By Himanshu Sharma on Jun 24, 2013 8:12:13 AM
Managing Mission Critical Offshore Projects
Trust Begets Trust – the foundation!
In the past, outsourcing offshore software development services was limited to tasks that were not mission critical and were therefore not considered as threats to business continuity. But, thanks to the competitive dynamics fueled by time, budget and commercially driven deadlines, high tech ISVs and enterprises are seeking end to end IT(Information Technology) solutions that are less expensive but can ensure higher returns.
In view of this trend, enterprises seeking offshore services are wary of the risks and challenges associated while dealing with offshore service providers. Hence, it is imperative for them to understand a simple point - Unless there’s clear cut strategy in place to curtail associated risks, an offshore software development project will run a greater risk of failing.
It is imperative to understand the factors that affect both offshore software service provider and the enterprise seeking offshore IT Solutions
Here’s a comparison of prominent factors that affect both the parties
|High Tech Enterprises||Offshore Software Service Providers|
|Business Requirement Clarity||Competition|
|Offshore Service Providers Selection||Market Swings – Dollar rates etc.|
|IPR issues, Compliance etc.||Staff management/Managing Attrition|
|Managing Cost, time and resources||Govt. Policies/Compliance/Politics|
|Effective Communication strategies||Requirement Clarity|
|Managing Quality||Quality/Success Rates|
|Project Management/Meeting Deadlines||Meeting Deadlines/Managing resources|
We see there are quite a few overlaps in terms of factors that affect both the parties. These are but a few prominent factors that affect both parties. Having a mutual understanding of each others priorities and compulsions help in building the most important foundation of a successful offshore relationship - “TRUST”. Probably, a great foundation that can reap great value in the long run.
Tested and Proven Tips on managing mission critical offshore projects.
1. Shared business objectives and requirement clarity
The purpose of a software is to solve a specific problem – that’s pretty much familiar to all. And, that’s true in the business context as well. Proper assessment of software functionality and the end users adoption is critical to the success of an IT project. This is possible when the offshore software development team has adequate knowledge of clients' expectations. It is therefore important that the requirements are clearly discussed with the developers and business objectives shared with the offshore software development team for any project.
Whether it’s a desktop application or a web based application, offshore software developers must be in a position to assess end users’ requirements easily and help build intuitive solutions that can have 100% user take up. This calls for proper training that can help developers understand business domains, business requirements and end user behavior. In order to achieve this, a project manager can schedule regular training sessions during the induction phase of a project and can have sporadic training sessions during the project development stage. It is also imperative for the project managers to ensure all developers are on the same page while working on different modules of a software.
These sessions also leverage offshore developers' understanding of the project and boost their innovative instincts while coding or devising new methodologies for performing a task. A separate session to assess the absorption levels and feedback can go a long way in ensuring the successful execution of the project.
2. Quality Compliance and Code Quality Definition
An offshore software development partner’s quality adherence replicates in its deliverables. For building mission critical applications it is important to assess your partner’s maturity in the industry and processes. Ensuring your selected partners adhere quality standards like CMM, ISO etc. takes half of the pain of your solutions. But, this alone should not be the parameter to expect quality end results. In order to get the desired end result, it is important to drill deeper into the coding aspects of the software project.
Here’s how you set the “Code Quality” acceptance criteria
- Develop a code standard document
- Selecting automated code review tools
- Build code walk-through
- Feedback from the testing team
- Document findings and implement improvements
3. Developing communication strategies
Communication plays a vital role in any offshore software development projects. A typical communication plan should span across the following key components:
a. Communication Levels
Building a strong communication road map across strategic, operational and at project levels help cover 360 degree aspect of the project. Communication at the project level which should take place more often may cover coding, development, backlogs etc scenarios and methods to fix them. Similarly communication at strategic level should take place less often covering the business aspect of the software built during the project life cycle.
b. Mode of Communication
It is also important to take into consideration the mode of communication during an on-going offshore software development project. These communications can take place with the help of emails, conference calls, wikis, team sites etc.
c. Objective of communication
The objective of every meetings should be clear and precise so that time can save by eliminating unnecessary meetings. Meetings cost time which is crucial factors to meet the deadlines for developers. Hence, the objective and agenda of the meeting should be clear and widely spread.
4. Client’s Visit
The offshore software development team works on the project inwardly. It is difficult for them to clearly map the business goals associated with the project. Hence, an on site visit can not only help developers know inside out about the client’s business environment but also built a long term relationship with the client. It also works as a non-cash motivator for employees.
5. Sprint regularly and manage backlogs efficiently
Probably the most feared circumstances during a project development life cycle are instances of incremental backlogs and unforeseen regression bugs associated with each modification.
To control backlogs the sprint meeting should be conducted properly and effectively. As each backlogs may result in regression issues, it is imperative to have mature offshore development and testing capabilities that can attenuate these instances by test automation.
6. Test, Test & Test
To ensure maximum code coverage it is imperative to develop holistic test suite consisting test cases for all functionality, prioritization of test cases as high, medium and low or identifying mission critical instances of application failure. It is also vital to have important statistics on bugs occurs like time taken to identify successive bugs, time taken to fix the bugs and so on and so forth. In a nutshell, invest in continually improving the regression test suite and developing metrics to measure code coverage.
In a Nutshell !
Offshore software development teams can deliver much more than just low cost solutions. The success resides on a focus and dedicated effort to the product goals and having a motivated team. It is also necessary to have an environment that facilitates timely feedback, thought leadership and training to turn the opportunity into a life long relationship.