Difficulties of outsourced development

It’s distressing being a client on the receiving end of a remote team that delivers incomplete and broken features, slower than expected, in a manner that increases tech debt and degrades the codebase.

It’s also disempowering to try everything you can to fix the situation, yet poor-quality interactions and high levels of rework remain the norm.

Being stuck with a development team because of lock-in and restrictive contractual terms only widens the divide and sours working relationships further.

Unfortunately, these experiences are only too familiar.

Agile won’t fix this for you

Agile ways of working and client-led transformation programmes often assume outsourced and offshored teams are nothing more than geographically distant local teams, seeing fit to impose standardised processes across all teams.

However, the consequences of losing co-location, unavailability of a local product owner, different time zones, non-native English cultures, predominance of junior/boot camp trained coders, and command-and-control management styles must be adequately considered and understood.

The effectiveness of agile working easily gets lost in the transition to fully remote development teams.

Outsourcing is difficult to get right

The practices of outsourcing and offshoring development bring additional complexity and challenges over and above a team simply being remote, often exaggerating the experiences above.

The outsourcing and offshoring industry is a massive juggernaut with an appealing management case: low-cost development and a longer workday across time zones. It’s also here to stay.

And I can’t think of a big company I worked for that didn’t outsource and offshore their software development, either fully or in part.

Outsourcing and offshoring arrangements regularly fail to deliver the promised benefits, often costing much more than an equivalently sourced and managed development team or just a good local supplier.

Developer productivity is declining

Recent interest in ‘developer productivity’ by the C-suites is a good indicator of developer teams failing to deliver as management expected.

Underperformance is an uncomfortable topic for the software industry to talk about, particularly for individuals invested in agile frameworks and coaching and those buying and supplying low-cost development.

Thankfully, fixing remote development teams and drastically improving their performance is not as difficult or costly as you may think. And it’s what I write about here on my website.

Frank Ray Consulting. Software requirements for agile development teams, particularly distributed, remote and offshore development teams working in financial services.

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