Tag Archives: Offshore Tips

What to do when your client doesn’t pay

Many of the posts in my blog are written from clients’ / buyers’ standpoint, this one is different – I am switching sides to take a look at one of the most painful issues of working with small business clients (and sometimes large clients as well) – not being paid for your services. A few weeks ago I talked with an old friend of mine who is an owner of small software development firm based in Russia. He told me that his business would’ve been extremely profitable and vastly successful if he was always paid for his services. I was shocked to hear that typically he gets paid for not more than 70% of the services he delivers. Alex’s company sells to a variety of clients in Western Europe, United States, and locally in Russia. He told me that his local clients are the worst with government clients refusing to pay being a most common scenario.

Well, there is nothing I can offer in terms of advice in dealing with Russian government clients. But they are not the only ones, many “legitimate” businesses in Europe and the States follow the suit and are late or delinquent with payments to their vendors. One of the cases described by Alex involved a fairly large South Carolina based company, that used all kind of excuses to explain increase in past due balances, and then when unpaid amount was about to kill the vendor, the company switched the tune – accusing the vendor in all kind of issues ranging from late deliveries to stealing IP. This situation, a reputable US company playing dirty tricks, was somewhat new for Alex. It caught him off-guard and almost put him out of business.

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Wanted – Outsourcing Checklists

A few days ago I got my hands on a The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.

Not knowing the author’s background I was expecting a book from some professional organizer, a guru of “getting things done”. Maybe one of those how-to self-improvement books that I typically pick up on my way to a transcontinental flight to deal with my inability to fall asleep while squeezed in a middle seat. The book was nothing of a kind and if anything it reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell’s masterpieces. To make text even more interesting a lot of the examples and ideas in the book came from the blood, sweat and tears of the author himself, not various people he interviewed. As I shortly realized even though Atul writes like a professional journalist the writing isn’t his day job, or at least not his only day job… In addition to being a best-selling author he is a MacArthur Fellow, a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health… Wow, how one can manage all that and also deal with three kids!?

Anyway, the main message of Checklist Manifesto is quite simple – in many activities the volume and complexity of knowledge required to perform them have exceeded any single individual’s ability to manage it consistently. The only way to deal with inevitable problems is to deploy tools that improve the outcomes and minimize errors without adding even more complexity to the task itself. That seems almost impossible unless we look at a simple, age old tool, that can help almost any professional – a common checklist. Of course, it’s not “just a checklist”, there is more to a good checklist than a set of nicely formatted boxes. The author illustrates it on multitude of examples with the most interesting being in the fields of aviation (where the work of creating checklist has reached the level of art and at the same time widely accepted as mainstream tool) and in his own domain – surgery and public health.

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“Outsource it!” is now in beta

A couple days ago my first full size book went into beta and is now available at the publisher website – http://pragprog.com/book/nkout/outsource-it. I feel very happy and relieved that the book is finally out, writing it was far more challenging than I’ve ever anticipated. At the same time I feel happy and proud, proud to be one of the authors of the pragmatic bookshelf, the group of technology writers that earned respect across very broad and demanding technical audience.

It will take a little while before the book hits the shelves of Amazon and other bookstores, but you don’t have to wait and get your e-copy of it today. While the book is in beta your comments and suggestions would be taken quite seriously and could result in changes and additions to the content, hopefully making the book even better. I am not sure how long the beta would take but hopefully much less than it took me to get here –

Roughly two and a half years ago I came up what seemed a great idea at the time – compile my blog material into an easy to read eBook. In a couple months I produced the first volume that was dedicated to making decisions on whether and how to outsource. In a short order I received substantial feedback that made it apparent that just recompiling the blog and doing surface level clean up won’t add too much value, and probably was not worth the effort. Continue reading

Outsourcing Associations

Finding outsourcing vendors is not a trivial task sometimes because it’s just too many to chose from, sometimes because you just cannot find any that fit a particular criteria.  Over the years I found that generating a list of prospective vendors can often be done with a help of organization that unite offshore vendors in some manner.  As it turned out it’s not easy to find these organizations is not to easy as well, so I started a list that should be of help. So far the list is not to big and I was only able to find 20 some organizations, I hope that with your help the list will grow fast.

