Offshore software development can be greatly improved by following the rules below:
- Share genuine common interests with your service provider
- Ensure you get a proper Customer Service in case of issues
- Implements a continuous communication process on the project
Offshore software development implies a cooperation with an alien entity. Alien in the sense that they do not belong to your own business body. And this alien part to your body can be more or less remote, depending on the geographical and logistical option you have chosen.
You want this alien part to become part of your business and contribute to it just like any other department. This grafting process will be successful if you make the environment compatible. As your business is ultimately made of human beings, we should investigate what makes people work as a team, as a genuine team. The answer is: shared interests. How do we ensure that your business shares common interests with your external service provider?
There is one thing that can be shared objectively is “success”. Like in any project, from green field software development to software maintenance, your business should define and share with the provider a list of “success criteria”. These are the visible part of the iceberg. You need to agree on these anyway. it is the minimum. The question is: what are the other objectives pursued by the two parties? When two companies agree to work together, they agree that it is their common interest to do so. In a way, they will be more competitive thanks to the deal. Outsourcing your software development offshore should follow the same logic: what is the interest of your new partner, beyond making money, to work with you? What is happening to them if the project fails?
These questions do not have to go beyond a reasonable level of discretion. They do not have to be naive either. The objective is only to better understand your new partner. Once you understand them better, you can go to the next step: define a couple more elements that create more shared interests. This can have different forms, from success bonus to common communication on success story that brings attention to customers and crates PR. In the end, you want to create a situation that puts yourself and your service provider in the same boat, rowing in the same direction at the same pace.
Liemur considers its customers as business partners, as opportunities to go further together.
I use to say that I know if I have made the right choice when I have to contact the customer service for an after sale issue. The brands that cope nicely and efficiently with my requests usually win my custom forever. In fact, I’d almost say that they get my custom with a stronger loyalty level than the brands I had no problem with. It is a human factor. Being able to count on some other humans is such a strong bound that I always wonder what the companies delivering poor after sale service are thinking.
When issues are properly handled
In my career, like anyone I have made mistakes. I can mention one of them as an illustration of the theory above. The customer I had at the time was an extremely important one. They were big, international and wealthy. The kind of customer you do not want to fail. They hired us for delivering a training to a team on Object Oriented Analysis and Design (OOAD). I was in charge of this customer and intended to take very good care of them. I decided to deliver the course myself.
The circumstances were such that I could not attend the course. To say the whole truth, a strike in the plane industry grounded me abroad. I had to send a colleague to replace me at the last minute. As brilliant as my colleague could be, I will remember all my life the phone call I gave to the customer the day after the training: “Hi Mr. Customer, I am calling you to know if all was okay”. I got the following answer: “No, all was definitely not okay.” I am not certain this was a fair assessment but it was the customer’s opinion. I then did not argue or anything, I just asked: “Will you meet me again?” As a gentleman, he agreed to another meeting. We went to this meeting with our Business Development Manager. I offered my official apologies for myself and the company, I took full responsibility for the incident and I said that, of course they will not be charged for the course. I also know that for the customer the cost is far greater than the invoice. It is the human cost that counts; people not working, the lost motivation, the manager looking bad, etc. So, I went far beyond the free course to make it up. The manager could recover face and the team who went in the course could not complain anymore. Now, guess what. Not only my customer said they were delighted by our reaction, they also accepted to put us in touch with someone else in the organisation who purchased a multi-year multinational contract from us. And believe me, I did not make any mistake again with them.
When you are about to outsource your software development offshore, you need to discuss this after sale policy. It needs to be good. How will any issue be dealt with? Who is your official point of contact? How does this person interact with the remote team and what is the real power of this proxy?
And if you apply the “Shared interests” rules introduced above, you reinforce the customer care policy in your favor.
Liemur’s Customer Care policy is the best and the most reactive you can count on. Liemur has never ever left a customer unsatisfied. A track record we are very proud of.
One of the most common mistakes made when outsourcing your software development offshore is to establish a weak channel of communication with your remote team. Communication is the blood vessel between you and the remote partner. You need to ensure that your desires are well received and that project updates a well transmitted to you. You also want to reduce the delays between a message and a possible action.
The cost of delays
If you are familiar with the Systems Thinking framework, you know that the effect of delays in a project are costly. They often end-up in overreaction, which is never good.
To illustrate this phenomenon, I will use a trivial example: hot water in a house with an old heating system. If you take a shower and the shower is taking a couple of minutes to react to your modification of temperature, you generally end up asking for too hot, then too cold, then too hot again, etc. until you eventually manage to get the right temperature. The couple of minutes delay in the heating system is making us overreact. The result is an oscillation of the system until it converges to the desired result. This oscillation is wasting a lot of time and resources. If the water is a stream of money from the CFO and the shower the tuning of the project’s manpower, the consequence can be very dear.
In a project, if you loose contact with a part of the team, or if the process in place is creating delays between the sending of a message and its processing, the person in charge will likely overreact to get the new objectives achieved, just like with the old shower. And, as Kent Beck, the inventor of eXtreme Programming, says: a software development project is like a car. When you steer the car, you permanently make adjustments. These adjustments are what stops you from getting out of the road. Now imagine there is a delay of even 1mn between an action on the steering wheel and the effect on the wheels… You get the picture, don’t you?
Continuous communication and continuous feedback is what keeps your project on the right path.
At Liemur we always put in place the process that allows continuous communication and feedback. We actually explain in greater length how we consider the question of Communication within a project in the article: 5 Truths about Communication in a Project
Tailored Software Development can be a very scary decision for companies with a limited budget. The opportunity to get a lower price offshore is often clouded by the risk attached with this solution. A proper setting of the project can greatly enhance the chances of success. Trust is key in this setting. A poor level of trust makes the project fragile when a high level of trust makes it robust and even resilient. Looking for the partner you can trust is an essential step towards success.
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Sylvain’s personal blog is here: blog.sylvainliege.com