Bridge Global IT Staffing Blog of Bridge Global IT Staffing company.Publishes articles about Global staffing,IT Outsourcing,Offshore and nearshore outsourcing Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:31:56 +0000 en hourly 1 Building bridges between people – in two ways Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:30:04 +0000 Judith Weinberger Continue reading ]]> If you have a look at our facebook cover picture, you might already imagine it. Being a Global IT Staffing Company, this does not only mean that we do business on an international level. For us, operating in and between different nations and cultures also involves global engagement in social and ethical matters.

Bridge has its headquarter in India, a country of contradictions. Even though it has developed to be one of the largest economies worldwide, there are still myriad people living in absolute poverty. Despite of growth, the gap between the super-rich and the poor is tremendous. 

How can WE contribute to closing this gap?

Apart from his business-related visions in his early years as a company founder, CEO Hugo Messer had also put a lot of thoughts into this question: “How can Bridge contribute to closing this gap?” The answer was obvious: By being aware of our CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility. For over six years now, Bridge has been engaged in several philanthropic activities. The cooperation with Raksha Society, for instance, supports Indian children with disabilities. Self-made penholders in our corporate design, which are also being sent to our clients, are the result of this project. 

a practical accessory in our everyday office life

On a quarterly basis, Bridge also shows its social commitment towards the south Indian  Saandhwanam Orphanage by providing new clothes and chocolates for these kids.

Education, happy grannies and financial aid

Of course, Bridge also assumes responsibility for its impact on Ukraine’s society, where our nearshore offices are located. As member of Dorcas Aid, we have recently ‘adopted’ Victoria, an ambitious yet underprivileged young woman who now is able to do her studies at Kriviy Rih Pedagogical Institute.

Thanks to Dorcas Hulp, a dutch-based organization, we are able to support a project that fights poverty in old age in Eastern Europe. As a result, a few lovely Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, and Moldavian grannies are now part of our global Bridge family.

Mrs. Nina Nikolayev, a Russian granny adopted in 2012

Even one social commitment in Africa, called Zidisha, has been added to our CSR list lately. It makes microloans available to poor people.

As you can see, our concept of building bridges between people is not only related to IT staffing and matching our developers with European companies. It also refers to our intention of taking over social responsibility. Connecting with people from all over the world who need help and support, this sometimes creates new ways for individuals, builds bridges to a better life.

Learn more about Bridge’s social commitment:


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Self-assessing How Agile You Are Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:19:20 +0000 Ben Linders Continue reading ]]> Do your teams want to know how agile they are? And what could be the possible next steps for them to become more agile and lean? In an open space session about Agile Self-Assessments organized by nlScrum we discussed why self-assessments matter and how teams can self-assess their agility to become better in what they do.

Becoming Agile over Doing Agile

There are many checklists and tools for agile self-assessments. Some of them focus on “hard” things agile practices, meetings and roles, while other cover the “soft” aspects like an agile mindset and values, culture, and the conditions for agile adoption in organizations to be successful.

We discussed about self-assessing the teams agility at the nlScrum open space. One conclusion was that most attendants had a strong preference for assessing based upon agile values and mindset to explore if and how their teams are becoming agile. This way of assessing distincts teams where professionals have really internalized what agile is and know why they should do it and how it helps them to deliver value to their customers and stakeholder from teams that are only doing agile or Scrum because they have been told to do so by their managers or organization.

Assessing values and mindset involves asking why certain agile practices and rituals are done. It empowers the agile team by developing a shared understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of their way of working and to decide which steps they will take to become better.

Effective agile teams understand the agile culture, mindset and values. That makes it possible for them to improve their development processes in an agile way. They can use the golden rules for agile process improvement to improve by continuously doing small but valuable improvement actions.

Can teams assess themselves?

As the name suggests agile self-assessments are intended to be tools for agile teams. The result of an assessment helps a team to know how they are doing to help them improve themselves. Therefore the results of an assessment are intended to be used by the team alone. They should not be used by managers to evaluate the team performance or to compare and rate teams.

Question is if you can expect that a team can assess itself? It depends as usual :-) . Teams who have just started with agile can find it difficult to take some distance and explore how they are doing.  They also might not have enough understanding of the why and how of agile to really assess how they are doing. In such cases an (external) facilitator can help teams to do their first assessments.

Agile retrospectives are another great way for teams to reflect and improve their way of working (read more on how to do them in our bookGetting Value out of Agile Retrospectives). They help team to learn observing and analyzing their way of working and define their own improvement actions.  Many skills that team members develop doing retrospectives are also usable to do self-assessments, so investing in retrospectives makes sense.

Finally an agile coach can help a team to develop assessment skills, enabling them to do their own assessments in the future. Soft skills matter in IT and agile coaches can help people to learn and improve those skills. Which is also an effective way to help a team to become agile in an agile way.

Agile self-assessments

I like the Open Space Technology (OST) approach, it’s a great way to people to get together and discuss those things that really matter to them. At the nlScrum Meetup about Scrum Maturity Models hosted by Xebia we did an open space session where we exchanged our experiences with agile self-assessments. This is what came up during out stand-up meeting:

I already talked about assessing values over practices and why self-assessments are intended to be used only by the team and not by their managers. In our discussion in the open space and afterwards on the meetup forum several tools and checklists were brought up to do self-assessments and also several models and frameworks were mentioned that can be used to develop your own assessment. Some of them were already on my list of Agile Self-assessments tools and checklist, but there were also some new ones which I added (thanks guys!):

Self assessing your agility

Have you done agile self-assessments? They help you to improve and become more agile and lean? I’d like to hear from you!

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Remote teams: why you need them and how to work with them Fri, 14 Feb 2014 12:35:16 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> Two months back, I visited the lean startup conference in San Francisco. One of the talks that I loved was with Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress. He built wordpress step by step in the past years. Today, he has 225 employees working for him from 190 cities around the world. How comes such organisation works, while many companies are too afraid to even hire 1 team offshore or nearshore? 

Last week, computable, a Dutch IT magazine, published an article about the growth of IT-vacancies in the Netherlands. in 2012, the number of vacancies grew with 5%. In 2013, it grew with 2013. Now the economy in the Netherlands isn’t strong at all at the moment, a very tiny growth is predicted for 2014. What will happen to the number of IT vacancies when the economy grows with a few % per year again? 

Another visionary speaker at the conference was Marc Andreessen, one of the founders of Netscape in the 90s. He said several times ‘every business turns into a software business in the next decade’. And I think this movemen’t is happening all around us. Retailers are all forced to sell online for they are struggling to survive with their traditional channels. Everyone has a strong pc in his pocket anywhere he goes, moving workers to work remotely more and more. And everything needs to be supported by software. But if we have 123.000 IT vacancies today with less than half the people to fill those gaps and software becomes more important day by day, how can your business survive? 

I believe every organisation will eventually need to move into the wordpress model of organizing. Companies need to become open minded and flexible in the way they engage talent to produce the value they produce. Work is not a place you go to, but a thing you do. If an organisation is able to implement a structure on that thought, they can engage talent from any place on the world. The challenge is this. WordPress was started with this idea and Matt built a business around the global staff model. He could create a structure, device processes and working models around a distributed team. But organisation that have a structure in place have a big challenge in changing the way they think and work. 

The change goes step by step. The first step is to give employees the opportunity to work from home. This forces a company to create systems and structure that enable remote work. Then people need to get used to working with people from different cultures. Channels to attract global talent are needed (where do you find the people?). Methods to screen and select (cultural) remote people. But maybe the most important starting point is opening up to the possibility of enaging remote teams. Creating an open mindset that accepts cultural differences and working with people that are different from us. In the end, if a company gets used to it (like WordPress), it really doesn’t matter where someone is from. It only matters how talented the person is. 

To get you started, we have recently published an ebook on How to prepare for offshoring. Different authors from around the world have contributed articles in which they share their experiences in setting up remote collaborations. 

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Does the situation in Ukraine affect nearshoring? Fri, 07 Feb 2014 12:19:40 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> The past weeks I often get questions about Ukraine from people. They wonder whether we notice anything of the unrest in Ukraine and whether it affects the work our nearshore teams do. 

From my perspective, it’s simple: as long as nobody barricades our office or cuts the internet or power lines, business can go on. Our developers love their work and as long as they can do their work, they will. On the longer term, a change in government might affect laws, which may have an impact on the way nearshoring is organized. But the past years, Ukrainian government has discussed changing tax laws and only a very small new tax was added last year. So I am not worried about our office in Kiev and Odessa.

I spoke to a Dutch person working at one of our competitors in Kiev on monday. His remark was that the media make things look much worse than it is from the ground. He lives near Khreshchatyk in Kiev, the street that crosses the Maidan, where protestors ‘live’. He even took some of his customers there, because the atmosphere is friendly and peaceful. A block away, near to the embassy area, there are more unrest, some people are demonstrating with a bit more agression. But that’s just a small square close to a small park. So not much to worry about right now.

Dmitry Portnov, our director in Kiev shared his view too:

As you know, now we have a demonstration in Kiev, and in some other big Ukrainian cities. In Kiev the demonstration is going on in the 2 main streets and it doesn’t  affect the operation of companies. All businesses still work in the same way as they worked 1-2-12-… months ago. Also our government is in a process of negotiations with the demonstrators, so it is not now in a very active phase and I hope that they will be able to find a good decision. So, the situation doesn’t affect me and our employees in Kiev, except one programmer who asked me last week about vacation and he took part in the demonstrations.
About the labor market: it also doesn’t affect the labor market and the situation on the market is still the same as 1-2-12-… months ago. I also monitor the community of IT outsourcing companies and it shows that the requests for services have increased in comparison with the last quarter of last year. As I have seen in Q4 2013, many companies had people on the bench and were looking for projects, but now we have the situation that they need new people and ask other companies for subcontracting. 
If you want to know more about the history of Ukraine that lead to the current situation, watch this 2 minute Washington Post video










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How to prepare for managing a remote team? Mon, 03 Feb 2014 04:25:19 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> We recently launched our new ebook about offshoring and nearshoring: ‘How to prepare for managing a remote team?’ We found that many people skip some very important steps when they move work offshore. Most companies spend a lot of time on country and supplier selection and once that’s fixed, they get going. Many problems in communication and collaboration can be prevented, by focussing on some essential steps before ‘doing it’. 

Where do you start when you plan to move work halfway across the globe, to a country and culture you don’t know, several time zones away? What can you do to prepare your company and your people to make offshoring a success? What have other people done in order to prepare for their offshore journey? Typical questions that come up while preparing, are:

·      Which country shall we outsource our work to?

  • What project shall we choose to start with?
  •   Which company suits our needs best?
  • Shall we set up our own captive center or outsource to a partner?
  •  Are we organized well enough to start offshoring work?