The list below includes top 5 associations based on Alexa Global rating.  Click here for the full list sorted by Name, here for the list sorted by Alexa Global, and here for the list sorted by Alexa US.   If you know of a site, directory or service with is worth including please comment on the page and I include in the list, feel free also email me at krym2000-po @ yahoo . com as well.

Name PR Alexa Global Alexa US Description
The International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP)
5 313,474 168,529 The International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) is the global, standard-setting organization and advocate for the outsourcing profession. They claim to be the leading professional association for organizations and individuals involved in changing the world of business through outsourcing, offshoring, and shared services with a global community of more than 110,000 members and affiliates worldwide.
The Outsourcing Institute (IO)
5 423,525 246,289 Founded in 1993, the Outsourcing Institute (OI) claims to be the world’s biggest and most trafficked neutral professional association dedicated exclusively to outsourcing with a network of more than 70,000 professionals worldwide including qualified outsourcing buyers. Their specialties include: outsourcing, sourcing, thought leadership, state of the industry, marketing, promotions, RFP, vendor selection, relationship management and governance.
National Outsourcing Association (NOA)
5 893,216 27,276 Founded in 1987, the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) is the UK’s only nonprofit outsourcing trade association and claims to be the centre of excellence in outsourcing. Their services are focused on delivering education, excellence and collaboration and they are involved in all areas of outsourcing, including ITO, BPO and KPO.
Russian Software Developers Association (RUSSOFT)
5 902,435 55,451 Established in 1999, RUSSOFT Association is a nationwide association of the technically competent software developing companies from Russia and Belarus. It aims to represent Russian software development companies on the global market, to develop marketing and PR activities of its members, and to promote their interests in their countries’ governments.
Sourcing Interests Group (SIG)
4 1,010,363 271,503 Sourcing Interests Group (SIG) is a membership-driven organization comprised of sourcing and outsourcing professionals. They claim be acknowledged by many as a world leader in providing an ongoing forum and services to assist companies in strategy development, the improvement of goods and services sourcing, and the implementation and management of corporate services through outsourcing, offshoring, insourcing and shared services.

Outsourcing Governance

A couple days ago I received an email with a very interesting question –

Hello Nick,

I have come across your blog (http://pragmaticoutsourcing.com) while doing some secondary research.

I have been quite impressed after reading your blog, and hence writing to you to seek your pro bono help :)

As you have such a good depth and breadth of outsourcing experience, I would like to seek your opinion on this:

– Many Companies who Offshore their IT/Product Development to Russia, India, China, etc. face many challenges during the projects execution phase. They spend significant management overhead in managing their vendors. They may need to make multiple trips to the outsourced location to resolve issues. So there are significant costs/pains involved
– Would such Companies like to hire third-party consultants, who work as their agents and be physically present with the suppliers, does the Program Management function (tracking of projects, timelines of deliveres, identifying and sharing potential issues/challenges, metrics reporting etc.) and help reduce the costs/pains of managing the outsourcing vendor?
– Would such Third-Party Consulting services be attractive to Companies who Offshore?
– If No, Why?
– If Yes, Why? Do you know of any company providing such Consulting Service?

Your opinion would be highly valuable to me. I am eagerly waiting to hear from you.

Thanks,
Sujay

Yes, Sujay many companies can take advantage of these kind of services and providing them could present a very interesting and lucrative opportunity. As a matter of fact many companies are already in this business and offer large portfolio of services related to managing the full cycle of outsourcing (not necessarily only offshore) engagements.

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Trip to blogosphere

Outsourcing is a very broad topic with plenty of controversial topics, inevitably there plenty of people who have something to say about it. Chances are if you are interested in this subject you run across articles and posts by Outsourcing Institute or Horses for Sources. A couple years ago I put a few references in my blogroll and started a blogosphere directory. Thanks to the law of reciprocity that generated a few back-links and traffic to my blog. Over time the blogroll become stale pointing the blogs that become dormant or completely disappeared. I did not notice it till just recently, as I was doing some cleanup of the blog.

