Offshoring IT work to India is now the norm for many organisations, particularly in the private sector. Many of us have done this for over ten years, with varying success rates and benefits delivered, but for certain types of work it is now the accepted norm.
However, with the credit crunch bearing down on us, is it time to re-evaluate the value that offshoring can deliver? Is this the way to continue to deliver to your short term needs and free money up for your longer term strategic agenda? Well yes, but only if you are willing to take a less blinkered approach than you currently do.
Most firms would now consider offshore for applications maintenance of all but the most sensitive systems. The rigorous approach of the offshore vendors to things like training and knowledge transfer make this a relatively risk-free option.
Some development work also lends itself to offshore easily, but there are still whole swathes of work considered out of bounds. Take agile development, for example. Currently – and rightly – it is a hot topic for CIOs in all sectors. Its mixture of continuous user collaboration, rapid iteration and constant user testing is acknowledged to offer many important benefits. ‘Time to value’ is typically shortened by early release of prioritised functionality, while changing business priorities can be effectively managed. Risks and costs are reduced, and visibility and control increased. Published case studies from companies such as BT, Standard Life and Tarmac show it’s not just theory – it works in practice too.
Agile is no barrier to offshore
Most CIOs, however, would consider it a non-starter to do agile development offshore. But the world is changing, and Indian IT centres in particular are wide awake to the benefits of agile and the need to work in this new way with their customers from Europe and North America. In my own company, as in others, the use of 24/7 operations in India together with advanced video-conferencing has proved to us – and a select band of forward-looking clients – that globally distributed development is no barrier to the use of agile methodologies. The end product will be more easily maintained and extended - again due to all that rigour and process expertise which the offshore vendors bring.
But most crucially, the combined IT and business team are more empowered to deliver what is really needed now, not what yesterday’s outdated plans dictated. And you avoid the old problem of building applications that are never used and need never have been produced.