A team experiment with and without offshoring

A cross-functional team I was working with last year had three testers offshore in India. The rest of the team (about 15 people) was co-located here in Stockholm.

Some team members had a nagging feeling that they could go so much faster if the testers also moved to Stockholm so they went to their boss and asked. The reply was that testers are so much less expensive, by a factor 2.3, so it was not possible, unless they could settle with fewer testers.

So they decided to do an experiment for a few months. They moved one of the testers from India to Stockholm and dropped the other two testers (re-allocating the other two to other teams) to see how that would work.

After three months the managers asked the team if they wanted to go back.
No one wanted to go back to work with having testers offshore.

Here are some of our findings when we compared the two approaches:

Offshore Onshore Co-located
Process improvements Doesn’t happen Process improvements take place.  +
Lead-times Longer lead-times Shorter lead-times +
Communication Email, defect-tracker, Skype, Phone, Video Conferences. Slow and out-of-date. Face2Face, sit together, quick and actual. +
Work documents A lot of transient documentation is needed Fewer documents needed. Only those that have a persistent nature. Not the ones that replaces F2F communication. +
Competence Wider selection of competences. + Sometimes impossible to find the right competence
Resource coordination Requires coordination overhead, proxies. No extra coordination is needed. +
Cost More expensive (2.3 lower cost > 2 persons less) Cheaper. +
Time Zone difference Advantageous in some cases

Why is it that this co-location is so beneficial? I think it has to do with the quality of the communication and the possibility of feedback. So much energy and time is spent just to coordinate the work. If we add the role of a proxy (one that interlays and coordinates information) in the images, we see some of the cost quite clearly.

What happened in this case was that one tester in Stockholm had the role of acting as a proxy for the testers in India. That meant that most of his time was spent on communicating, not testing. Also at the other end in India, one person also spent a lot of time on synchronizing.

If you wan’t a printable version of this blog you can download a pdf here.

3 responses on “A team experiment with and without offshoring

  1. Good one but i think this is applicable also having parts of the team on another floor in the building. Having a long “charter period” at project startup could be a way to overbridge the process gap at least.

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