Similar to my freelancing directory the blog roll needed to be refreshed. In addition to cleaning it up I decided to create an outsourcing blog “directory” as well. And with no hesitation I went on blog hunting with a help of my fearless VA Yesha, looking for blogs that cover outsourcing. Very soon we had a list with more than 100 entries, unfortunately, many of them covered topics that I am not too familiar with and/or not too interested in such as Law Process Outsourcing or blogs solely focused on BPO. So we went back pruning the list getting it to less than 50 entries. Some of the blogs that got the ax were fairly active in outsourcing blogosphere, and I may include rejected entries in the list later on after I get a chance to check a few posts and see whether they are worth considering. Of course what’s one man trash is another man’s treasure, so “worth considering” is a very subjective term. Plus in any blog the posts are typically hit-or-miss, and even loosely related sources can put some interesting article once in a while. Well, I cannot create full directory, even with help of a couple dozen of Vas, that’s why we have omnipotent Google.

Anyway, please see the list sorted by URL of the blog on this page. To make the list a bit more helpful I added PR and Alexa ratings in the same manner as in my freelancing marketplace directory and created two additional versions of the list, one sorted Alexa Global and another by Alexa US. As usual, feel free to comment and suggest new entries. I am planning to update the list in ~12 months from now.

5 Rules of Luck with your Potluck

The month of October is almost over and I have not written a single post. Well, I do need a day job and it’s been incredibly demanding over past few months. A number of projects that kept roughly 50 people working over a half a year are in the finishing stage. Multiple systems that have been developed over that period have to integrate and start talking to each other in production in just a few days.  No surprise it keeps me away from blogging, yet I’ve committed to at least one post a month and there is no way around it. By the way, talking about distributed projects, why are they so… insane?

Have you ever tried to setup a potluck with say 10-15 families? Everyone needs to come in at approximately the same time, bring the food they committed to making, warm it up, set up table, and party on. Pretty simple task isn’t it? So let’s throw in some complications, typical in IT world. The families have to fly in from  different parts of the world. Some of the families never met each other. Some of them do not like each other. Some speak different languages. You have disagreements on menu, confused about dietary restrictions, and the place of meeting is in flux. Your – the organizer – have to deal with your own waterfall of issues – mortgage refi, kids school troubles, broken plumbing, in-laws arriving unexpectedly, less than encouraging results from the last physical, and a recent escalation of tension with your boss… And there are only a couple days to the party. OK. Now I think we have a good metaphor for what my team have to accomplish.

As a matter of fact that is a good metaphor for many complex SI projects I’ve been through. Are there any recipes for avoiding a disaster? Any medicines to take? Well, there is no panacea or silver bullet. Maybe just a few basic guidelines:

  • ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth, and half-a-dozen gentlemen aboard one ship are as bad as two kings of Brentford.’ [1855 C. Kingsley Westward Ho! II. vii.] There are more quotes and proverbs stating the same point that I can possible number. And the guidance in this case is very simple; it was clearly stated in ’86 movie Highlander – “There can be only one”. There can be only one head of the engagement with authority across all troops involved.
  • Collaborate or die. That’s almost a truism when it comes to distributed engagements. Yet, I am still looking for a team, an engagement, or at least a project on which all stakeholders agree that they have no communication issues and nothing can be possibly improved. So do you best and of course when it comes to communicating use common standards, common language, common tools – or should I just say “Remember the Babylon!” ;)
  • Eliminate the waste. When it comes to final stages of engagement the troops are tired, the deadlines are tighter, pressures are higher, and inevitably, the team’s ability to employ common sense deteriorates. I have seen unnecessary testing cycles, stupid mistakes, round about ways to address the issues, “group grope” meetings and other wasteful activities proliferate at astounding rate as engagements get closer to the end. A JavaScript error triggers call to a DBA who engages in hours of troubleshooting at database level. Configuration change pushes QA Manager to request a full round of regression testing. A tag naming discussion turns into 2 hr long all-hands. And so on. Stay on look out and eliminate the waste with the vengeance.
  • Don’t change horses in midstream. Adjusting your methodology, changing processes and procedures are better left to discussion on full stomach, when all the potluck meals have been served and consumed. Implementing even most brilliant SDLC improvements does not belong to the final stage of engagement.
  • Watch the clock. I am not talking about counting the minutes left till the launch press conference, no, I am talking about hours your best performers put on the project. There are limits to what even the strongest members can continuously put in without deterioration in productivity. A minor mistake by a release manager who has been working 70 hrs a week for past two months will throw you back completely destroying the gains built to date by all that overtime.

Boy, I’m looking at the list above and I see that we broke all these rules… no wonder the only time I have to write this post is 4 AM ;(