This is the third and final planned entry in my series on integrating offshore teams into onsite projects. I took a few detours into other topics, because frankly this subject is starting to bore me just a little. Offshore (and it’s kissing cousin “nearshore”) development and testing are a fact of current business practices. There are simply too many perceived advantages to it for companies for it to go away anytime soon. The primary reason with which I happen to agree being that talent, passion, affinity, and creativity are not the sole domain of any one country, economic union, or locality. Any company which does not avail itself of the best people when attempting to solve their problems will soon find itself eclipsed by those that do. And in this increasingly wired, connected, and banded world that means the best people no longer reside exclusively in a single area. I could go on and make a compelling argument for this, but instead I’ll direct you to John Hagel III, and especially his book “The Power of Pull” co-authored with John Seely Brown and Lang Davison. Needless to say, these esteemed gentlemen make a very compelling case for offshore involvement in order to maximize the flow of ideas and concepts for knowledge workers.
“Well,” you may well ask yourself, “if we agree offshore involvement is a good thing then how can we integrate offshore resources into our teams?”
To which my simple reply would be in two parts. First I would assert you cannot integrate offshore teams completely into inhouse teams for the reasons (opinions, really) I’ve already listed in parts one and two of this series. Second I would ask why you would ever want to if you could not achieve total integration. To put it a different way, would you be satisfied with partial implementation of a product under development before shipping it off to your customers? Why demand less than that from your team?
So how do you both take advantage of talent and (relatively) inexpensive resources on a global scale without sacrificing team cohesion and efficiency? The answer lies in appropriately sizing and assigning the work to be performed. Your tasks and job assignments should reflect your business workflow, and not the other way around. To do this you need to develop and nurture offshore talent as independent teams with uniquely talented individuals. If your work is performed in small batches, develop an offshore team appropriate for small batch work and let them take on some of the load. If your work is performed in a traditional sequential manner (ie: waterfall or spiral models) then recruit and nurture a completely independent development team capable of delivering a product line with little to no supervision. If you find your task work usually falls into discrete “jobs” requiring specific skill sets and actions with some regularity, why not consider developing a specialized team and breaking out your work into something akin to a Kanban task flow model?
So to wrap this whole thing up and get on to discussions I find more interesting because the solutions are not as obvious, the answer to this “dilemma” is rather simple. Stop thinking of offshore resourcing as something external to your company you can onboard to a team and get better results like you would a rack server or a source control manager. Start thinking of offshore resources as intellectual assets capable of (and thereby responsible for) solving the same challenges and tasks you set before your onsites.
Okay, well that’s that and so we’re on to how to land a job at a large (think multinational) software company for the next time.