Offshore Destinations: Ukraine

ukrainiansIt’s no surprise that I have a strong predilection towards outsourcing to Ukraine – both my parents were born in Ukraine, my wife grew up in a Ukrainian city, and many of my friends have Ukrainian roots.

My own experience in working with development teams in Ukraine along with what I learned from my friends and family proved to me that Ukraine is an attractive IT outsourcing destination. I am not the only one to think this way as according to the analytics data recently released by top$dev, Ukraine takes the leading position on the IT outsourcing market of the Eastern Europe. At the moment, Ukraine takes 33% of the market, Russia is on the second place with 21.8% and the last of the top three East European outsourcing countries is Romania with 9%. Just a few years ago Ukraine was named the “Outsourcing Destination of the Year” by the European Outsourcing Excellence Awards.

Of course the recent political crisis and ongoing military operations in the eastern part of Ukraine raised a lot of concerns across business community.   But even a cursory look at the situation in the country shows that the crisis did not negatively impacted the outsourcing industry. On the contrary, this situation presents you with a lot of opportunities, for example a chance to employ qualified professionals for a lesser cost. The difficulties that Ukrainians face at the moment make them more eager to work for stable foreign companies and ready to accept lower salaries.

Personally, I am convinced that Ukraine remains a great outsourcing destination and with that let me share with you some of my personal knowledge and the information I’ve gathered through my network. Continue reading

“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

List of Outsourcing Advisors

After my post on outsourcing governance I received a few emails raising the topic of outsourcing advisory. And that prompted me to do a bit of a deeper dive into the world of corporate matchmaking / marriage counseling – helping companies to find offshore vendors and later on help them with governance and management of the engagement.

This field remains huge and profitable and more so, seems to be growing in leaps and bounds. According to one of the leaders in outsourcing governance, KPMG, 70% of outsourcing users want better governance.  That’s not surprising since there many compelling reasons to engage advisors throughout the full lifecycle of outsourcing. The main being obvious – as I often say, outsourcing is a powerful tool but it a complex one and without proper knowledge using of it could be self- destructive; having someone with in-depth knowledge of the tool will spare you some injuries. If you are looking for me reasons consider taking a look at this article.

While doing my micro research I stumbled upon somewhat unexpected problem – I could not find a comprehensive source of companies that provide outsourcing advisory services. After googeling for a couple hours I figured out that a better tool here would be oDesk :) I pinged one of my VAs and she put together a list for me in just a couple days.

Please see below the top ten Outsourcing Advisors from the list based on Alexa rating (probably not the best way to rate them though), in addition you can find more comprehensive list sorted by Name, Alexa Global, and Alexa US.

Hopefully you find it helpful, as usual feel free to suggest new entries, or comment on existing ones.

Name PR Alexa Global Alexa US Description
IBM Global Services
8 446 608 IBM Global Services claims to be the world’s largest business and technology services provider. It has over 190,000 workers across more than 160 countries. IBM Global Services started in the spring of 1991, with the aim towards helping companies manage their IT operations and resources. Global Services has two major divisions: Global Business Services (GBS) and Global Technology Services (GTS). IBM Global Business Services (GBS) is the professional services arm of Global Services, including management consulting, systems integration, and application management services while IBM Global Technology Services (GTS) primarily reflects infrastructure services. It includes outsourcing services, Integrated Technology Services, and Maintenance.
Deloitte
8 6,851 4,965 “Deloitte” is the brand under which tens of thousands of dedicated professionals in independent firms throughout the world collaborate to provide audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management and tax services to selected clients.
Gartner
7 8,659 5,056 Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) claims to tbe world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. They deliver the technology-related insight necessary for their clients to make the right decisions, every day -from CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to technology investors.
PwC
8 10,816 8,629 PwC firms help organisations and individuals create the value they’re looking for. We’re a network of firms in 158 countries with close to 169,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax and advisory services. “PwC” is the brand under which member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwCIL) operate and provide services. Together, these firms form the PwC network. Each firm in the network is a separate legal entity and does not act as agent of PwCIL or any other member firm. PwCIL does not provide any services to clients. PwCIL is not responsible or liable for the acts or omissions of any of its member firms nor can it control the exercise of their professional judgment or bind them in any way.
Ernst & Young
8 13,374 8,634 Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, their 152,000 people are united by their shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. They make a difference by helping their people, their clients and their wider communities achieve their potential.
Capgemini
7 16,622 4,942 A global leader in consulting, technology, outsourcing, and local professional services.
McKinsey & Company
7 17,418 15,185 McKinsey & Company, Inc. is a global management consulting firm that focuses on solving issues of concern to senior management. McKinsey serves as an adviser to many businesses, governments, and institutions.
KPMG
7 18,567 13,291 KPMG operates as an international network of member firms offering audit, tax and advisory services. We work closely with our clients, helping them to mitigate risks and grasp opportunities.
Boston Consultant Group (BCG)
7 37,830 23,291 BCG is a global management consulting firm and claims to be the world’s leading advisor on business strategy. They partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises.
Bain & Company
7 40,359 28,581 Bain & Company is a global management consulting firm headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Bain is considered one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world, with 47 offices in 30 countries and over 5,500 professionals on staff globally.

PO Trip Adviser: India

Continuing with a line of travel guides I turn to the most common outsourcing destination – India. There are a plenty of outstanding travel guides for India, so if you are planning to combine business and pleasure, and see places such as the Agra, Rajasthan, and Kerala make sure you study them before you depart.  Keep in mind though that most of the most interesting places will take dedicated and possibly considerable time, for example while Taj Mahal is fairly close to Delhi / Noida the trip there is going to take you at least a day.

