Offshoring can be a great way to accelerate project initiatives and a huge money-saver. But when it goes wrong, it’s a sinkhole. One of the most common causes of missed expectations is the tendency to treat offshoring as if it were traditional staff augmentation. This is understandable, because that’s how you’re used to bringing in external resources. But, you have to think of offshoring differently….

It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

Let’s say you’ve got a fairly large organization with lots of different departments. Someone in one of those silos wants offshore help on a project. So, they do what they’ve always done for staffing. They reach out – this time, to an offshore firm – and ask to see resumes. They pick a developer or two. And get started. It seems like the right thing to do, but it isn’t.

The mistake is focusing on people instead of project.

Offshoring doesn’t work like a pure staffing model. Instead of contacting your offshore partner to ask for talent, you want to call them and discuss the project itself and the best way to get it delivered. Otherwise, you’ll end up trying to manage one or two developers or testers offshore yourself – and that’s an extremely inefficient way to work.

Here’s a better way to approach offshore engagements.

1. Stop thinking one-to-one resources. One offshore developer will not be as productive as an onshore developer. But an offshore team will get the job done more efficiently and still save money along the way. Don’t think of it as hiring a developer – think of it as extending your team with an offshore team.

2. Create an extended team model. You must have an onsite team lead who understands the project, knows the offshore team, and has deep experience with offshoring. Otherwise, the team will get frustrated with poor inputs, and you’ll get even more frustrated with missed expectations. Completing work with an offshore team is not the same as managing onsite staff aug contractors.

3. Assign one onsite team lead for every five to six offshore team members. Time and again, we’ve proven this to be the most efficient model.  Some companies try to get by with one person onsite and as many as 25 offshore. When that happens, projects come up short.

4. Let your onsite manager oversee multiple teams or projects (if appropriate). If a small project doesn’t warrant the full attention of your onsite team lead, then give that manager more than one team or project. Just remember: one onsite team lead for every five or six offshore team members.

5. Expect to provide more documentation. Offshore teams will often do what you ask them to do. No more. No less. Make sure expectations are set properly and over communicate. You cannot rely solely on phone calls or back-of-the-napkin sketches. Your teams will need very clear documentation or user stories in the case of Agile development.

Get it right from the start, and you’ll never look back.

Offshoring can be an incredibly efficient way to accelerate your project initiatives and save you a fortune in delivery costs. But it has to be the right kind of project, and you have to have the right model.

Don’t miss our blog post on 3 types of work you should never offshore

By Randall McCroskey September 15, 2014
Tags: EnterpriseIndependent Software VendorIndustriesMobileQuality Assurance