Sunday, 3 April 2016

Offshore part of Agile

I recently had a two week trip to India.

First week was at the Agile India conference where I was happy to be one of the presenters (See the value). AgileIndia was a good conference with interesting speakers, interesting content and interesting format, every day having a different focus. The topics for each day were Leadership, Team Culture, Enterprise, Devops and Lean startup. Here some of my impressions:
- There were a lot of people that attended the Leadership and Culture days. The spirit was more about learning, not a lot of questions or challenges.
- There was a lot of interactions and discussions around technical topics, although the number of attendees went a little down.
- Just like on any conference, there were people that were advanced and was hard for them to find new things, and then there were people that were on the early stages of their journey
- People like to have fun! At the end of one of the days, organizers brought in a musician that had created instruments with stuff thrown away. He was fantastic! He made everyone play music and be in the rhythm. But it took a couple of Canadians (Ellen Grove and myself) to start the dancing. We just let the Genie out of the bottle because everyone got up and started dancing. There was no way you could stop them! That was as close as I got to an Indian wedding, and was awesome :)

In a nutshell, I got the feeling Agile is in good hands in India. People want to learn more about leadership and product building, and when it comes to technical it is a lot about how-to's and where can we get more of it.
Congrats to Naresh Jain for organizing this conference and for starting a controversial discussion around "Collaboration has gone too far, people need alone time"  ;)

The second part of my trip was in Hyderabad, the other "Indian Silicon Valley". Between Bangalore and Hyderabad, there was a lot of knowledge on how to build software and services.
I had the chance to meet some really great people, talk with them about their challenges and get to understand the offshore lifestyle. In Bangalore I noticed some people leaving work at 10PM and I felt terrible to think they are staying to work late in order to talk to us, to have some overlapping hours for our sprint planning or standups. But then in Hyderabad, I learned that people start work late and stay to work till late. Good! Glad to see that there is a balance there. 
I heard a senior manager saying : I need to treat my people well or otherwise they can find another job tomorrow, just down the road. That made me think that our offshore teams do not have any lower standards from what their peers in North America or Europe have, actually might be the opposite. Because of the high demand, managers understand that they can't do anything alone, they need the good and talented people and need to treat them well to keep them.
Most of the work is "Service" based. People have technical knowledge and aim for CI/CD, aim for ways to solve problems technically. And then there is the challenge of dealing with requirements. They really liked one thing I said during a training : "Don't be order takers. Ask for clarifications, for the goal, about the end user". That really stroke a cord on them and gave me a sense of what usually goes on during sprint plannings.
At the end, I believe Agile is understood and is somehow practiced on offshore teams. Because most of the work is defined outside of their circle of control, they can only influence the solution. They  implement practices, frameworks, automation, UX and whatever client asks for. But they can only influence solutions. Control is not in their hands. And maybe they do not want that control.
The other interesting part is that due to demand, the cost of "offshore people" is growing. Hiring talent is not easy. Keeping them is even harder. I believe that "having offshore teams to reduce cost" is already a big lie. With cost going up, with overhead expenses, delays and hidden cost, there is no savings in that old strategy. I think that right now, offshore teams have grown and are mature to handle more than services. They need to enter the circle of control, not only influence. They need to become real team members and part of decision making. Otherwise, offshore strategy will prove to be a huge loss that we didn't know how to use well.

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