For those of us who are limited to strictly business, here are a few tips to consider:

  • A Visa is easy to get, but it may take a few weeks so allocate sufficient time.
  • Safety of travel in India is not what it used to be just a few years ago, yet large outsourcing cities remain quite safe for majority of business travelers.
  • Shop around for tickets and ask frequent India travelers for advice. Chances are you can find something 30% less than standard internet rates using Indian travel consolidators.
  • Chances are you will arrive in India around midnight. I typically go straight to a hotel right near the airport and start my business day the next morning.
  • Stay in nice hotels, 4-5 stars. They are relatively affordable and the high quality service will help you to retain the energy you most certainly need.
  • Ask the vendor to arrange all your travel and have a car with a chauffer. Don’t even think about driving in India. The traffic and road system is not for the faint of heart plus they drive on the wrong side of the road!
  • Petty corruption is widespread in India, from expediting you through airport customs to dealing with government agencies and employees can involve bribing or “tipping” as it is often referred to. My advice it to stay away from it.
  • Make sure you have your personal belongings partitioned among suite cases and carry on. Lost luggage is a fairly common event. Use solid suitcases as mishandling is also common at airports.
  • Don’t wander off the beaten track, don’t encourage beggars, don’t visit shady places, don’t leave your valuables unattended, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket, use licensed guides in sightseeing – basically use common sense!
  • Eat only in good restaurants or at your hotel. Avoid eating buffet meals, even in high-end places. Not only drink bottled water, but also brush your teeth with it.

Pragmatic Outsourcer, v. 1.0

The first volume of Pragmatic Outsourcer – the book primarily based on the materials of this blog is almost ready. There still a few things to clean up, pictures to pick, codes to request but I can see the light in the end of tunnel. The volume is going to be published as e-book and available as free download from this site.

The first volume is dedicated to the first step in outsourcing – making the decision – and that’s probably the most important step. The word “decision” comes from Latin “” meaning to cut. To make the decision means to cut other options. Many people do not look at decisions in such dramatic manner, in a way “let’s get married and if it doesn’t work out we’ll divorce”. Well, that’s a valid perspective, at least for some people. Of course any decision, even easily reversible has its consequences in many cases making reversibility quite expensive. Offshore decision is one of those thus one should chose wisely…

Choose well, your choice is brief, and yet endless. [Goethe]

I believe book format works better for delivery and consumption of material that is covered in this blog, yet it has its issues as well. In some way e-book is a static snapshot of one’s thought process while blog is a near real time stream. So both forms are important and would bring a better set of tools to the reader. That’s why I decided to take the effort to create the book.

Creating the book turned out to be harder than I thought even though a large portion of content was readily available. When you deliver material one random chapter you do not need to worry about blind spots (important material not covered), structure, consistency, etc. All that becomes a serious concern and takes substantial time to address.

With my ESL handicap I also have to deal with challenges of style, grammar, etc. that for some reason I decided to take much more serious than in this blog. I guess having ISBN number assigned to the written word raises the bar, at least in my mind. In that arena I had to seek professional help which naturally came from offshore. Eat your own dog food so to say.

Anyway, I am pretty excited and hope to put the first volume in front of you shortly and then immediately proceed to the second one – vendor selection. Hopefully in not so distant future the full scope of offshore outsourcing from decision to termination will be covered in the series of e-books I have in mind. And then… if the traffic to e-book justifies it I would love to put all my Tips, Tricks and Traps of IT Outsourcing in a hard or even better paper cover… for dummies or unleashed series… ha.. judging by what it takes to create e-book publishing in-print must be a very tough journey, so the traffic must be really good to justify it.

Bidding Sites and Building Frustration

A couple weeks ago I put an RFP out for a very specific set of SEO activities on one of bidding sites. This SEO project was for my darling app – WWHOW!.  Since WWHOW! is based on user generated content it offers serious SEO challenges. Having spent a few months fighting those I knew fairly well what I was looking for and did not make a secret out of my expectations. To no surprise my straightforward SEO request generated a lot of responses primarily from India-based providers. I just finished going through all responses I received to date and it looks like I will have to go through bid-response process again, maybe I have to try a new bidding site, maybe change my request format, content, layout… Frankly, I doubt that changing much on my side will affect the dynamics of the campaign and quality of responses. I might need to change the target development community…

The fact that I received not a single proposal that I could remotely go with was quite irritating. One of the reasons I was annoyed by it is its effect on my “buyer’s reputation”. In some way majority of established bidding sites penalize buyers for not accepting proposals. Some of them will even cut buyers off if they do not meet some criteria, e.g. certain percentage of project acceptance. It appears that they will cut you off independently from the reasons you do not accept the proposals. It happened to me on www.eLance.com a little while ago and since despite multiple attempts I could not reach the customer service I ended up moving to another bidding site.

Continue reading

Offshore Technical Due Diligence

A couple years ago I went through a technical due diligence (TDD) of several relatively small offshore vendors. The vendors were providing product development services for one of my clients, the vendors also supported operations of the SaaS for all of the products. The client had fully outsourced s/w product development and support to those vendors and retained practically no technology resources internally with exception of MIS / SaaS IT support.

The goal of the TDD process was to asses whether the vendors are efficient and can continue performing fairly complex projects involving working with sensitive information. There are a couple important distinctions here:

  • The vendors were in large degree focused on the product development for my client and the rest of their business was relatively small.
  • The vendors have been performing services for a number of years with very light oversight from the client’s side.
  • The quality of work to date has been on a low side yet deemed sufficient for the money.

Continue reading