Though relevant, these questions are only part of the preparation story. Most people tend to focus a lot on these ‘initiation’ questions at the expense of wondering ‘how to organize’. Preparation is seen as selecting the right country and partner and then ‘just get going’. Many problems can be prevented by investing time in the right organization before the ‘real work’ starts. In the eBook, we try to provide advice on both perspectives, based on experiences from several experts around the globe.

In the first chapter, I describe how to get started. The main questions I answer in this chapter are related to ‘initiation’ and the questions above. The second chapter is written by Patrick van Dun, an experienced ‘offshore founder’. Patrick, a native Belgian, has set up several Asian offices for himself and for his employers. He provides guidelines on the choice of setting up your own remote office versus engaging a partner.

In chapter three, Zhenya Rozinskiy, discusses his best practices for getting the right people on your team. Zhenya has set up several teams around the world. Born in Ukraine, he has lived in the US for the past decade. He presents his views about setting up your own team as opposed to outsourcing work to a vendor. In the fourth chapter, I provide a checklist to determine whether you and your company are ‘ready’ to embark on an offshore adventure.

In the remainder of the book, focus is on the organizing part of preparation. Amanda Crouch from the UK has over 20 years of experience as a management consultant and researcher. She is specialized in collaboration and building partnerships. In the chapter Making Offshore Collaborations Work, she looks at stimulating collaboration at the company and individual level. The central theme is ‘trust’ and she proposes some tools and metrics related to building a real collaboration.

Ove Holmberg, an IT project manager and agile coach from Sweden, describes his concept of the virtual teamroom in chapter 6. He looks at both the tools that can be used for remote collaboration and the physical organization of the office on both sides. Andreas Brilling from Germany works as engagement manager for CapGemini and has led a large offshoring initiative from Australia. In the final chapter, I share my personal story of how I got started with setting up my own offices in India and Ukraine.

This is the second eBook in a series of eBooks that will be published within a couple of months’ interval and later on into one printed book. These eBooks are being written through a crowdwriting project and the authors are experts from all over the world.

If you are interested in the upcoming eBooks or are an experienced practitioner who would like to contribute with your knowledge, please send an e-mail to h.messer@bridge-

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Project Management – The Base Rule Fri, 24 Jan 2014 04:45:20 +0000 Binu Kumar Any (company/individual) Project Manager cannot execute a project to meet three goals at once like “High speed-Low cost-Best Quality” !

Project Management Triangle

Any comments ?

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Simply Scrum Thu, 23 Jan 2014 10:07:45 +0000 Binu Kumar Continue reading ]]> Scrum is an agile software development framework for managing software projects or application development. Agile just means an iterative, incremental development approach with realistic calculations and self-planned approach. A key principle of Scrum is its recognition that during a project the customers can change their minds about what they want and need.


In Scrum, projects are divided into work units, known as sprints, which are typically one week, two weeks, or three weeks in duration. At the end of each sprint, stakeholders and team members meet to assess the progress of a project and plan its next steps. This allows a project’s direction to be adjusted or reoriented based on completed work, not speculation or predictions. Scrum uses the real-world progress of a project — not a best guess or uninformed forecast — to plan and schedule releases.


Product Owner: In Scrum, the Product Owner is responsible for communicating the vision of the product to the development team. He or she must also represent the customer’s interests through requirements and prioritization.

Scrum Master: The ScrumMaster acts as a facilitator for the Product Owner and the team. The SM doesn’t manage the team. Instead, he/ she works to remove any impediments that are obstructing the team from achieving its sprint goals, and is not a traditional team lead or project manager. The SM ensures that the Scrum process is used as intended

Team Member: In the Scrum methodology, the team is responsible for completing work. Team consist of Developers, QA team members, GUI experts and Team lead. Team size in scrum should fall in between 3-9 peoples.


Sprint planning meeting

  • Happens at the beginning of the sprint cycle to select what works to be done.
  • Prepare the Sprint Backlog that details the time it will take to do that work, with the entire team
  • Identify and communicate how much of the work is likely to be done during the current sprint
  • Eight-hour time limit

Daily Scrum meeting

  • All members of the development team come prepared with the updates for the meeting.
  • The meeting starts precisely on time even if some development team members are missing.
  • The meeting should happen at the same location and same time every day.
  • The meeting length is set to max of 15 minutes.
  • All are welcome, but normally only the core roles speak.
  • During the meeting, each team member answers three questions:
  • What have you done since yesterday?
  • What are you planning to do today?
  • Any blocks or pressing issues? Any such item identified in this meeting is documented by the Scrum Master and worked towards resolution outside of this meeting. No detailed discussions shall happen in this meeting.

Sprint Review Meeting:

  • Review the work that was completed and the planned work that was not completed
  • Present the completed work to the stakeholders (a.k.a. “the demo”). Incomplete work cannot be demonstrated
  • Four-hour time limit, facilitated by Team Lead in presence of Scrum master

Sprint Retrospective:

  • All team members reflect on the past sprint
  • Make continuous process improvements
  • Two main questions are asked in the sprint retrospective:
  • Three-hour time limit, facilitated by Scrum master
  • What went well during the sprint?
  • What could be improved in the next sprint?


Product backlog (PBIs): is an ordered list of requirements that is maintained for a product. The product backlog and the business value of each backlog item is the responsibility of the Product Owner.

Sprint backlog: is the list of work the Development Team must address during the next sprint, those selected from PBIs, from the top of the product backlog by the Development Team. It’s the property of the Development Team

BurnDown Chart : The sprint burndown chart is a publicly displayed chart showing remaining work in the sprint backlog. Updated every day, it gives a simple view of the sprint progress.


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Golden Rules for Agile Process Improvement Thu, 02 Jan 2014 12:57:04 +0000 Ben Linders Continue reading ]]> I’ve worked in a multi-site Process Improvement Team that adopted an Agile way of working.The team used a set of “Golden Rules”. These rules helped them to understand the agile approach, and to work together in a smooth, efficient and positive way. These golden rules were formulated based upon principles from the Agile ManifestoEVOOpen Space TechnologySolution FocusedRoot Cause Analysis, and Retrospectives.

The rules that we have used are:

  • Dare to share – As early as possible and frequently
  • The result depends on the team – Not the individual members
  • The one who checks out a task is not necessarily the one who has to finish it
  • The one’s working on a task are the right people
  • You may critique anything, but you may never criticize anyone

This simple set of rules was used throughout the project as a guideline on how we collaborated, they were our team values. They helped the team members to learn and adapt the agile approach, in a very practical way.

Dare to share – As early as possible and frequently

Team members often worked in short chunks of just a couple of hours, whenever time was available in their personal schedules (In Dutch, we applied Het Nieuwe Werken). They produced and updated slides and documents, web pages, news items, or other content. Work items were frequently reviewed, the feedback was visible for all team members. By sharing early we were able to continuously add value to our products, enabling delivery in short iterations.

This origins back to Agile and EVO, iteratively deliver value for your customer. You can use a a wiki as working space (as we did with our team), or a cloud solution like Google Sites, or Huddle. Recently I’ve started evaluating and using Worknetsas a collaboration environment, for the team of

 The result depends on the team – Not the individual members

Team members frequently asked other team members to support them, or to contribute their experience or results from their own R&D centre to the project. This rule helped the team members reminding that we all brought value to the team, at different times and in different ways, using our individual strengths. Since we were all also representing our local R&D centre, this was an important value which helped the team, and the stakeholders to focus upon the contribution to the business unit result, and be open for experiences from other R&D centers. We weren’t competitors but co-workers, and the way we collaborated was beneficial for all involved, and for the company as a whole.

This rule focuses on using strengths, as described in techniques like Theory UAngels AdvocatePerfection GameAppreciative Inquiry and Solution Focused. (I recently wrote an article in Dutch on this subject: Veranderen vanuit je Sterktes: Da’s Anders!).

 The one who checks out a task is not necessarily the one who has to finish it

Team members supported each other, and collaborated where possible. It was ok for a team member to contribute just a little bit to a product, and release it for others to work on. If somebody wanted to contribute to a product that was being updated, then (s)he picked it up when it became available, and then added his/her contribution.  Since work items were checked-in quickly (often within minutes or an hours after check-out), this worked very smoothly.

Also this rules is based upon using strengths, as described for instance by Alistair Cockburn in the Delta Method (which is based upon Solution Focused). To be effective, team members have to trust each other, and assume that everybody is doing the best job they can; this principle uses the Retrospectives Prime Directive.

 The one’s working on a task are the right people:

We saw that when team members had the time, and the energy to work on a certain task, then they added real value to the product or service that they were working on. Team members did not wait for others to pick up tasks, but contributed when they had the possibility to do it. The team members felt empowered to contribute to the result of the process improvement project in ways that we did not expect when we started the project. Their experience and knowledge came forward, simply by giving them the means to contribute, and setting the right culture to do it.

We learned this rule from Open Space Technology: “Whoever comes is the right people”. Team members that manage their contribution to the the result in an discplined way, they contribute what they have, when they can, in the best way that they can do it.

 You may critique anything, but you may never criticize anyone

This reminded the team to always focus on the products and services that were developed. Often it was just a matter of wording, how team members expressed their critique, but that didn’t make it less important to be aware how they did it. We always assumed that people were doing the best they could, based upon what they knew and were able to do at that point in time.

Criticizing the work, and not the person is an important rule that I learnt doing reviews and inspections. It creates an atmosphere where people can give feedback, and where receivers will be open for feedback. It also helps to do retrospectives and find the Root Causes of problems, and take actions to prevent similar problems from happening in the future. Assuming that people are doing the best job they can is again based upon the Retrospectives Prime Directive.


 These golden rules are something that my team members have learned in the project, and are still using in their current work. For them it is a way to collaborate effectively and efficiently in a team. Your rules will (and should) be different, depending on your needs and the situation at hand. But my expectation is that you can re-use from the principles that we have used to define our rules: The Agile Manifesto,  EVOOpen Space TechnologySolution Focused, and Retrospectives.

This article was originally published by Ben Linders in his blog post Golden Rules for Agile Process Improvement

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Remote Managing: ‘The Practice Is Unruly’ Fri, 20 Dec 2013 11:24:34 +0000 John van Schagen Continue reading ]]> Due to the low wages in Eastern Europe, Dutch companies like to work with them. Yet there are pitfalls discovered by Hugo Messer.

Sometimes, accidental meetings are the start of a successful company. When Hugo Messer worked eight year ago in a printing office, he could not imagine that a meeting with two IT guys from Odessa (Ukraine) would turn his career upside down. ‘I already had seen enormous opportunities for IT-outsourcing in India. I just started my own company when those guys told me more about Ukraine. A country with 47 billion residents and a huge offer of highly educated IT-professionals. Every year, 7.000 to 10.000 young people graduate from technical universities. Next to that, there was no sight at all that the country would join the EU very soon and that is favorable for the wages.’


