#bpmCamp 2010 Discussion on Offshoring

Scott Francis
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One of the popular sessions at bpmCamp was a session on offshoring, from which we have a few notes preserved.  Steve Lang from Ford moderated the discussion, which by all accounts was a lively one. Several of the teams in attendance pointed out that they already have distributed teams, geographically, within the United States.  So the teams are accustomed to conference calls, IM chats, etc.  The teams are largely effective at handing off work remotely as well. The challenge of a lack of timezone overlap hurt some off-shoring efforts.  Also, a reliance on “hand-offs” (ie, throwing a spec over the wall and expecting to get back a finished deliverable) was not working well for BPM deliverables.  There was a big challenge around how to structure teams and deliverables to get maximum “yield” out of the combined onshore-offshore teams.  One participant pointed out that the problem of hand-offs not working was between roles in the same geography – not just between geographies.  And everyone had problems with attrition undercutting their efforts to onboard staff.  Interestingly there wasn’t much discussion of different locations for the offshore work – not sure if this is because almost all of these projects were considering off-shoring in India or if the geographic differences weren’t that interesting to get mentioned. Some of the suggested ways to address the challenges:
  • Extensive use of webcams, IM, and screen-sharing
  • Don’t settle for “newbies” in the offshore team – press for the most experienced people you can get
  • Don’t try to fix the scope for your BPM project – BPM scope needs to be flexible to do it right
  • Use a tool (e.g. Rally) to improve tracking and transparency in an Agile project
  • Eliminate barriers to communication (e.g. going through “proper channels”). People on the project should have access to communicate with anyone else on the project without asking permission. (Emphasis on collaboration)
  • Increase time overlap for the onshore and offshore teams.
  • Have onshore or offshore members visit opposite location to build relationships and come up to speed.
I’ll make another recommendation: use an offshore team that actually does this stuff for a living in their local geography.  There are many issues working against you when you offshore BPM work -but don’t let a lack of appreciation and experience with BPM be one of them. BPM projects are quite a bit different than the typical IT project, and the collaboration required between business and IT requires more nuance and communication than the typical project.
  • Adeel Javed

    Nice post, a few additions from my experience at Techlogix (believe it or not most of our offshore is out of Pakistan :), and so am I):

    – All our on-site consultants have at some point worked at offshore, so they understand the dynamics of offshore, I used to be at offshore myself doing BPM in Savvion, Lombardi, IBM, TIBCO, webMethods, Global 360 and a couple of others. So, I have been through everything, built a team there so kind of know how it feels to be on the other side. So, may be more such transitions from offshore to onshore are required.

    – Secondly, yes there is a scheduled daily touch-base, but we are accessible at all odd hours to offshore and so are they to us, even though it is not required most of the times, but it's good to know you that they will be there when need be.

    Both points kind of realted to the fact that you need to have more open communication and trust amongst the onshore and offshore teams, and rest works our. Thanks.


    Adeel Javed
    Process Lead | BPM Practice
    Techlogix, Inc.

  • Greg Harley

    Something we have found helpful when managing an offshore team is to have a strong “on-shore” representative of the offshore company working in house. This appears to work better than having our own internal people try to drive offshore teams.

  • sfrancis

    Does your team do BPM projects for customers in Pakistan itself as well?

  • sfrancis

    Good to know – have you also sent people to visit the offshore offices?

  • Adeel Javed

    Yes, we are doing BPM/EAI/BAM/BI both for US and Pakistani clients.

    Pakistan is becoming a very important IT market, we are doing very similar sorts of projects back in Pakistan as we are doing in US.


    Regards
    Adeel Javed

  • sfrancis

    Anyone making extensive use of videoconferencing (and I mean truly videoconferencing, not just webcam from one laptop to another) ?

  • Adeel Javed

    Well, since most of the consultants are at client site's so might not be very feasible, but since our development teams are distributed in multiple offices, so they indeed use it extensively.


    Regards
    Adeel Javed