Friday, February 29, 2008

Offshore Development

As member of GASP(Grupo de Arquitectura de Software Português), i regulary participate in our monthly meetings.

This month the subject was Offshore Development. Hugo Batista, one of the co-founder members, has invited Boobandra Babu to talk with us about this.

Babu is the Managing Director of Shlok, a company based in India, with 38 employees. They work in this model all over the world.

He starts talking about some of the pros and cons of offshore development. Basically, and trying to don't be extensive, as the main disadvantage he found the language, as the principal barrier of the process, and as advantage, obviously he mentioned the total cost saving of the project.

In my opinion, i can identify more than just the language as the main disadvantage. I think that a well motivated local development team can bring a lot of more value to the projects, than delegating the development to offshore companies, specially if we are talking about the development of a product, which is the company core product. I think that the development team should be also commited with project, not only on a technical perspective, but also in every aspect of the project. They know the culture, the habits, the market and they speak the same language. In all companies where i've worked before, most of the project decisions, some times even comercial decisions were made with the collaboration of technical people.

Speaking about technical issues, i don't see that Shlok has some kind of innovative processes that can brings add-value to the table. Basically, they use Waterfall as project management methodology, they don't use agile but they are adaptive to their customer needs. Nothing new, i think all portuguese consulting companies are, since the customer pays they can adapt. Well... not all of them, but most of them. They don't have implemented on their infrastructure, things like continuous integration, unit testing and other quality control systems, that at the time in Portual, most of the companies are start looking at. To be honest, in a market with 2 million engineers and with a high level of maturity, i expect to see much more innovative processes. Maybe Babu doesn't show us all...

I'm not saying that i totally disagree with offshore development, but to make that decision there are some factors that we need to take care about, before going on that direction. Here are some questions that i really will make myself, if i need to make that decision:

1. Is the product, the core business of my company?
2. Is a local product or a global product?
3. How can i find the right partner?
4. How can i guarantee the quality and success of the project?
5. How can i manage and mitigate the risk of delegating this to an offshore company?
6. And obviously, how much i will save?

Talking about costs, Babu mentioned that to get a professional from Shlok, we need to pay, at least, about 35 USD/hour, by now this not seems to be expensive, at the time i'm writting this post the rate to EUR is 1 EUR = 1,5 USD, but the risk has also its price. And with a good market research we can get good professionals in the portuguese market.

I really think we need to test the offshore development with a small project, to see the most value of this way of working.

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