That was the start of Bridge Global IT Staffing in Ukraine. Messer started on a small scale, with IT-orders from Dutch internet bureaus that he is outsourcing to programmers in Ukraine. He is the intermediate that brings parties together and who sends a check afterwards. It sounds really simple, but in practice it is a lot more unruly. ‘In the internet world a customer hires an advertising agency to build a website. Their web partner calls us and hires technical people from Ukraine. That are a lot of shackles. If somebody is sloppy with communication, a lot of things are going suddenly wrong. Eight out of the ten projects went good, one of then became a long story and one ended up in a quarrel with the client. That was because we worked with fixed rates and due to that we ended up a lot between a rock and a hard place.

The right guy

That has to be different were the thoughts of Messer. The right guy for the right job and better communication between the client and the programmer are the most important ingredients for a change. ‘A client nowadays tells us what kind of programmer they need and we will search one for them. First in our own pool of people, but if we can’t find a match here, we will search beyond our own pool. Before the programmer starts working, he has to complete a test case and an interview with the client. If there is a match, the programmers will get on the payroll in Ukraine’.

Communication blue print

Learned from the mistakes in the past, Messer decided to change his guidance. ‘We start with a workshop which will become a blue print for the communication. This is where we decide together what code standard will be used and how the process of software development will look like. During this process, at least once a day a conversation about the project content will take place between the programmer and the client. Next to that, every week, a Skype-meeting between all the concerned project managers in the Netherlands and Urkaine will take place. This is mainly about the communication and a decision is made if the project needs adjustments’.


Meanwhile, the company has 30 people working in Ukraine and an office in India is added. Although the wages in Eastern Europe are higher than in Asia, about 2 to 4 times higher thinks Messer, the benefits of nearshoring should not be underestimated. Research shows that distance is an influential factor. Complex problems sometimes require a face-to-face solution and a return to Kiev sounds a little more attractive than a long flight to Mumbai. Next to that, the same culture makes a cooperation easier, at least in the perception of many people. Also, having the same office hours helps the tuning of the cooperation.

Doing homework

Messer is more than satisfied about the level of the programmers in Ukraine. ‘The level is generally really high. Besides that, a lot of senior IT’s with a minimal experience of 15 years are working here. Especially if I compare that with India’. Companies who want to make use of that expertise in Easter Europe have to do their homework is Messer’s advice. ‘Is looks easy to undertake everything on your own. You hire a programmer, tell him what to do and in no-time you will have your software or a website for half the price. But I can tell you from experience that in practice it won’t be that easy. You really need dedicated people who can take care of your business. One small with mistake with huge consequences is easily made’.

More tips and tricks for remote managing

An office abroad is an extra company. This will require knowledge of laws and regulations of the country in question and remote managing. How can you hold a grip? What are the requirement that you need to meet? What can or do you need to delegate? Sign it from the mouth of Jurjen Groot (lawyer at CMS Derks Star Busmann), Piet Bezemer and Patrick Schneider (CEO of IIC, Vacuvin). 

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Do Soft Skills Really Matter in IT? Tue, 10 Dec 2013 12:23:02 +0000 Ben Linders Continue reading ]]> IT is viewed by many people as being something technical. They have a vision of managers with lot’s of plans, documents and spreadsheets, and nerds that are sitting behind their computer doing the “real work”.  It may be out there, but I don’t see that often. What I see are people working together to deliver software solutions that work, which help their customers in their daily work, and deliver business value to the company. Communication and collaboration is essential to make the people that are doing this successful.  So for me, soft skills really matter in IT!  What do you think?

I see every day how Soft Skills often make the difference between teams that are successful, and those who have problems. The ability the communicate, collaborate, reflect and give feedback, and continuously improve the way of working is crucial for team members to deliver value to their customers. Soft skills help to discuss and solve issues that come up, get rid of anything that frustrates team members. It is more fun to work in such a team, and yes, you can even measure how happy your professionals are with the Happiness Metric.

The evidence is there!

What convinces me that soft skills really matter? My Experiences! Most of the Root Causes that I have found when examining defects or project problems have to do with knowledge and soft skills. In agile retrospectives that I facilitate, people discuss how they communicate collaborate, and look for strengths in those areas that can be used to further increase team performance. Books like Peopleware and The Mythical Man Month make sense. Methods from the positive psychology, like Solution Focus, Theory U, and Appreciative Inquiry have evidence that recognizing and developing soft skills makes a difference (see my Golden Rules for Agile Process Improvement). The People-CMM, an accompanying model for the CMMI, has a level 2 process area on Communication and Coordination and can be used to empower your people. For me, that’s enough evidence!

What is your experience? Do soft skills really matter in IT? Have you seen benefits when professionals improved their soft skills? Is it worth investing time and money to make it possible that people can develop themselves? Please share your experiences!

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How to hire a nerd? Wed, 13 Nov 2013 11:37:24 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> Two weeks ago, I wrote an article about lean distributed startups. The past months, one of the startups within our company that has taken most of my attention is ‘hire a nerd‘. The main goal of this project is making a product out of our current core service (building offshore and nearshore dedicated teams for software firms and departments). Yes the name is provoking, we’re also contemplating launching a second version under our Bridge brand. We try to achieve two things for our customers:

A. To make it incredibly easy to find your next favorite remote developer
To achieve this promise, we have created a vast database of programmers from Ukraine and India. These programmers are either ‘candidates’ or ‘qualified developers’. The qualification is done by us (we do extensive interviews and coding + analytical tests). It is easy to search the database for a programmer that you need. Having found someone, you can schedule an interview or ask us to qualify the person. The system will also provide overviews of availability and reviews from previous customers for the person.

B. To create a collaboration that feels as if the person is sitting next to you
This is a future part of the system. The vision here is to create a dashboard with easy access to tools that give you ‘control’ on the collaboration. We’ll use third party plugins for the core tools such as project management tools, time trackers and version control. And we’ll build tools to give you an overview of your team (hours billed, invoice overviews, availability), the communication process, access to trainers and coaches, a best practice area to share experience with other remote team managers. 

We have tried to follow the lean startup method as much as possible in this project. And having said that, I must admit that we deviated wildly. First of all, we have built the first version of the platform (partly) for internal use. In the first version, we enabled our sales people to search and share cv’s of our talent through a central database. Next, we made many iterations to support what we call the ‘search process’ (where recruiters and sales people cooperate closely to find the right person for a customer). And now we have reached the stage where the rest of the world can use our platform. 

And here’s the main challenge we face today: how to gather useful feedback. This challenge has two parts: where to find the people that can provide you with feedback and what to ask/do. There are two main ‘forms’ of getting feedback:

1. Ask someone ‘can you give me some feedback’ (as an open question or supported by a survey or interview)

2. Observe behavior of users (and measure using smart metrics)

I have found that asking ‘open feedback’ (please check my system and tell me what you think) doesn’t elicit useful information. It only generates lists of features as people start thinking what could be added to your product. Using a survey or interview with specific questions may work, but limits the feedback to the questions you ask. We are trying this now, so I can tell you more in a few weeks. 

The second feedback mechanism is observation. Most teams use google analytics, kissmetrics or some other tool to gather data. But to gather relevant data, you need to first get people to use your site (and so you need something that works in most cases). And you need to define what behavior you want to measure. An interesting case is described in the lean startup book, about Dropbox. The founder actually only launched a site, described what he was building using text and a simple video and got thousands of potential users to subscribe. This feedback tells you ‘my idea has viability’. But it doesn’t give you insight feedback on what exactly users value and what they don’t. 

We are experimenting with generating feedback, so I will write more in the weeks to come. If you have some similar experiences, it would be great if you can share them as a comment (and feel free to submit a guest blog article for this blog, just email me at

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What’s an Agile Retrospective and Why Would You Do It? Wed, 06 Nov 2013 11:53:06 +0000 Ben Linders Continue reading ]]>

The agile manifesto proposes that a “team reflects on how to become more effective”. Agile retrospectives can be used to inspect and adapt the way of working. But sometimes teams struggle to figure out what an agile retrospective is? And they wonder why they should do them? Without further ado, here’s an introduction to agile retrospectives, to help you to get started with them.

The Agile Retrospective

An agile retrospective, or sprint retrospective as Scrum calls it, is a practice used by teams to reflect on their way of working, and to continuously become better in what they do.

The 12th agile principle states:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

The whole team attends the retrospective meeting, where they “inspect” how the iteration (sprint) has been done, and decide what and how they want to “adapt” their processes to improve.  The actions coming out of a retrospective are communicated and done in the next iteration. That makes retrospectives an effective way to do short cycled improvement.

The retrospective facilitator (often the scrum master) should have a toolbox of retrospective techniques, and be able to pick the most effective one. Some of the techniques to do retrospectives are asking questionsstate your feelings with 1 word5 times why (Root Causes) or asking whysolution focused/strengths and retrospective of retrospectives.

To assure that actions  from a retrospective are done, they can be brought into the planning game, and made visible by putting them on the planning board. User stories can be used to plan and track bigger improvements, describing who, what and why. Every retrospective meeting starts by looking at the actions from the previous meeting, to see if they are finished (and to take action if not).

Retrospective Prime Directive

It’s crucial to have an open culture in an agile retrospective, where team members speak up. Norm Kerth defined the Prime Directive, it’s purpose is to assure that a retrospective is a positive and effective event:

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

With the Prime Directive, a retrospective becomes a effective team gathering where people learn from each other and find solutions to improve their way of working.

Why would you do retrospectives?

Insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results. So if you want to solve the problems that you are having, and deliver more value to your customers, you have to change the way you do your work. That is why agile promotes the usage of retrospectives: To help teams to solve problems and improve themselves!

What makes retrospectives different, and what’s the benefit of doing them? One retrospective benefit is that they give power to the team. Since the team members feel empowered, there will be little resistance to do the changes that need to be done.

Another benefit is that the actions that are agreed in a retrospective are done by the team members, there is no hand-over! The team analyses what happened, defines the actions, and team members do them. This is much more effective, and also faster and cheaper  .

These benefits make retrospectives a better way to do improvements. And they explain why retrospectives are one of the success factors for using scrum and getting benefits. You can use different retrospective techniques to get business value out of retrospectives. And retrospectives are also a great tool toestablish and maintain stable teams, and help them to become agile and lean.

How to start with retrospectives?

