Overcoming the 7 Key Barriers to Offshoring

Overcoming the 7 Key Barriers to Offshoring
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 07 Dec 2015

One of the keys to developing IT products & applications successfully with offshore teams is ensuring complete synchronization of expectations and having a universal understanding on every aspect of project from Day 1. The buyer, who is either a CTO / CIO of a midsize company or even a startup Founder, has a clear idea on the objectives and the final product and is looking towards Offshoring to make his life simpler. Naturally, the buyer has high expectations on parameters such as quality, functionality, communication, delivery, timeliness, responsiveness and cultural fit. The most enticing allure of offshoring is the expectation of high rating on most of parameters with tremendous cost savings.  Mismatch in expectations can lead to disinterested teams and a less engaged buyer.  By knowing the barriers early on, they can be addressed by careful planning by the buyer.

Granularity of Requirements:  One of the biggest barriers to successful offshoring of IT product & software development is the way requirements are framed. It often starts with the inability to capture the business requirements clearly.  It is possible that there are gaps and inadequacies while framing the RFQ and a lot of meaning is lost in translation, either at collating or analysis stage When this happens, defects can be inadvertently introduced into the project early in the lifecycle and these defects may not be discovered until much later, when it is more expensive to fix them. In fact, many project budgets are consumed by unnecessary rework as the requirements defined early on, undergo a change due to many reasons internal to the buyer.

Choice of technology:  Buyers may be limited in their understanding of the technology platforms suitable to build their systems though they surely understand that a robust software product, platform or system is necessary for their business.  Ultimately Buyers are looking for a partner who comes up with solutions to a problem rather than coming forward with a bunch of problems. What buyers need is a provider with a team who come back solutions to a problem (technology or otherwise). Engaging a provider early on, usually is helpful in considering the right technology platform.

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Communication Failure:  When teams are geographically apart and limited by physical access, ineffective communication can become a serious bottleneck in the process of IT product development. In addition to the existing differences in work culture, time zones and working styles, this bottleneck and problems due to it are aggravated when providers intentionally or unintentionally create situations leading to frustration and project failures. The last thing a buyer would want is to see an open up a can of worms on a critical day. An effective communication plan is necessary to bridge this gap.

Bringing Transparency: To reap all the benefits of offshoring and engaging with the team, online & offline tools are needed which can provide better transparency in communication and lead to timely action. While traditional methods of status reporting by email / phone can be used, there are better ways now, which can show  when real-time status to the buyer, over instant messengers, using collaboration platforms of the buyer/provider or third party sites as GoToMeeting, where screen sharing sessions are facilitated. Buyers must have access to the offshoring partners in-house systems and providers need to innovate ways around status reporting using videos, giving that personal touch, often missing in transactional offshore relationship. The key is  in finding such a partner who keeps the buyers informed and has right systems in place to let them view every stage of the project, without having to ask for it. A Majority of Offshore Projects go off-track because of just Communication issues. Fixing this right at the early stage is essential to overcome this barrier.

Timezone Differences:   While non-overlapping time zones are the basis of the Global Offshore Delivery Model, which replaces the non-productive hours of the buyer time-zone with productive hours of the provider, it also means limited time to real-time communication.  At times, Providers, opting to work in only their sweet spots or to hide their expertise level during phone calls or chats, intentionally create situations to limit the overlap time of the day to a minimal level which becomes unsettling for buyers. Effective planning can help overcome this barrier. A simple strategy is to early morning or late evening scheduled calls, which will provide definite overlap of working hours on both sides.

Providing Flexibility:  Buyers need to plan for unforeseen situations which can lead to rate hikes by the providers and stretching the delivery dates. In today’s challenging business environment, buyers face the constant challenge to allocate funds between marketing and product development; hence surprises need to be avoided.  An offshore providers’ inflexibility in handling changed requirements causes strain and eventually buyers may need to find another partner who can assist in scripting the requirements from discussion sessions.

I don’t hear a NO: Many new offshore providers feel that saying NO to buyers could offend them. They shy away from taking a clear stand and do not make themselves heard at the appropriate time. Buyers need to encourage their provider to be clear and say NO, when any schedule or plan is unlikely to happen.

The above barriers are surmountable, by every buyer if they do the pre-project brainstorming internally with all stakeholders. Working with a reputed and pre-qualified provider, mostly removes the barriers to successful offshoring.

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