Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Can Agile work if you outsource to India?

There are a few random occurrences of success, but the odds are heavily against it...

If your company has outsourced its development team and is thinking about using Scrum to develop software, you are probably trying to find out a process to overcome the distance factor. In thinking about the issue of collaboration, I landed on several challenges along with several solutions.

First, the challenges:

1. Different work culture
2. Language barrier
3. low fidelity communications channels
4. Creating sustainable team dynamics

The above challenges are neither mutually exclusive nor completely exhaustive but are well understood or at least somewhat intuitive. Now, let's focus on some potential solutions.

1. Acknowledge that work culture and home culture aren't that distinct. Consider that many coworkers also interact outside of work that these two demographics are blended. Maybe, one potential answer is to figure out social activities where cultures can also blend. How about organizing a videogame party, paintball outing or fishing trip?

2. Break down the language barrier. Do folks in India acknowledge that most American's in corporate America aren't multilingual? Do folks in India understand that it is somewhat rude to speak in native tongue as it creates a feeling of isolation? What would it take for Indian outsourcing firms to mandate that its employees only speak English if there is an American present? Of course some folks feel they have the right to speak whatever language they want when they want, but this is sheer ignorance. As a person who is multilingual, whenever my significant other rings me at work, I only speak in English. Just as it is important to have your own rights, you have to equally respect others.

3. Can we acknowledge that conference calls with lots of participants is a weak way to communicate? What is wrong with instant messaging? While the human voice is comforting and expedient, sometimes the need to have lots of folks participate becomes an antipattern. Onsite liaisons need to steward but not mediate nor moderate client interactions.

4. The dynamics of a team only occur over longer periods of time. India needs to figure out how to prevent job hopping and clients can help by penalizing the outsourcing firms. Imagine what would happen if India staff turnover where part of the service level agreement?

Anyway, if you have your own thoughts on this topic, respond back from your own blog so that the conversation may continue...

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