Risk Factors, Standard Practices, Some Places It’s All The Same

Larry O’Brien lists some risk factors in offshoring that he cribbed from an article and identifies which ones he finds prevalent.

I think he missed a couple.  Here, let me rewrite them as the Standard Operating Practices in place in most organizations:

  1. Act quickly, and expect top management to follow; or, get top management buy in, but don’t finish before top management finds a new, sparklier acronym to shift focus (often happens when top management changes).
  2. Discuss requirements in meetings, agree on a bunch of things, and put down a single phrase as a bullet point that you won’t even understand in a week.  Then, send a complete set of these bullet points to India.  In a PowerPoint presentation.
  3. Because your offshore team speaks RP English, believe that they understand all idiomatic expressions, and use a bunch of them in your requirements.  Also, expect that they will operate under the same sets of assumptions and basic GUI metaphors that you expect.
  4. Hide the fact that you’re using offshore resources by freezing the client/end user out of milestones.
  5. Lack of offshore project management know-how by client
  6. Make sure that your customer-facing people are expecting the sun, moon, stars, and a supernova.  What, the client wants a collision between spiral galaxies, too?  Done!  No extra charge!
  7. Make sure that customer-facing people’s promises are put into another set of bullet points.  Spread across a couple of e-mails and instant message conversations.  Make sure that at least one of the e-mails is a single word answer, “Yes,” to a question involving an Or.
  8. Expect offshore teams to look up the ins and outs of the business problems on the Internet.  Or don’t think of that at all.
  9. Expect offshore teams to learn C# against a MySQL backend from questions posted on Internet forums.  Or don’t think of that at all.
  10. Expect to meet the timeline and budget because a half a day’s time difference is like a time warp, and they don’t get paid in real money anyway.

I’m not knocking offshore work, of course.  It’s inexpensive, but you’ve got to put a whole heck of a lot of up front work into it, spelling out all requirements and all assumptions, even the ones you assume are not assumptions.  Then, you write all text that displays on the screen, all messages, and provide any GUI assets they will need.  There’s only one thing funnier than a developer cracking open Microsoft Paint to make up a button on the fly, and that’s….

No, I don’t think there’s anything funnier than that, actually, offshore or onshore.

But I digressed.

If your company goes into offshoring with the same lackadaisical approach it takes to regular development, it will fail, only cheaply.

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