Thursday, May 01, 2008

Successful offshore software development must meet three conditions

Source : Click

He was commenting on the recent experiences of Australian companies using offshore software development resources.

“Over the past year we have had an increase in the number of new clients who have used outsourcing services but who, confidentially, would admit to one or more mistakes that can be made about outsourcing.

“Time and distance will magnify the potentially detrimental effects of a failure of client and service provider to meet three conditions,” Mr. Page said.

These are to ensure, language and time zones contribute to effective communications between client and outsourced services provider, that the software development team has a full understanding of the project’s requirements and, that the client becomes involved in the project.

Mr. Page says there should be at least half a working day overlap in the respective time zones to raise and address issues and questions. The English language skills of the outsourced services provider should be a certain minimum standard.

“Each and every Mitrais staff member, regardless of their position, must achieve English language skills of 6 on a scale of 10, in which 10 is the most skilled. Because of this standard, every member of the software development team in Bali can talk with any or all client staff members in Australia.”

The second condition, to ensure that the software development team has a full understanding of the project’s requirements, is the responsibility of both parties.

“Client should ask themselves: do I understand the project’s requirements and does the outsourced team understand what is expected of it.”

Mr. Page says the first five percent of the time of a project will typically determine its success.

“Projects can be put at risk by short-cutting the analysis phase,” he says.

To minimise that risk Mitrais uses a two phase bidding methodology. In the first phase which may typically be between 5 and 15 percent of the project (depending on whether formal prototyping is required by the client), the company bids to develop a full requirements specification. This specification is designed to ensure the alignment of client and developer expectations.

Third, but by no means least, clients must become involved in their projects says Mr. Page.

“Problems may start if a client abrogates this responsibility. Involvement initially may be small to confirm expectations, growing as the project calls for user acceptance testing.”

Against the background of these conditions, Mr. Page says ‘eyes open’ is an apt description of outsourcing because it’s all about risk management. The person who owns the project must own the risk.

This is especially highlighted in those outsourcing relationships in which Mitrais develops and refines a client’s applications on an ongoing basis.

“Such clients may brief us on a product roadmap once or twice a year thereby reducing the subsequent directions briefing required of our developers,” Mr. Page

Mr. Page says Australia faces a growing shortage of certain types of IT skills and many organisations want to elevate staff from code-cutters to more challenging systems analysis and architectural roles. A decade ago companies began to outsource simply as a means of replacing higher cost staff with lower cost off-shore developers.

“While the impetus for outsourcing may have change, the guidelines to successfully taking advantage of the skills and costs of offshore developers remain the same,” Mr. Page said.