Category Archives: X

X is for… Xenophobia

To offshore or not to offshore: that is the question.

If you’ve worked any length of time in IT and/or worked for any of the larger companies, the subject of offshore will have undoubtedly come up. The bean-counters love the idea of offshore. Usually with the disheartening cry, “It’s so cheap. The rates are less than half that of our guys. We can’t lose.”

Well, let us tell you here, loud and clear, yes you can. Big time.

We at the A-Z are not Xenophobic, far from it, we like to think of ourselves more as stupophobic. We are firm believers that there is no golden arrow, no global, one-size-fits-all solution to any and every IT problem. Lots of things need to be considered on the path to successfully delivering IT soluions.

Whether it’s India, Malaysia, Russia, Israel or any of many other locations where extremely unit-cost resource are waiting to do your bidding, the deal is the same: use them only if it’s the right thing to do, and do it under the proper conditions.

You wouldn’t recruit a someone off the street who showed you an impressive CV and let him loose on your most complicated, business critical code, in the same way you wouldn’t hand your car keys to the first person you met at the shops.

So treat it the same way you would any other recruitment-for-purpose task. Define the roles, review the CVs, interview the best candidates; test them if appropriate, locally if necessary. Only when you are sure you have people capable of doing what you need them to do should you consider taking them on.

Like you would with any newbie, define clearly what you want them to do and monitor their progress closely. If they are delivering successfully, give them a bit more responsibility. You should be able to reasonably quickly gauge the calibre of your new recruits. If they’re no good, then get rid and replace.

Don’t underestimate the management overhead of having a separate offshore team. That’s your, or your team-lead’s, time we’re talking about so it’s important time.

In summary, don’t immediately discount the idea of offshoring, but if you are going to do it, do it right, under the right conditions and with the right expectations set beforehand.

X is for… Xanadu

At the beginning of your project, when nothing’s really happened and you have a vast pot of cash to spend, you can be excused for thinking that you’ve fallen into something Samuel Tayor Coleridge novel depiction of the opulence of Xanadu.

Just remember the money has to do you for the duration of the project, not just to buy toys for the project geeks to play with.

Also, this is a time to watch out for other projects, which are starting to feel cash-strapped, coming to you and asking you to fund something for them. You know, “I’ve been told I need to get some licenses, and we didn’t include them in the budget, could you..”, or, “We’ve got this resource, he’s quite expensive, but he could do some work for you too, as long as you don’t mind footing the bill.”, etc.

It’s time to double-check your sums and put away your slush-fund, because you’re in this for the long-haul.

X is for… Xpectation Setting

OK, so it doesn’t actually start with an ‘X’, but there aren’t many words that do, so this is pretty much the best you’re going to get.

This one can’t be stressed enough. If you are managing a project, delivering software, whatever, it means you have customers, or stakeholders, or perhaps both. These are the people that will build or break your reputation in equal measures and with astonishing speed. So, best have them on your side eh?

Build a rapport with them ensure they are aware that you have their interests at heart, because you do of course!

When things are going well, be sure to make sure they are aware of how good a job you are doing, but in a subtle way of course. Equally when things are going wrong, it’s a good idea to be open an honest with them up-front and early. That way the kicking you are likely to receive as a result of it will be minimised, perhaps to none at all.

Of course, if you are a good guy, you will have thought through all the permutations and options and presented the best solution for the benefit of the project. So, beforehand, work out what’s wrong and how you’re going to put it right then present your plan for saving the world to your customer(s). Do it well and you will maybe even come out smelling of roses.