How not to set up an offshore product delivery center
BY YOGESH BENDRE, PMP
It may seem an unusual title for some; but for the offshore delivery heads setting up Centers of Excellence (CoEs) in India for multinational product companies, it may sound like a familiar turf.
I will cover the topic in four areas in project/delivery management that need to be broadly focused by midsize product companies setting up an Offshore Development Center (ODC) in India:
ODC evolution and growth
Clearly define the purpose of setting up the offshore delivery CoE in India and its expected capability maturity in 3–5 years. Start small and agile, engaging the India team with the core product team to help in resolving CRs and do high-level testing and onsite informal training. This allows time for the ODC team to get confidence and teams to set with each other before you start adding more responsibility.
Identify emerging leaders in the team that will start becoming a critical mass of knowledge and capability in one-year time. This is the time for serious formal training rather than on day one. What starts as staff augmenting team controlled by leads in the West slowly should be transitioned over to local control by evolved leadership team.
The people focus
- Ship the noncritical spillover work to the ODC. This is not only detrimental to long-term goals but also to the intent of building ownership by the ODC to the product (build owners not vendors).
- Provide visibility of where the work is being used only as much as needed and if needed.
Select people with a history of long-term commitment to employers. Give preference to people who are looking for horizontal instead of vertical growth especially if you are setting up a product ODC. Explain the ODC model in detail to each new hire to set the context and expectations. Set the context of the current and future capability-building plans of the ODC, and align people growth with it.
The processes focus
- Hiring overambitious people who aspire to take control of managing the product in the next 2 years. This is unrealistic as per ODC model, and you are planning for attrition upfront.
- Hiring people who cannot keep away from the continuously emerging technology trends and want to be in the next best project. Product architecture/technology road map allows at best a change every 4- to 5-year period due to the investments and stabilization phase.
Use same ODC processes and delivery tools as the core product team. Use the empirical estimation data, if available with the core product team, and discount it slightly during the initial evolution period of the ODC.
The product focus
- Forcing a SEI CMM or ISO-like services organization processes for the ODC. This may not work as ODC is a natural extension of core product team, however capable/independent it may become.
- Comparing the core product team and ODC team head to head-on productivity and capability at all times that will divide rather than integrates. Instead promote the idea of a delivery unit within a global team.
Product domain knowledge is the key differentiator for ODC—take active steps to build this as a strength. Send/sponsor the ODC members to attend product or domain workshops and meetings with global customers shoulderto-shoulder with core product team members. Take active steps to convert an “offshore delivery” center for global customers and product delivery center for regional/local customers to an ODC.
(Yogesh, PMP, has 17 years of experience in technology, domain, and project/delivery management. He is currently part of a global project management team, managing a European customer from Pune.)
- Use Product BAs and domain experts in ODC as functional documentation writers. This will only help drive away good domain talent to greener pastures.
- In front of customers keep the “product experts” tag limited to core product team members to earn better billing rates. This works against the organization as it would be seen to have lop-sided capabilities spread and all roads lead to Rome (core product team) feeling. Instead portray a balance delivery capability spread across regions, including the ODC.