There are different ways to introduce retrospectives. You can train Scrum masters and learn them how to facilitate a retrospective. And then start doing them with your agile teams, and reflect (doing retrospectives can also be improved  ). I started by doing agile retrospectives in “stealth mode”, not using the term retrospective but just calling its an evaluation. Whatever way you chose, be sure to keep on doing retrospectives. Even if things seem to going well, there are always ways to improve!

Do you want to know more about retrospectives?  Luis Gonçalves and I are writing the pocket book “Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives”. This book will helps you to get benefits out of doing retrospectives by giving you a toolbox of retrospective techniques.

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Lean distributed startups: How to launch your product with an offshore team? Thu, 31 Oct 2013 10:34:40 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> The past months, I have been experimenting with the lean startup method in a distributed setting. Let me explain this, because if you are not an offshoring insider, this could sound like gobbledygook.

The lean startup method you probably have heard about. The essence of the method is: if you have a (software/internet/app) product idea, develop a minimum viable product as fast as possible. This could be an ‘alpha’ version of your software, but even better is a ‘simulation of your idea’. An example: you plan to sell cars through an app. The first thing you want to do is to test the assumptions you made, for example ‘people are willing to buy cars through an app’ (or ‘people will download an app that promises them to buy a car’). To test this, you develop the most simple app imaginable (and you launch it on android because apple makes your life harder when your app is buggy). The app has one screen, shows one car and an ‘order’ button for example. You launch this and see if someone will download the app. As soon as you get your first order, you run to the closest dealer and drive that car to the person who ordered it. This will prove your hypothesis/assumption. Only then you start developing the ‘real’ app and in that you continuously test assumptions as opposed to ‘building features’. To know more, it’s best to read the book (I absolutely recommend it!). 

The distributed part is people working on the product development from different countries. Typically, the developers are for example in India or Ukraine, while the person owning the product or marketing the product is in another country. 

I am currently developing a bullet proof method to do as much of the work as possible offshore in our office in India. The goal is to develop our own internal products as well as service customers (Startups or existing software companies/department) through our lean distributed startup method. We always combine lean startup thinking with elements of scrum (which is our default software development methodology). 

To develop this method, I have now tried several setups:

  1. The person with the idea is in the Netherlands. He is the product owner (the person making all the decisions on what to develop and what’s next). The scrum master and the development team are in India. The process manager is in the Netherlands (the person facilitating the communication between the product owner and the offshore team). This is an external idea which we incorporate in a joint startup.
  2. An idea comes up in India in close interaction with myself (I am in the Netherlands). The product owner is in India, the scrum master and development team too. This is a 100% internal product.
  3. A programmer from India came with the idea. The product owner and scrum master and developer are one and are in India
  4. The product owner and the scrum master are in Germany. The development team is in Ukraine. This is for us the most typical setup in servicing our customers, where we serve as the development partner.

In model A, my findings are:

  • The product owner is a non-technical person who hasn’t got experience in developing software products, so the offshore team gets a lot of autonomy in developing the app from scratch. This spurs creativity and engages the development team
  • The process manager can feel a lack of progress from both sides. As the product owner is an outsider (and the marketing depends on that person) and the team is remote, he is not fully ‘in control’ and has to remove many blocks to keep the team going.
  • The product owner can feel a lack of progress, because he wants to get his product out and can’t see on a daily basis what the developers are doing (entrepreneurs are typically impatient).
  • Because the idea didn’t originate from the development team nor our own company, the product is not completely their ‘baby’ (which I believe is an important ingredient for startup success).

In model B:

  • Because it is an internal product, the development team takes full ownership of the product.
  • Even the product owner is in India, which creates more dynamics in the team, they keep discussing ideas and are excited to see the first interactions with customers.
  • Although it is hard to get this into a development team, the product owner and scrum master even start thinking in terms of marketing and create immediate product changes based on user feedback.
  • The ‘flip side’ is that I am very keen on getting the app out, getting customer feedback, moving fast. Because the team is far away + I am not the product owner (so I am not allowed to interact on a daily basis), impatience plays a role on my side.

Model C:

  • Here you have a technical team that came up with the idea and they are keen on getting the product out, which went very fast.
  • But then marketing the app, generating feedback comes up and here the product gets stuck.
  • Because nobody in Europe is involved, I sense there is nobody to ‘fire up’ the team and get going with the product.
  • This experience might be bound to the specific product and we’d have to experiment more to reach any conclusions

Model D:

  • The full ownership of the product is with one of our customers in Germany, so the whole product roadmap is devises in Germany.
  • The scrum master planning the sprints and committing to user stories is together with the product owner; to get a full involvement with the remote team, sprint planning is done using Skype.
  • It helps to have another scrum master in Ukraine.
  • The team typically focuses on technology, architecture, feature development and not on product roadmap, marketing, generating user feedback.

I will write future blog articles on this lean distributed startup methodology later on. The preliminary conclusions I made now:

  1. For servicing customers as an offshore or nearshore provider, model D works best. One can vary with having the scrum master remotely, but the product owner should be onshore, close to the customer (although I can recommend the product owner to move to the team for the startup period!)
  2. For our internal product development, having the full team, including the product owner, in India, produces the most engagement and progress. The team ‘lives’ the product.

I would be happy to hear your experiences in remote startup development!

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Advantages of Medical Billing Outsourcing Thu, 17 Oct 2013 04:16:18 +0000 Daven Michaels Continue reading ]]> Are you a doctor with your own practice and you are wondering why you ought to consider taking advantage of medical billing outsourcing? It is no secret that doctors are considered to be very smart individuals, but when it comes to medical billing, lots of them are totally clueless. It is as though a lot of those who are in the medical field have actually given up hope of ever effectively handling the financial part of their practice and decide to have their billing department handled by just “anybody” – in the long run, their practice ends up suffering…badly!

If you are in the medical field and you not satisfied with the direction your practice is heading, this is the part where you should consider looking into medical billing outsourcing options. Yes, take it from me, you need a competent medical billing outsourcing partner that you need. A good medical billing company offers a FRESH solution to your medical billing issues and will be totally committed to improving the profitability of your practice by leveraging optimum processes, IT and business intelligence.

Your medical billing outsourcing partner offers a number of benefits which include:

  • Reduce overhead expenses and paperwork

One of the first benefits of taking advantage of medical billing outsourcing is that you will be provided with the opportunity to cut down your expenses.  A medical billing outsourcing solution provider will have a number of solutions that are targeted at lowering your overhead as well as reducing the amount of paperwork your office still has to handle, offering the chance to be free to attend to your patient’s needs, which of course is the most important part of your job. 

  • Faster Transactions

Medical billing outsourcing companies like 123Employee use electronic processes to submit claims, allowing you the opportunity to enjoy a much faster transactions. By taking advantage of medical billing outsourcing, your medical billing can actually bring you expediency as far as income generation is concerned, with claims being paid within a time frame of 7 to 14 days and mistakes reduced by auto-checking.

  • Helps Promote your Practice

Taking advantage of medical billing outsourcing services can actually help improve your medical practice. Apart from enjoying effective and well-organized medical billing, your trusted staff will have the time to pay attention to other matters such as:

-          Promoting your practice

-          Provide competitive health care to all your patients

-          Develop new marketing strategies

-          Maintenance of patient relations

  • Reduce Employee Expenses

Taking advantage of medical billing outsourcing can also help to lower your employee expenses – this is the part where you scream “Yippee!” You will not have to allocate salaries for in-house employees who are tasked to handle your practice’s billing issues, and you will not have to worry about providing insurances too.

Virtually everybody knows that the medical practice is one of the most difficult and also most expensive as well. With all the advantages that are offered by a medical billing outsourcing company, there is absolutely no doubt that your practice will become Bigger ‘N’ Better – without the unnecessary costs.

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Mature or capable: What really works? Wed, 09 Oct 2013 12:08:32 +0000 Ben Linders Continue reading ]]> Organizations want to mature their IT or R&D software development and do that by using CMMI for example. They set a goal: we have to get at CMMI level 3! And expect that their employees do whatever they can to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always go like that. Why do you want to mature, “what’s in it for me” is the question an employee will ask himself. What does work is the improvement of skills, by helping employees to become more capable. The CMMI continuous with CMMI Roadmaps makes this possible.

For improving the software development, the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a de facto standard. The results of improvement using this model has been measured for year, which has proven that applying the CMMI can contribute to better product quality, lower costs and shorter development times (see the Software Engineering Information Repository). This data is mostly related to CMMI maturity levels. This suggests you that in order to achieve results with the CMMI, the maturity level of your organisation needs to get higher.

Getting mature, why would you want that?

For the parents among us, do you remember those moments when you said to your children “to get mature already”, “grow up please”! Your child could not do anything with that, right? “Being mature, what is that, and why do I want that? It sound really scary, and probably there will be a lot of stuff that I’m not allowed to do anymore. So no, getting mature, I’m not doing that” your child will think. Getting mature is vague, too general and therefore you’ll get resistance when you’re asking somebody to get mature. Showing children how to do thing (differently) is most of times more effective. It requires a bit more time, but at least you will achieve something by it.

In organizations, it is often similar like this. The management states CMMI level 2 or 3 as a target and expect that everybody will give their best to achieve this. Practice is more stubborn, employees wonder what CMMI level 2 or 3 is and why you would want that? The changes that are necessary to reach the maturity level are diverse, large and due to the complexity it is hard to oversee thing for the individual employee. They associate CMMI with bureaucracy, rigidity, complicated processes and “concrete jackets” and don’t see the point in that. They will cooperate und pressure (“we have to do it”), but that isn’t an effective way of improving. Let alone to secure changes and continuous improvement.

Fortunately, the creators of the CMMI have thought about maturity or capability. After all, the CMMI supports both organizational maturity and process capability. Maturity involves maturity levels 1 to 5 of the organisation, whereby the model is used in a “staged” shape. This is the best famous, classic approach. Process capability involves skills in the implementation of processes, i.e. being capable as an organisation and employees using the “continuous representation” of the CMMI. Next to that, the organisation can choose to pursue a higher capability for certain process areas. For example, from the goals they have set themselves, the way they want to distinguish themselves from the competitors.

Being Capable, which feels better! 

A focus on organizational maturity, for example, by working to higher CMMI maturity levels can help an organisation to be better controllable and therefore avoid surprises. But a higher maturity level does not lead automatically to lower costs, shorter lead or better products. I prefer giving attention to being capable as an organisation and her employees, whereby you consciously choose from the organisation’s strategy for key processes and invest in it. The relationship improvement – the result is clear and can also be made more visible. Which increases the commitment and motivation of the employees and therefore most likely more committed to contribute. After all, people do want to change but do not want to be changed by somebody else. Learning people by experience, it has to come from themselves. These roadmaps are a targeted approach of the CMMI to effectively applying specific process areas of organisation improvement, which increase the organisation’s and her employees’ capacities.  

