Industry Wisdom

Is it an Offshore-Onshore model OR a Manager-Worker model?

Friday EOD mail to Offshore team,

  • Onshore: User Story is in place in the system. Make sure we have the Test cases ready by Monday.
  • Offshore (thinking): What! It’s a weekend.

Evening Coordination Call,

  • Onshore: We have reviewed the Test scripts. Make sure we are updating the same & ready to commence QA by tomorrow.
  • Offshore (thinking): What! It’s End of the Day.

Sounds familiar? Yeah! For some projects we should rename the ‘Onshore-Offshore’ model to ‘Manager-Worker’ model 😛 Where Offshore team is taken for granted. Additionally Offshore team is at the back-foot by default. But why? We should learn to ‘prioritize’ the work items and respect each other’s personal time. Learning to say ‘No’ in a constructive way is an art you learn via experience. Got any similar scenario to narrate?

Dave Kester | Technical Program/Project Manager

The examples of how on-shore off-shore models don’t work is pretty easy to find. The examples I look for and try to create are ones that do work. I agree perspective creates attitude. One thing that needs to be done is to share the perspective. This is a good discussion because it leads to understanding each other.

Ashish Bhargava | Lead Software Tester Payments/Cards/Loyalty at Shell Oil & Gas

Typical scenario in Indian IT industry …mind you does not exist outside because they respect time of each other a lot….we will keep on suffering with such tantrums.

Kaushik Das, PMP®, CSM® | Program Manager at Infinite Computer Solutions, Inc.

Offshore has a full Monday before onshore Monday, right? Offshore has a full day before onshore day, right?

This would be a problem only if the work involved more than 1 day of offshore team effort. In that case, it is a simple leadership communication issue. Efforts required need to be communicated clearly.

Mahidhar Kothari | Senior Software Engineer at CIGNEX Datamatics

Yeah it happens in service based industry mostly, however there one needs to be vocal of the constraints which in these case are weekends or holidays, being a lead I have been in such situations multiple times and those are the instance where we should make sure we share the holidays and long weekend plans with the stakeholders and customer too. Planning should be done with keeping them in mind.

Abhijeet Vaikar | Software Engineer Test @ Carousell | Test Automation Practitioner

Onshore-Offshore-model

The biggest challenge with working in an onsite-offshore service delivery model is when a client neglects the fact that there is an offshore team which is working much harder than folks at onsite and doesn’t bother giving due credits, appreciation and importance. I’ve come across instances where folks in offshore team were treated like mere resources who are billed and folks working at onsite are treated like royal guests. If you take good care of folks at onsite, make sure you take equally good care of folks working at offshore. They are the reason why onsite folks are able to deliver work. Don’t treat them like they don’t exist. Communicate with them, ask them how they feel, monitor and appreciate their efforts promptly & proactively.  If you include onsite folks as part of your company’s entertainment/leisure/employee engagement activity budget then make sure you do something for folks at offshore too. That makes a huge difference when it comes to employee satisfaction.

Brijesh Deb | Agile Testing Evangelist – Helping Teams Test Better!

If the above is true then there is absolutely no planning and that’s certainly not the way agile teams should work. If they do then it’s not Agile, its fragile!

Abhijeet makes a very good point about the way offshore teams are treated. Remember that the onsite offshore model is just an arrangement to help you execute the project better and deliver faster. Both teams have equal stakes and ought to be treated equally.

Like I said before it all boils down to planning and how you manage the time of both teams to maximize overlap without any of the teams over working.

Amit Singh | QA

Not similar scenario but yes a similar case I came across. “We worked in cross global team, there was a lady scrum master in our team, program manager setup one meeting after 7pm IST, and told her to join – her answer just blow up my mind and I stored it in my way of saying no to such scenarios…..”I have not planned to stretch my day, can we have it tomorrow” 🙂

Brijesh Deb | Agile Testing Evangelist – Helping Teams Test Better!

Amit, again if there is a program manager then the team is just faking Agile. That’s the sad reality.

Kaushik Das, PMP®, CSM® | Program Manager at Infinite Computer Solutions, Inc.

Brijesh, program managers are required to run programs. However, i don’t know why they should get into meetings with the scrum team. As long as the program manager is not working as part of the scrum team, we cannot claim they are faking agile.

Brijesh Deb | Agile Testing Evangelist – Helping Teams Test Better!

Kaushik Das, From a purist perspective program managers in fact managers are not needed in Agile projects. Agile calls for self-organizing cross functional teams that can work without supervision. I know most managers would not like my comment but that’s the harsh reality that management positions are redundant if you practice Agile in its true sense. So the question is what happens to the erstwhile managers.. They can become coaches, mentors or even product owners and still be a part of the agile setup.

To make agile work successfully for you, you would need to get the entire organization on board and certain organization restructuring is needed. It’s a difficult proposition because most managers fret about losing control. But it works seamlessly if everyone is on board with the idea of one team one goal.

Kaushik Das, PMP®, CSM® | Program Manager at Infinite Computer Solutions, Inc.

Brijesh, wrong. Agile makes software delivery easier by applying techniques for such smooth delivery. One of those is to cushion the team from managers’ interference for DAILY TASKS (only).

However, a project cannot run just by making that smooth delivery. A lot of work goes into getting and running projects and programs. Also, not every management intervention is an interference.

Unfortunately, development level people don’t understand this and like you, would make idealistic comments like you did. But that’s not how projects can run in reality.

Must understand that a lot of the agile principles came from developers’ points of view, so they tend to take an anti-management approach. Some of those are fair and work. Some can be short sighted. Must understand the overall business and how it is run to appreciate the role of management.

Without management support, projects cannot succeed. The only exceptions would be if your company has 5 to 10 employees in one team doing only 1 thing. Anything more than that and you need management.

