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Most organizations move to onshore and offshore model for couple reasons such as to reduce the cost to increase the performance which makes them more competitive, to inject more creativity and innovation through cultural strengths and, last but not the least, to increase service reliability by mitigating the risk of uninterrupted business continuity in case of events such as 24×7 support, and
natural disasters or political unrest.
Though this model ensures to reduce a cost; however, it is not free as there is other cost that goes up significantly like additional communication cost in terms of efforts(share information between the distributed teams), infrastructure cost to enable the communication, communication and cross cultural trainings to mitigate cultural issues and increase better communication.
From Agile perspective, it adds further challenges in terms of dedicated video conferences for distributed teams as agile enforce more on face to face communication. Iterative and incremental release in short iteration is possible only through uninterrupted continuously flow of information between two or more distributed teams (Agile value: Individuals and interaction over processes and tools which increase more number of conference calls at odd times due time difference between the countries which is a challenge to run at a constant pace (Agile principle: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.). More tools we use to mitigate this risk, we get into a vicious cycle that rounds back to the waterfall where all the documents just linger in computers, and we relinquish the benefit of information radiator,which directs teams to use the wall in the conference room to seek the benefits.
Most of the development challenges are mitigated using automated builds and continuous integration; however, there is no way for the teams to ensure they have not broken down the functionality as there is a lag between adding the code and adding the automated functional test. The challenge over and above is how much information could be communicated back and forth between the distributed team through conference calls; though osmosis might be high in co-located team rooms, but this would
significantly go down in distributed teams.
Recent survey by The Standish group as shown below:
Most of the clients are asking for Agile implementation due to unprecedented benefits of Agile, over the other methodology, such as time to market, quality, defect rate, customer satisfaction, continuous end user feedback. This requires vendors to quickly turnaround and respond, to market demands,which eventually forces the organization to reevaluate the present onshore-offshore model.
Proposed solution:Following suggestions might help an organization to reevaluate long term goal on distributed models:
1. Instead of a classiconshore-offshore model, a hybrid model based on role (e.g. Primary onsite product owner, secondary offshore product owner and primary offshore development team along with scrum master/Agile manager), which mitigates all the technical risks. This might be more beneficial in scaling the teams, as well.
2. Careful with agile project tools,which promises benefits to the distributed teams, to ensure they are just not breaking Agile values and principles.
3. To ensure all communication practices are sustainable in the long run.
4. Ensure benefits of osmosis are high, and it is not lost in a long run.
5. Regular client interaction along with regular client visit to the offshore teams.
6. Scale up teams slowly. Probably, adding one team every two or three iterations.
7. Ensure offshore team involvement early in the game.
Hybrid model with cost evaluation on the clients regular travel to the offshore location, infrastructure cost of co-location and hi-tech video technology for continuous information sharing between distributed teams may be a good bet in large organizations in the long run; however, this may not be the case for small startups and mid-size organizations.