For organisations that wants to make a transition to Agile, there is a People CMM roadmap for implementing agile. This roadmap helps organisations to increase the capacities and skills of their employees, and to learn them how they can manage and improve themselves.

Improving and maintenance, how to do that?

Organisations recognize the need to improve continuously, but actually doing it is difficult for many. Effective applying the CMMI requires skills in the Software Process Improvement (SPI), process improvement has many pitfalls (and of course solutions). There isevidence that Agile works, but this is also not a silver bullet.By giving attention to the successes of Scrum you increase the chances of permanent improvement.

The most recent version, CMMI V1.3, helps organisations which work with Agile to get more out of the CMMI. To ensure changes, the CMMI has 10 “generic practices”. My experience is that when you train, coach and guide people well, they learn new skills by doing it and therefor become capable in their work field. Think of your employees as professionals and not as a resource,and be amazed by the results!

And what when it goes wrong, is that so bad?You can learn from your mistakes (also from things that went good by the way, bychanging from within your strengths);once bitten twice shy. Organisation improvement is not an exact science, our manifesto to change helps to discover better ways. With a solution focus, you can experience the strengths of employees and use them. In short, there are many ways to improve continuously with small steps and thus increase the results of the R&D/IT.

Don’t get to mature, but stay capable, that works!

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How to not screw up when managing a remote team Mon, 30 Sep 2013 07:44:05 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> This week, I launched my first ever book. The book is written together with some experts from all over the world. It is part of a series of ebook on managing remote teams. Our aim is to help people who plan to manage or already manage a remote team. I have found in the past years, that many people struggle when part of their team is working offshore or nearshore. The challenges in managing remote teams are a.o. managing the distance, cultural differences and different time zones. Many offshore or nearshore providers today use methods like scrum to bridge the challenges. But Scrum tells you only a small part of the story, it helps a lot to manage a remote team, but there is more to it. 

The title of my first book is ‘How to not screw up when managing a remote team‘. The title explains what you will find in the book, but here is a short overview of the topics. 

The first chapter I have written myself on ‘why on earth would I setup an offshore team?’ In my personal view, the ‘best’ reason to offshore is ‘value creation by attracting talented people’. If the focus is on creating extra value for customers (through faster time to market, higher quality, more innovation, etc.), the success of offshoring is seen from another perspective than with a focus on cost savings. If your measurement is based on how much costs you have saved, then you evaluate everything that happens using these ‘glasses’. If on the other hand, you focus on creating extra value, you may measure the number of ideas that have come from your offshore team. My chapter gives an overview of the reasons people go about offshoring. 

The second chapter is written by an expert outsourcer from the US, Zhenya Rozinskiy. Zhenya looks at the ‘reasons, rewards and risks’ of offshoring from the perspective of a ‘buyer’ of offshoring services. As Zhenya describes: ‘Yes, outsourcing has its perks. It requires in person interactions and that means getting on a plane and traveling. How about seeing Taj Mahal or visiting the Great Wall of China while being dined and wined by your outsourcing providers? On the other hand, it also allows you the freedom to take vacations while knowing your project is in safe hands. Once you have a long term, productive relationship with a vendor you can take that trip you have been putting off because the project is stabilized.’

The third chapter is written by Erik Joustra, director of delivery for TechMahindra in the Netherlands. His chapter is named ‘Remote project management can be successful’. He looks at the pitfalls of project management. Many approach the ‘other side’ as a ‘black box’, which causes all kinds of problems in managing projects. He also describes why there should never be two captains on the ship. To ensure success, project management needs to be organized in a specific way when part of a team is offshore . His third topic is bridging cultural gaps. 

Katie Gove, an outsourcing consultant from Denmark, writes on ‘The pitfalls of human behavior and managing offshored distributed teams’. She looks at the human side of offshoring, how to communicate effectively and how to build peer-to-peer relationships (as opposed to parent-child). 

The last chapter is from Natalya Veremeeva, an outsourcing manager from Ukraine. She gives us some secrets ‘Use your remote teams right – industry secrets from an insider’. She dives into goal setting for offshore projects, how to build emotional ties with your remote team and how not to micromanage. 

You can download the book here.

I am still looking for authors for the future books, so if you have experience managing a remote team, please drop me an email 

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The Evolving World of Outsourcing Thu, 26 Sep 2013 08:56:36 +0000 Daven Michaels Continue reading ]]> Once considered a controversial topic, outsourcing is now embraced, not just by technology organizations but with information technology (IT) departments of companies in various industries.  I can confidently say that the volume of technology offshore outsourcing – where small and large organizations in economically developed nations send work to companies in developing countries – has risen since this approach became common during the mid 90′s economic boom. During that period, the standard of the practice remained pretty much the same.

Like I said to a roomful of top business execs in NYC, “things are changing….big time”.

For instance, more and more firms that handle outsourcing are starting to consolidate, providing a wide range of services. Niche providers are also holding a large market share in the outsourcing business. In addition to this, nations such as the Philippines are starting to compete with other well known outsourcing nations such as India and China.

Outsourcing is not just meant to help small and medium-sized businesses grow; large organizations can also take great advantage of outsourcing. Now that outsourcing is a strong part of the business world, more and more companies are beginning to outsource smaller projects.

Outsourcing – Inside Out

In the early 80′s, technology related outsourcing started and developed quickly in the mid 90′s. The strong force that drove this development is the growing tech economy, with the increased pressure on information technology departments to achieve more with their resources, the growing complication of effectively managing IT and being able to keep up with rapid developing technologies and the trouble of finding skilled IT staff.

Since then, organizations have outsourced just more than IT.  For instance, companies have used outsourcing as a tool to make their customer service. Productions and other work processes inexpensive and efficient by sending them to companies that have the much needed expertise and can also perform these tasks at a more affordable price. These tasks include database administration, help desk, network management etc.

There are outsourcing service providers in both developing and advanced nations. The former are able to offer affordable costs because the employees there receive lower (but very fair) wages.

I know that in the United States offshore outsourcing has become quite controversial. This is because a lot of critics that offshore outsourcing is just another way for companies to save money by taking work from the local employees and taking them overseas.

It is no secret that technology has also helped transform the perception of outsourcing. For instance, internet based improvements and improvements in telecommunications like IM (instant messaging), videoconferencing and internet telephony has made communication a lot faster and easily available for outsourcing service providers and their customers/clients.

There is no doubt that outsourcing has come to stay….forever! 

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The Biggest Myths About Offshoring Thu, 19 Sep 2013 09:47:23 +0000 Sara Collins Continue reading ]]> Perhaps your business has more work than it can handle. Or maybe you’d like to take on additional responsibilities, but can’t because you don’t have the specialized expertise needed to get the job done right. Outsourcing certain back-office tasks can help your business to focus on doing what it does best, without sacrificing the quality of those things you’re just not equipped to handle right now.

Common misconceptions about outsourcing have caused many people to think badly of it, but in fact, this business practice can offer many benefits to companies, including:

Labor Costs and Efficiency

Hiring and training new employees takes a great deal of time and money. When you only need certain positions filled on a temporary basis, outsourcing the work can be the most efficient option. You won’t have to use valuable resources up training short-term workers, and you can keep the extra help on as little or as long as you need it. If your employees don’t have to waste time taking on extra back-office tasks, they can focus on doing the work you hired them to do, which earns your company more money.  Offshoring/outsourcing will save your company a great deal on labor costs in the long run.

Regaining Control

Outsourcing or offshoring tasks may seem like an easy way to lose control of your business operations, but can actually help you go gain more of it. If certain areas of your business aren’t being properly managed, you probably have no idea what’s going on with them, and this lack of control is definitely costing you money. Turning these departmental responsibilities over to an outsourced firm will allow you to get a handle on them. The firm will consult with you to find out exactly how you would like them to manage these tasks, and will provide you with status updates to let you know how their work is going. You’ll know exactly what is going on and you’ll pay just one flat rate for their services, instead of spending money on multiple expenses like salaries, software, and subscriptions.

Getting Work Done Quickly

You never want to say no when your company receives a last minute project request, but it can be difficult to find available resources to work on it, as your employees likely already have more than enough to do. It can take weeks, or even months, for your staff to wrap everything up and assemble a team to get started on the new project. If you opt to hire new staff to handle the overflow, you’ll have to spend time interviewing and training them, in addition to providing added resources. Conversely, a good outsourcing or offshoring firm can typically get to work right away to complete any work you hire them to complete. Hiring an outside firm to work on these projects allows you to turnaround last minute requests quickly, gaining very satisfied customers.

Reducing Overhead

Sometimes companies grow faster than they can manage. If your business is experiencing a period of rapid expansion, outsourcing or offshoring routine tasks like payroll, data entry, or accounting can help to reduce overhead costs. Instead of having to rush out and find new office space to accommodate a much larger staff, you can stay put awhile until things calm down.

Outsourcing or offshoring certain tasks can help your business processes to become much more streamlined. When your business grows at a faster rate than you can keep up with, finding a way to keep things under control is essential. If you’re able to outsource some of your back-office tasks to a company with the necessary talent and experience to handle them, you’ll be able to focus on doing what your company does best, without having to worry about managing every last task. Not only will this make your company more efficient, it will also save you a great deal of money.

Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site dedicated to helping readers invest strategically.

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Steering Product Quality in Agile Teams Wed, 11 Sep 2013 08:57:07 +0000 Ben Linders Continue reading ]]> Few months ago I published a blog on Measuring and controlling product quality for iterative large(r) projects. I made a promise to blog about how we steered product quality in Agile teams, using Fault Slip Through. The approach is to reduce quality risks by deciding in the planning game when and how to invest in Quality. Let’s take a look how you can steer product quality in Scrum teams.

What is Fault Slip Through?

Fault Slip Through measures the number of defects found in later test phases that should have been detected earlier, when finding that defect earlier would have been more cost effective. Using Fault Slip Through this way helps to quantify product and process quality performance and to reduce costs. And, since defects found late in a project often lead to disturbances and can have impact on delivery and release dates, the measurement also can be used to shorten delivery time.

Analyzing the Fault Slip Through metrics tells you a lot about the current and expected quality of your product. We’ve used Fault Slip Through in large iterative software development project, to improve the quality of products before release, thus reducing maintenance costs. With the Fault Slip Through measurement, product managers could decide how much time and money to invest in reviewstesting and defect prevention.

paper presented at the Practical Software Quality and Testing conference and the blog on how testing drives quality give some more background on Fault Slip Through and how to use it. The overall view on measuring quality is given in What drives Quality, which is based upon the work that I have done at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) on Building Process Improvement Business Cases Using Bayesian Belief Networks and Monte Carlo Simulation.

But we’re agile. Can we also steer product quality?

