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.