Brijesh Deb | Agile Testing Evangelist – Helping Teams Test Better!

Kaushik, The response I just got was something that I hoped would come so no surprises there.  An outright rejection of the idea is something I get more often than not and that’s why I wrote about managers fretting about losing control.

I am more than certain that your company has not imbibed the agile mindset in its entirety so it’s absolutely OK to have such opinions. As for my comments, they come from my experience where I have seen things work seamlessly (sounds idealistic but works too).

I wrote about org restructuring and about managers taking up different roles in Agile companies and this is not anti-management. This in fact is pro management because this helps them work even more closely with the teams and allows them to do more than what they normally do.

I agree that a lot of work goes into getting and running projects. However, what I am talking about is a change in the organization culture. The work that is done for getting and running the projects can also be done with agile mindset.  Framework doesn’t really matter.  Projects do need monitoring and control but the extent of monitoring and control would reduce significantly if the teams are self-organizing, cross functional and “Empowered”.

Kaushik Das, PMP®, CSM® | Program Manager at Infinite Computer Solutions, Inc.

Brijesh, the idea of management always exercising control is a myth, often spread by agile purists.

Also, the control in “monitoring and control” is not the same as management exercising control. A project would require the same monitoring and control measures whether the teams are agile or not. Control here means controlling the output measures so they stay within the levels agreed to.

Yes, agility requires Senior Management support but that does not require reorganization. There is no agile framework that asks for a company-wide reorg.

I can bet that the results you have seen are short term and experimental. Long term results are yet to be seen. In the long run, i will bet on purist agile failing badly, maybe even killing the org itself. I have seen the ill effects first hand in at least one org that had gone too far into the agile journey (not that they were particularly agile but they thought they were). Things were so bad that everything was out of “control” until it closed down. Agile was just a branding exercise there.

Brijesh Deb | Agile Testing Evangelist – Helping Teams Test Better!

Kaushik I am aware of the definition of the terms however, I did imply control in its real sense. Projects break down because teams are not empowered enough. Amit Singh in his remark spoke about a response from the scrum master to the Program Manager. Do you think that would have gone down well with the Program Manager? No. The Scrum Master along with the team should be empowered enough to take decisions such as call timings but it seldom happens. 9 out of 10 program managers would not accept that.

The results I spoke about are from companies that are completely Agile and are market leaders in their space. They sure began as experiments but weathered the storm to fly high. Agile works best when practiced top down. The companies that I am talking about did exactly that. And in order to imbibe the agile mindset, they reorganized. You are right that no framework asks for reorg but orgs that understand Agile benefits completely automatically reorganize.

You spoke about an org collapsing and you gave the reason too… They thought they were doing Agile which I’m pretty sure they were not and that exactly was the problem. Perhaps due to the flexibility of Agile, they tweaked it a bit too much for their comfort.

Kaushik Das, PMP®, CSM® | Program Manager at Infinite Computer Solutions, Inc.

Brijesh, while I agree they thought they were doing Agile, but that is also the best agile place I’ve seen. Others were worse. In general, I see very little understanding of Agile in the entire industry.

On Amit’s example, I am not sure why the Program Manager had to get into a meeting with the team. Does this mean the Scrum Master was not able to communicate effectively with the management? If there is a crisis and the SM is of little help, I cannot blame if the Program Manager gets involved with the team. That is why I was asking why that was required. In that situation, I would question the effectiveness of the SM also (as I don’t know what really happened).

Sorry but I am unable to agree with you on this. And this is not about lack of control. I’m questioning what the Program Manager was doing if removal of his position produced better results. If he was not managing the program, then Agile or no Agile, removal of his position would help anyway.

Brijesh Deb | Agile Testing Evangelist – Helping Teams Test Better!

Kaushik, yes you are right. There isn’t such a great understanding of Agile in the industry. And that’s why the role of agile coaches and mentors is so crucial. I work with some of the companies who have products that involves software experts, hardware experts, mechanics experts, mathematicians and physicists and to top them all customers who are very demanding. The degree of difficulty in implementing Agile is very high. Yet, most of the teams have been extremely receptive and are changing their way of working to reap the benefits of Agile.

Coming back to the example given by Amit it is evident that the Program Manager was micro managing which IMO is not required ( though I still think that Program manager was redundant in that situation) and even if the situation demanded so, he/she should have collaborated better with the team. For example, he/she should have spoken to the SM prior to scheduling the call and not after. These small things make a huge difference.

Kaushik Das, PMP®, CSM® | Program Manager at Infinite Computer Solutions, Inc.

Brijesh, so why didn’t the SM handle the situation? To me, that makes the SM redundant. And even in my experience with different teams, i have found the crucial role of an SM quite weak. That forces the intervention of management. Yet another reason why managers are required.

Tushar Somaiya | Agile Coach, Change Artist, Agile Realist at PALO IT.

True. And let me say that both parties need to become aware and do their bit. It’s not just offshore who needs to learn to say no. It’s onshore team to understand and empathize as well. “We are one team”.

Onsite-Offshore-software-testing

Priyanka Samal | Test Lead at JK Technosoft

True. And I do not understand most of the time they have the impression that Indian do not work properly. Though I have seen the work culture difference like, if you go onsite or ask any onsite friend, most of them will log in on time and work, log off on time. In between they are not involved with any kind of activities like checking personal email/accessing social media/long break for lunch/tea breaks. They mostly prefer their food on desk (though the food plate is different again). They will never work after the working hours and avoid meetings/planning after the working hour. We do all these things and still we deliver quality work on time. But sad that we carry the impression that we (Indian) do not work properly.

PS: This is my personal experience and my comments has nothing do with specific people/company/work ethics/etiquette.

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