Of course you can! I have also applied the Fault Slip Through metric also in Agile and Scrum projects. Our approach was to discuss quality risks with the team in the planning game and identify User Stories that would potentially have many defects. The reasons for the many defects could for instance be that there was much uncleanness on the required functionality, or that code needed to be adapted and refactored extensively, or that it would be difficult to test and validate the functionality, or that team members had very little experience with the required functionality. Where the quality risks of defects slipping through became too high and needed to be mitigated, the team and the product owner discussed what could be done to reduce the risk, and defined engineering tasks for the needed activities. Below some examples where the team and the product owner discussed quality risks and fault slippage, and look at how that helped to steer quality with agile.

In a planning game, a user story  was clarified by the Product Owner. The team members defined all the technical tasks, based upon how they normally develop their software. Design, coding and testing activities were written down on cards, and added to the sprint backlog. In my role as quality manager, I started the discussion with the Product Owner and the team about the expected quality.  The user story clearly described the needed functionality, and the customer wanted this to work properly, so the he made clear that he expected that there would be no defects in the delivered software.Since the team had planned time for testing, this looked feasible. Then I asked the team if they expected any quality risks for this user story? The team members made clear that this was similar functionality to what had been developed before by them, they were familiar with the product, so they expected that they would be able to design and code the functionality without any defects. At that point, the team looked at the amount of hours planned for testing. Given the low risk of defects for this functionality, they decided that module testing, using Test Driven Design, and some freehand testing should be enough. The number of test hours on functional testing and system testing could be significantly reduced! Basically, the team and the Product Owner applied risk based testing already in the planning game, to decide about the amount of testing that was needed, based upon the risk that defects .

In another planning game meeting, the Product Owner described a user story which contained new user interface functionality. The team discussed the testing approach, and started defining scenarios that users could do with the new functionality. Testing hours started growing, until the Product Owner stopped the team and made clear that he had made arrangements with a friendly customer to look at the new functionality, and provide feedback. He expected that based upon the customer feedback, the functionality would need to be changed anyway. In stead of defining many testcases, he proposed to invite the customer to the sprint demo, and arrange time in the next sprint for the customer and team to sit together and adapt the user interface towards his needs. The team proposed to develop a flexible design and coding solution, that would make this way of working with the customer possible. That would need more hours initially in this sprint, but save many hours in next sprints and in maintenance. Given that the product owner was responsible for both development and maintenance, he saw the business benefits of this solution and approved it.

  1. Deciding to invest in Quality

It’s often difficult to convince a product owner that it will cost him more money to get the software quality that is needed. What helps is to quantify the quality costs, by showing how many defects are expected to be reported by customers after release. It turned out, after doing quality risk and fault slippage estimations in agile planning games for several months with multiple teams, that only 10% – 20% of the user stories have quality risks and would require additional quality activities like pair programming, reviews and inspections, and testing to prevent faults slipping through. Given the high costs of defects in maintenance, it’s easy to make a business case to find those defects earlier. There is sufficient industry data available, for instance on the business benefit of reviews. Another great resource on costs and benefits of quality is the book The Economics of Software Quality by Capers Jones.


It was much easier for the product owner to decide whether or not to invest time and money in quality, being aware of the potential product quality risks by fault that would slip through to later testing or to the customer. Addressing quality in the planning game, before any software was written or tested, turned out to be a very effective way to prevent defects and improve quality.

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10 Offshore Outsourcing Buzz Terms Wed, 04 Sep 2013 12:29:11 +0000 Daven Michaels Continue reading ]]> It is no secret that call center outsourcing is a well known industry; as a matter of fact, there are so many people who know of the many advantages of offshore outsourcing and plan to explore it. There are a lot of jargons used in the “offshore outsourcing” business, which are known to be quite confusing.

It is essential that you know the most commonly used buzz words or terms in the offshore outsourcing industry. The following is a list of ten buzz terms used in call center outsourcing:

1.    Domestic or Onshore Outsourcing

Domestic or onshore outsourcing is when an organization’s business process outsourcing requirements are being met by another company located in the same nation. When compared to other call center outsourcing solutions, domestic or onshore outsourcing is more costly; especially when it comes to taxes, labor costs and other business related areas.

2.    Nearshore Outsourcing

This term is used when an organization is outsourcing some of its work activities to a neighbouring nation.

3.    Globalization

“Globalization” is a term that gained recognition with the advent of the internet. It refers to certain types of products, service, and business that have no standardized boundaries of countries, time, or language.

4.    Crowd Sourcing

This process involves inviting interested workers through an online “open call” i.e. Bidding platforms

5.    Offshore Outsourcing

As an authority on offshore outsourcing subject, I can tell you for a fact that more and more businesses (both small and large) are taking advantage of the offshore outsourcing. Offshore outsourcing is a process where work/tasks is outsourced to a destination or destinations where the manpower and labor expenses is a more affordable than near shore or onshore destinations.  

6.    TCO

TCO can be described as Total Cost of Ownership/Total Cost of Outsourcing from the labor costs to service fees, and from the implementation and managing of fees that call center service providers have to bear for a client’s project.

7.    SLA

Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an agreement that includes the terms & conditions, charges and services which call center service providers and their clients are to agree upon.

8.    Virtual Call Center

Virtual call centers are call centers where all agents are situated in various locations around the world but perform their tasks as a team for an organization

9.    BPO

Business Process Outsourcing (commonly called BPO) is simply a fancy word for call center. Though, BPO can also used in a pretty wide perspective as it is divided into two groups:

  • Front office outsourcing
  • Back office outsourcing

10. E-Outsourcing

E-outsourcing is when an organization purchases much needed information technology (IT) services and or products via the internet as an alternative to deploying its in-house source to satisfy this IT requirement.

When you contact an offshore outsourcing service provider such as 123 Employee, the aforementioned industry jargon will not seem like Greek to you.

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Is managing remote teams different from managing a local team? Fri, 30 Aug 2013 09:26:09 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> I recently read an interesting discussion on Quora. I love the reply of Venkatesh Rao. I am currently writing a book on managing remote teams and engage many experts from around the world to write about the best practices on offshoring and nearshoring. Here is the reply he posted:

This is a huge topic, and hundreds of people weigh in every day with thoughts ranging from book-length to tweet-sized.

I have read far too much of it. For a long time I took the topic seriously and looked for substantial ideas, models and theories. I found none. And I couldn’t make up any myself either. So I concluded: 99.99% of things written/said about this topic are complete dreck. Here’s why.

Managing distributed teams is a subdiscipline of managing teams of any sort to begin with.

Most people who ask or try to answer this question skip the more basic step of becoming good at management first. Most of them are terrible at it.

So face-to-face or distributed, they fail. But if the situation happens to be distributed, there is a convenient situational factor to blame.

People management involves a dozen difficult psychology problems. The fact of a team being “distributed” is basically irrelevant. It is just another situational variable to deal with, like limited budgets, annoying executives, depressed reports, disruptive team members, bad software and so forth.

If you’ve learned to think your way around all the other age-old parts of management, “distributed” is just another logistics problem to solve. There’s nothing particularly unique or new about it.

So why has this topic attracted so much attention in recent times?

Two simple reasons. 

First, there’s a lot more of it happening, with mobile and virtual workers all over the place. If there’s a lot of something happening, it must be important, right? There’s a lot of Lady Gaga going on right now, so she must be important.

Second, a lot of people have tools and technologies to sell that solve technical logistics problems (hearing the voice or seeing the face of someone on the other side of the world). One way to sell these tools is to talk far too much (and way more than necessary) about the supposedly “unique” problems of managing with these tools.

In my experience, given 2 unique people management problems, one face-to-face and the other distributed, if you assess the top 2-3 problems of each team, the chances are very low that being distributed (or not) is actually a causal factor. It is simply an irrelevant variable most of the time.

I mean, think about it. The Rothschild brothers ran most of Europe’s banking with a “distributed team” that ran entirely on letters and couriers. Did they whine about the problems of distributed teams? Cardinal Richelieu ran a formidable spy network across the continent. Did he worry about how managing through invisible ink was different from managing face to face? Or did he focus on the basic people problems?

That said “distribution” does have a lot of significance, but not to management of teams. The impact is at a much more fundamental level, having to do with the relationship between people and organizations, and the future of organizations themselves. A lot of people are realizing they don’t need traditional employment models at all. Being virtual helps them realize that. They start to orbit away from their traditional relationship with organizations and may decide to go free agent for instance. That’s a macroeconomic trend that is too big to influence with management practices. In other words, distribution and virtualization make “managing teams” in the traditional sense moot, because their main effect is to make traditional teams slowly disappear.

So the right question in a sense, is not “how do you manage a distributed team?” but “how do you manage a team comprising people with very non-traditional employment relationships to each other and to the organization, if there is even an organization anchoring the relationship.”

I hadn’t come across a thought like Venkatesh shares yet. The answer makes me think ‘am I thinking too complex or is the reality of managing remote teams actually complex?’

I agree with Venkatesh that managing teams in general is challenging for most people. It starts with getting the right people on your team, getting them in the right seats and then making them do the right things. That’s not easy and many organisations and projects fail just there. But where I can not agree is that the problem in managing remote teams is in the managing of the teams only. I believe that having people distributed adds to the complexity substantially.

Having people co-located has many subtle advantages that one needs to try and simulate when people work remotely. My whole company is ‘virtual’, even my Dutch sales people are working remotely as do all of my developers in our offices in Ukraine and India. If I visualize having all of those people in my Dutch office, my life would be wonderfull! The subtle things that influence the organisation of teams are:

  1. Less face-to-face time
  2. Missing the non verbal cues that Skype can’t show you.
  3. Not being able to see how the person on your teams feels/behaves.
  4. Less in between jobs talking about the business and the projects you work on.
  5. Missing the energy of a CEO or founder on the direction of the company.
  6. No contact with end users of the product.
  7. The need to fully manage the team on output, by using clear metrics and reporting.
  8. Cultural differences, that are easier to bridge if people spend all day in one office.
  9. Then there are of course the obvious factors like different time zones and distance.

And there are also points where I fully agree with Venkatesh. By focusing on people and managing a team, you reduce the complexity in your thinking. It comes down to: hiring the right people and implementing the right processes and communication with those people. When a team works in one location, it is normal for people to invest time to understand the other people, to build a process that works for all members of the team and find a way to communicate with each individual.

Somehow, many people expect this to be different in a distributed environment. Send the requirements offshore, sit and wait what comes back. Then if the remote team didn’t ask questions, it either means all is fine or it is surprising. Two weeks later we’ll see what they deliver. And if the delivery is not as expected, we pull the plug. I can hardly imagine that any project leader would treat a team member locally the same way. He’s invest time in understanding the person, ensuring that he knows what the requirements mean (even if he’s too shy to ask questions or feels he’s not allowed to ask questions). There would be a lot of communication and help. And that is what needs to be done in a remote setting as well.

