Herding Cats

You most likely have seen that commercial.

I think EDS has a great point here, managing software organizations is very much like herding cats. Managing software teams with outsourced distributed components take herding cats to a profoundly higher level – doing it on steroids… or should I say on drugs?

How can one survive the ordeal of getting a product out in multi-sourced distributed environment? Language barriers alone brought the Babel project to its fiasco. And you know that language barrier is often much easier to deal with than with communication barriers or cultural differences.

Well, it’s been done, as a matter of fact many times… on time, within budget and over-delivering on customer’s expectations. Is there a recipe I can offer? Probably not, at least not a panacea that will fit any project or organization. As a matter of fact specific combination of project / team / environment demands its own methodology, approach, techniques. Let me offer just one of those, five C’s of distributed project delivery:

  • Casting. That is the first and the most important element – select right tools for the job, find the right providers for the task, put people in positions that match their skills and aspirations.
  • Compensation. Make sure that resources on your project are properly compensated for what they do, that applies to everyone from your in-house architects to offshore worker-bees. Considering that working with offshore throws a huge monkey wrench in your ability to control compensation you may need to start early – when establishing your relationships with providers.
  • Communications. Put a well thought out communication plan in work and enforce it with the vengeance, at the same time review it and improve with every opportunity. Make sure that you cover all channels and take advantage of multiple media.
  • Culture. Cultural differences derailed many projects and engagements. At the same time it is not necessarily as difficult or complex of an issue. Here are just a few things consider – acknowledge / recognize cultural difference, educate the team about them, and keep attention on cultural aspects, in particular when it comes to communications, estimating and delivery patterns.
  • Control. Control execution on an ongoing basis in every aspect of the project – schedule, budget, quality. That is a large topic partially covered in the blog already (see for example Peace in Metrics). I will talk more about it in future posts.

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