The concluding remark of Venkatesh is also interesting. The underlying problem in working with remote teams might be the way companies organize. Instead of having employees in one office on a labor-contract, ‘free agents’ are used. If not free agents, then employees of a company in another country. This absolutely has an influence on the way we work as the company culture of the remote team might be totally different from yours. And freelancers in another country hold different values and beliefs from what you’d like in your local employees.

In our company, we try to bridge this by enabling our customers to pick their own team members that will work for them from our remote office. On top of that, we enable them to treat the team members the same way as their own, making them part of their company. We encourage them to send us presents, mugs, share their core values, explain their vision to the team and have many trips back and forth. With freelancers we’ve tried this as well and I have never seen this work when they are remote. There can never be the level of bonding that’s needed to build a solid high productive remote team unless they remove the word ‘free’ in freelancer.

In conclusion: looking at managing remote teams from the same angle as managing local teams, simplifies our thinking and makes us focus on the most crucial aspects (getting the right people in the right seats doing the right things) of making offshoring work. At the same time, we do need to identify and manage around the things that offshoring adds to the complexity of organisation.

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Outsourceable Tasks for Both Small and Large Companies Mon, 19 Aug 2013 11:45:50 +0000 Daven Michaels Continue reading ]]> I noticed that a lot of business owners erroneously believe that only complex office tasks like IT can be outsourced. Both small and large businesses can outsource different types of office activities at an affordable cost without compromising on quality.

Whether you run a small one-person company, or a company with several employees; you can outsource secretarial work – this way, you will be able to focus on the profit generating area of your business. Instead of occupying your mind with thoughts of confirming appointments, scheduling appointments and making travel arrangements. You can simply outsource these responsibilities to your offshore virtual assistant. Depending on the hours you want your outsourced employee to work, the great part is that you can get a highly competent outsourced staff for less than 500 US dollars per month! Your outsourced worker can work for 10 hours a week to  40 hours a week – this will also depend on your office work load; there is no point hiring a 40 hour per week outsourced employee, when the workload is not much.

Even if you are an excellent typist and can type a thousand words in less than 2 minutes; the big question is “would you sacrifice your valuable time typing out proposals, responding to mails or sending out mails?” Why not outsource this task so that you can use the freed-up time to work on other money generating tasks or take the time to sit with your management team and come up with other business promoting strategies. It is important that you understand that time is money; with an outsourced employee, you will be able to manage your time very well.

You can also outsource the accurate financial record keeping of your business. It is no secret that the areas of financing and accounting are both delicate areas in business and not everyone will be able to recognize a balance sheet even if it walked up and introduced itself. Instead of leaving your company’s financial statement preparing in charge of a clueless employee, it is better to outsource it. The expert will be able to handle your company’s financial statement preparation flawlessly and can even help you handle your business’ pay roll processing, general billing function or medical and legal billing special services.

Human Resources (HR) is also an aspect of business that can also be outsourced by both small and large businesses. HR will include essential paperwork that is required in order to hire and fire employees.

Aside from the aforementioned; there are still many other businesses functions that can be outsourced so that business owners can focus on building their business. Outsourcing these tasks is very affordable.

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Success Factors for Using Scrum and Getting Benefits Mon, 12 Aug 2013 06:06:07 +0000 Ben Linders Continue reading ]]> There are organization who struggle to get Scrum implemented and used, and have difficulties to adopt agile ways of working. While the Scrum framework looks simple, getting people to work in an agile way with Scrum and getting benefits out of it appears to be difficult for some organizations. But I also see organizations that are successful with Scrum and agile, and which have found better ways to implement it. I made a list of the success factors that helped them to make a difference. Do you recognize them? Which ones do you know?

The success factors that I see to get Scrum implemented and used in organizations are:

  • The way that Scrum / Agile is introduced to teams, and the freedom that teams have to adopt it to their needs and to become self organizing
  • The opportunities that a team takes to reflect upon how they use Scrum, and how they adapt their way of working (e.g. by doing retrospectives)
  • The level of understanding of the “why” of agile and Scrum, which enables team members to develop an agile mindset (instead of just doing Scrum without really understanding it)
  • The level of agile coaching and mentoring in an organization. The amount of support that professionals get in the why and how can crucial to make Scrum work
  • The way that Scrum teams manage to interface and collaborate with parts of the organization that are not Agile / Scrum. E.g. projects and programs, reporting, KPIs, line managers, etc.

Do you recognize these success factors? Are there other success factors that you see which help to get Scrum implemented and used? Please share them!

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Outsource – For the Love of your Business Mon, 29 Jul 2013 11:25:55 +0000 Daven Michaels Continue reading ]]> I have had the opportunity to watch as small businesses grow into big, solid companies and have watched large businesses advanced to greater levels in business. The companies that employ outsourcing as a tool that they can use to successfully expand their business now know the tremendous value that outsourcing has brought to their businesses. I have made it my mission to help both small and big companies achieve their goal of getting quality service without parting with an arm or leg.

Outsourced employees always strive to ensure that they provide the best service for you and do not see themselves as just one inconsequential part of a big machine like many in-house employees do. Outsourced employees know that you have a choice to take your business elsewhere, which is why they will put in their very best (all the time) in the tasks that they perform for you. Many in-house staff usually get “comfortable” and bored with their job and lack the passion that they once had for their job.  With an outraced employee, you can always count on getting quality performance.

You also get to pay an outsourced according to the number of hours that they work. For instance, if your outsourced employee gets paid 347 per month for a putting in 40 hours of work time at 10 hours per week, you only get to pay for 40 hours and not more. Many employers do not know this, but they actually pay certain employees in their companies for sitting down in front of their computer and just chatting away on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site.

Large businesses that hire outsourced customer services providers to help handle their customer services support are outsourcing that aspect of their business function in order to concentrate on their core business activities.  It is totally possible to outsource virtually every aspect of business processes within a company.

Outsourced Business Practices

As mentioned above, virtually any part of business processes that is not related to core business activities can be successfully outsourced. Here are a couple of typically outsourced business processes:

  • Graphic design and multimedia
  • Financing and accounting
  • Telemarketing and sales
  • Data entry and administrative support
  • Web design and development
  • Business strategy
  • Advertising
  • Consulting
  • Business plans
  • Legal
  • Copyright
  • Contracts
  • Article writing and translation
  • Incorporation 
  • Database development
  • Press releases
  • Creative writing
  • Software and technology
  • Copy writing

When you outsource, you are not only saving a lot of money on running your business, you are also saving yourself from the heartache of paying unproductive employees who are just dead weight. 

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A Virtual Interview on a Visit to Netherlands Wed, 17 Jul 2013 12:29:48 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> One of our employees, Lekha, had an opportunity to visit Netherlands as part of a project trip. Here is an excerpt of her experience there :-  

1. Was this the first time you visited the Netherlands? 

 Yes, this was my first ever trip to Europe, and I could’nt have asked for a better country.

2. When did you start working for your new project? 

    I started with VpsCash on the first week of June.

3. How did it help you on the project to visit the Dutch team early in the cooperation?

   I would say it helped a great deal, in actually  meeting the team personally. Even though it was a short visit, I could create  a bond with the team, with enough of inside jokes ;)

4. What are the three main particularities you learned about the Dutch?

  • A stickler for particulars.
  • Very very environment friendly people.
  • They love keeping their old buildings.

5. What surprised you most?

    The organized way almost everything is handled, and ofcourse separate lanes for bicycles! Now that was a surprise, since we hardly have lanes for pedestrians in India.

6. How have you changed your behavior after you came back to India?

   Its surprising but yes, 10 days did make an impact. Mostly when time is concerned. I have become more intolerant to people not being punctual and I cringe every time someone throws stuff on the roads.

7. What are your three key learning points you took from the trip?

  • Coming in early for work does wonders.
  • Constant clear communication is highly important, So if I  do not have a clue about a task, I do not hesitate to ask.
  • If a country has to develop, money is not the factor, but only the mindset of the people.

8. What did you do while you were in Holland? Work or also some fun stuff?

  • I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing between work.
  • I met  a few of my previous colleagues in Amsterdam . Went on a canal cruise,dam square and the market area. Since my stay was close by a beach, I made it there too.
  • Netherlands has a perfect balance of the old and new, with all the building maintained in their old style. And Haarlem, the place I stayed and where the client company was, is the best place ever.


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No Business Promotion is Complete without Outsourcing! Thu, 11 Jul 2013 06:57:27 +0000 Daven Michaels Continue reading ]]> Are you interested in promoting your business for quite some time but can’t because you know for a fact that you cannot hire a full time telemarketing employees? (Well, at least for now). What are you waiting for? Outsource it! Outsourcing your telemarketing to a reliable firm is way better than shelling out a colossal sum in order to recruit and train new employees. 

It is not uncommon to see entrepreneurs run themselves ragged because they are trying to do a lot of things at the same time. Smart entrepreneurs know that delegating tasks are indeed the best way that one can avoid losing it, particular tasks such as telemarketing. The truth is that telemarketing is not a job that every Tom, Dick and Harry can effectively perform no matter how great their voice might sound over the phone. When you take the time to outsource your telemarketing to capable, reliable and affordable telemarketing outsourcing firm, you will of course be sure of getting experts who are well trained to successfully handle difficult, rude and virtually impossible customers or clients. Believe it or not, some clients or customers live to make life difficult for entrepreneurs.

Advantages of Outsourcing Your Telemarketing

  • Outsourcing your telemarketing needs is not going to cost you an arm or leg. Their packages are designed to suit the budget of every business whether it’s big or small.
  • Top entrepreneurs can tell you for a real fact that recruiting and training employees for their company’s telemarketing department is no picnic, why? Because it is really a money and time consuming project. A smart entrepreneur should be interested in methods of cutting the costs of running his or her business without compromising on the quality of service. Seriously! Why should you be worrying your head about telemarketing issues when you can easily leave the worrying to the professionals?
  • Outsourcing your business’ telemarketing is the new and effective weapon you can use in order to deal with the competition. You now have enough free time to deal with other matters of importance regarding your business.
  • Do you plan on reaching international clients or customers? Well, if your answer is yes, you will of course know that it is very important that you consider reaching them in the language that they understand – English is not the first language of a lot of people across the globe. Outsourcing your telemarketing makes great sense in this area, because you do not need to travel to every part of the world in order to market your products and or services, the telemarketing firms can get the right telemarketers into this for you in the native language of prospective clients or customers.

Outsource your telemarketing today for your own peace of mind.

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Crowdwriting a book on offshoring Fri, 28 Jun 2013 08:41:44 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> Last month, I have started writing my first book! The past years, I have gained a lot of hands-on experience with my feet in the mud. Based on this experience, I want to develop a practical handbook for managing remote teams. In the market, I hear that many people are struggling to run their offshore and nearshore projects. People experience all the challenges in software development and by offshoring works, communication, culture, geographical distance and language add to the complexity. 

To develop a framework that helps others to avoid pitfalls, to learn best practices, I have started the writing of the book as a ‘crowdwriting’ project. We have authors from different backgrounds (a.o. nearshore suppliers, European consultants, European outsourcers) who will write a chapter in the book. I am still looking for more authors to share their knowledge. We’ll publish 5-6 ebooks, all around a specific theme. These ebooks will then be combined into a printed book. To see the more detailed setup and the preliminary chapters, see this page

If you have practical experience with offshoring and you would like to contribute to the book, please drop me an email at 

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Why does my Indian developer ask no questions?! Thu, 27 Jun 2013 12:06:42 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> Last week, one of my colleagues from Kiev pointed me to a very interesting article on the real reason why outsourcing fails. The main point made in the article is that the underlying (failure) factor in all offshoring relationships is the power distance between people. Geert Hofstede created the Power Distance Index to measure the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. You can find an overview of the PDI for many countries on this map. The PDI level indicates how people, within that culture, view authority, how open they are towards superiors, clients, etc. about things they don’t understand or mistakes they make. 

The author of the failure article states: ‘If you have a buyer from a lower PDI country and a provider from a higher PDI country, there are already implicit consequences to your interaction that neither party will know about without prior outsourcing experience or natural cultural awareness.  And even with that experience, it’s not a given that they will understand the reasons behind the challenges of outsourcing.’

To give an idea of the opposing ways people from a low PDI and high PDI country behave,here are some examples:

In a high power distance cultures the following may be observed:

. Those in authority openly demonstrate their rank.
. Subordinates are not given important work and expect clear guidance from above.
. Subordinates are expected to take the blame for things going wrong.
. The relationship between boss and subordinate is rarely close/personal.
. Politics is prone to totalitarianism.
. Class divisions within society are accepted.

In a low power distance culture:

. Superiors treat subordinates with respect and do not pull rank.
. Subordinates are entrusted with important assignments.
. Blame is either shared or very often accepted by the superior due to it being their responsibility to manage.
. Managers may often socialise with subordinates.
. Liberal democracies are the norm.
. Societies lean more towards egalitarianism.


There are days when I still tear out my hairs because someone did something totally different from what I had in mind or simply did not do it (in time). This happens to me with people in India and also with people in my own country. Ok, have to admit, maybe it happens just a little more often when I work with people in India. And I have lived in India for 1,5 years and have a company over there for 5 years. But I don’t see this PDI index as the main factor explaining why things go wrong in cooperations among different cultures. 

The PDI index tries to put a whole country into one box. India has 1.2 billion people and although there are of course traits decided by culture, not all people behave the same way. We have an office with 30 people in Cochin, India and there are people that cooperate with our customers as if they are sitting next to the customer from day 1. There are also people that need more guidance to be able to cooperate. And the same story on the customer side, some people are able to deal with cultural diversity, some don’t. 

An example from my own experience: India has a PDI of 77 and Ukraine 90. This means that the power distance in Ukraine is higher than in India. But one key trait that I have found different between India and Ukraine is the habit of speaking up (to anyone, be it superior or customer). People in Ukraine can sometimes be almost as blunt as a Dutch if they don’t agree with something and will speak up. The relationship between our local director and the team is as friends. And many programmers are very independent and can work without much guidance. 

What I have also learned is that the starting point to overcome cultural differences is ‘acceptance’. People need to accept that there are differences and from that point, develop empathy, make an effort to understand the emotions, preferences of the other person. With this open mind, the cultural differences don’t necessarily need to interfere with the results. And over time, all people get used to each other and things work out fine. I have spent 1,5 years in India and have learned how to communicate with people. I understand when they mean ‘no’, I know how to stimulate communication. With some effort, specifically on stimulating ‘openness’, many of the communication issues caused by ‘power distance’ can be overcome. 

The example in the article is a purely outsourced project on a fixed price/date basis. The reason why such project fails is the way people cooperate. Maybe the PDI has also influence, but it’s not just 1 factor. The way to work with remote teams is to create a sense of being colleagues, of intense, regular communication. By investing time in (skype) meetings, people can spend time understanding each other. Over time by interacting, the cultural differences move to the background, because people naturally manage around them based on mutual understanding (of course there are also cases where people lack the patience and empathy to reach that point). 

So I absolutely think it’s important for remote collaborators to be aware of power distance, of the way ‘the others’ deal with authority and open communication. Based on this awareness, people can use empathy to create better mutual understanding. With this understanding, remote collaboration can work wonderfully well.

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It is Common Sense to Outsource! Tue, 11 Jun 2013 09:24:16 +0000 Daven Michaels Continue reading ]]> I strongly believe that it is common sense to take advantage of outsourcing. Outsourcing services will allow your business to benefit from infrastructure, staffing and language capabilities – this way your business can reach prospective clients.

One of the best ways to inform people about the products and or service that you offer is through telemarketing.  It is no secret that more and more people become oblivious of big posters, banners, bill-boards and other in-your-face advertising.  New York is one of those cities where you get bombarded with all kinds of ads. While I was in New York City some time ago, I must confess that I did not take note of all the big posters, banners, billboards and other ads.  Besides, posters, banners, billboards etc will also not be able to answer questions that your potential clients or customers would want to ask, but your outsourced employee can!

Anyone who has handled a telemarketing team knows for a fact that it is not a job for just anyone; this is because it requires considerable experience and expertise, which is why it is a very good idea to outsource your telemarketing.

Competent Telemarketing Companies Have the Following Attributes:

When you outsource your telemarketing in order to boost sales, you are certain of giving the job to the people who have enough experience in the business. Telemarketing firms are superb at producing results and getting top-notch phone scripts.

Telemarketing service providers do not only know the rules but also follow them concerning phone solicitation, which has been laid down and enforced by state, federal, or international agencies. You can also count on the fact that a reputable telemarketing service provider is up to date on ever changing laws – this will of course prevent your business from inviting any kind of potential liabilities.

Outsourcing your telemarketing in order to boost sales, will keep you from worrying about hiring and training additional sales staff so as to fill temporary positions in your company. Another wonderful thing about using an outsourcing company is that they will afford you the chance to reach out to clients/customers in different time zones who naturally may speak a totally different language. If you want your products and or services to attract international clients/customers, or if you just want a 24 hour a day call center facility, all you have to do is to outsource your telemarketing and you will also discover that it is by far, the most cost-effective solution to grow your business.

Who said that you need millions of dollars in order to expand your brand? With the right outsourcing solution, your business is steps away from moving to the next level. 

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How to create support for offshoring in your existing team? Thu, 30 May 2013 06:37:34 +0000 Hugo Messer Continue reading ]]> In my daily practice, I regularly encounter a big challenge in managing remote teams for our customers. And it’s a challenge that Bridge as a provider of dedicated teams, can hardly influence: the support the existing team in the client organization gives to the offshoring endeavour. 

I believe this issue exists in any situation where work is outsourced to another company, either in-house or offshore. But in offshoring there are more subtle issues underneath the surface. To clarify my reasoning, the setup in our specific case is: a customer (a software company) hires dedicated programmers from Bridge. Bridge creates the team and operationally the team is managed directly by the client. Bridge supports the communication between the customer team and the remote development team. To make a cooperation successful, it’s important that the people involved on the client side are in favor of offshoring. 

There are some reasons that I regularly face why people might oppose such cooperation:

1. Fear of loosing their jobs. The basic fact is that the media often write about bigger companies moving jobs offshore. In most such cases, those companies slash their work force in the home country. This news creates fear even in smaller companies that offshore work. 

2. Bad experiences in the past. If a project manager or programmer has worked in a company that had a hard time managing offshore team members, this influences the mindset. If in the new company, he has to manage remote people again, this gives resistance. 

3. Not ready to invest time. People prefer to work the way they always worked, which usually means having colleagues on the desks next to you. This communicates more easily, because people are close, know each other intimately, speak the same language and understand the culture they live in. People need to invest time in managing someone offshore and to learn how to go about that, but not all are willing to do so. 

4. Us versus them. It’s strange that some team members are far away and you hardly know them. It feels like ‘they’ are making stuff for ‘us’, while ‘we’ have to protect our turf and it’s better if ‘we’ make it. 

The big question here is what can management do to change the odds? In the past years, I have learned that a few things can contribute positively:

1. Clearly communicate from the beginning why you are doing it. If the reasons for involving an offshore team are not clear to the existing team, they will simply assume point one above: that the company wants to save costs and they’ll loose their jobs in the short or long term. In my experience, the cases communicated in the media hardly happen in smaller companies. The problem we solve for our customers is the hard times they have in finding talented programmers at reasonable costs. In all cases, they see offshoring as an addition to their existing team, to attract more talent and not to replace or fire people. 

The best starting point is to communicate the vision, the why of the project, to paint the picture of where offshoring will put the company in 3-5 years and what this means to the existing team. Then fill the details that may motivate the team:

a. It’s exciting to work with foreign colleagues (everybody goes abroad for vacations too);

b. Work that the existing team doesn’t like can be moved offshore;

c. It will release the work pressure on the existing team; d. Smart brains will be added to   the team;

e. We can release products faster, grow our company, make more profit and pay you a   better salary. 

2. Let them physically meet the offshore team members. This point is not to be underestimated. Although we can manage the remote work with all modern technologies at hand, we often overlook the importance of human bonding. Once the team members (so not only the managers) have met each other, drank a beer together and cracked a few jokes, the ice will break and they will have more understanding for each other. The best way is to get the offshore team to your premises, so they can meet everyone and get a hang of the culture. 

3. Educate them. While it is true that in the beginning it takes time to create new habits, to manage the remote team, it’s also a rewarding challenge. If people see this as a challenge, they get more eager to master the skills needed to get the job done. In Bridge, one of the instruments we use is a weekly management meeting in which an experience process manager from our side facilitates the communication. This person hands tips and tricks to the team that can be used. This way, every week, the cooperation gets a little better. Trainings on distributed scrum or reading books about offshoring also stimulate learning. 

4. Create a culture of ‘colleagues’ and ‘one team’. All people in the team on both locations should see themselves as part of one team, having a common goal. They work on the same projects and it’s a joint effort. Although this is probably the biggest challenge of all above solutions, it’s also the most effective. You could assign one person with the responsibility to stimulate this feeling, to constantly remind the team that they are one and they are trying to achieve the same thing with each other and not against each other. 

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