Bridge Global IT Staffing http://bridge-outsourcing.com Blog of Bridge Global IT Staffing company.Publishes articles about Global staffing,IT Outsourcing,Offshore and nearshore outsourcing Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:53:51 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 How Project Management drives Software Qualityhttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-project-management-drives-software-quality http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-project-management-drives-software-quality#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:45:13 +0000 Ben Linders http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6729 Continue reading ]]> Many methods for product quality improvement start by investigating the problems, and then working their way back to the point where the problem started. For instance audits and Root Cause Analysis work this way. But what if you could prevent problems from happening, by building an understanding what drives quality, thus enabling to take action before problems actually occur?

 The series on “What Drives Quality” describes both technical activities and supporting quality activities. Previous articles explored what Senior Management and Operational Management do to ensure that quality software products are delivered to customers. This article describes how Project Management drives quality.

 Understanding what drives quality enables you to take action before problems actually occur, saving time and money.

 An earlier version of this article has been published on BenLinders.com as What Drives Quality: Project Management. There is also an eBook available for download: What Drives Quality. This book explores software quality practices throughout the full application lifecycle.

 Managing Projects

 With project management I mean managing of projects and programs that include software development and delivery. This can be waterfall projects, RUP, or Agile project Management; the basic principles of project management and their contribution towards software quality is needed for all these kinds of projects.

 Project managers can use specific project management methods or certifications (eg. PRINCE2PMI or IPMA), these methods describe the quality activities that should be performed. Also the CMMI includes process areas that cover project management and the quality activities that are typically performed in projects.

 Factors that drive Quality by Project Management are:

  1. Decision Making Capability – The ability to balance quality, time, cost, and functionality and to make timely decisions that involve the right people. Also to assure that decisions are communicated and that the work is followed up to completion.
  2. Project Portfolio Management – Planning and tracking of the set of projects, including project steering groups and all decisions made to start, continue, cancel, and conclude the project.
  3. Project Management Capability – Skill and experience level of project managers.
  4. Risk Management Process Capability – Awareness of project risks, the maturity of the process, and the capability of managing risks.
  5. Planning Capability – The ability to estimate, plan, and track projects with respect to the quality of the delivered product.
  6. Scope Stability – Impact of major changes in the projects (e.g., those related to stability of the products to be developed), the development teams involved in the projects, and major changes in project funding or delivery dates. These changes are often related to changes in the product roadmap.
  7. Schedule Pressure – The way deadlines are used to put pressure on projects and people to deliver on time.
  8. Operational Overview and Insight – Insight into the status of ongoing projects (e.g., processes used, documents delivered, quality of the documents).
  9. Operational Line Management – Activities done by department managers in their role as responsible for the short term activities.
  10. Project Management Process Adherence – Checks (e.g., audits or assessments) to determine whether the baselined processes are being followed and if they are effective and efficient.

Decision Making Capability

Project Managers are expected to take decisions that are needed for project to deliver and meets its goals. This can be decisions about what to do, when to do it or how to do it. Depending on the project management method that is used and how the project is steered and monitored, there can be big differences in which decisions are taken by the project manager, and which are taken by members of the project team, or by stakeholders.

For instance, in an agile project, the content of each sprint is decided in the planning game. The Product Owner and team discuss the User Stories, estimate the work involved, and decide which ones will be included. The planning game must decide about product quality that is required, since this can have much impact on the work that needs to be done. Aspects of quality are the knowledge and skills that are neededto develop the software, the quality activities that need to be done (eg. pair programmingreviews ortesting) and the process that will be used to do the work. Decisions can either be documented on the scrum board, or in the Definition of Done (DoD). Retrospectives can be used to look back on decisions that were taken in the planning game and stand-ups, and to continuously improve the capabilities of the agile team to manage their work.

Do we still need projectmanagers to manage projects with agile teams? Yes, but their role will be different. Project managers can for instance organize the coördination between the project teams (eg. with a scrum-of-scrums), to ensure that the subproducts can be integrated and delicered. In larger projects they will do the delivery planning, to ensure that project deliveries are aligned with product roadmaps. And they have to align the project with all the stakeholders, like project sponsors, line managers, and product managers, where this is not done by the Product Owner.  

In the end, a project manager is also responsible for steering product quality in agile teams, and for the reporting of his/her agile project. My opinion is that there is still a need for project managers in agile, where they support the primary planning mechanisms from agile methods like Scrum.

Risk Management

The quality of the software products is related to the way that risks are managed in projects. Product quality risks should be identified early and continuously, and actions taken to either reduce that change that the risk occurs, or mitigate quality impact.

In agile, User Stories that pose a high risk are usually done as early as possible in the project. It is better to deal with risks early, while there is still room to deal with them. Spikes are a great way to deal with risks in projects as early as possible. They decrease project disturbances, and help agile teams and product owners to get quick feedback about product possibilities. To reduce risks and improve quality, agile teams shoulddevelop their capabilities to deliver code with high quality.

Schedule Pressure

Several good books have been written on managing time and people on projects, like The Mythical Man Month from Fred Brooks and Peopleware from Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister. They make it very clear that (project and line) managers should carefully manage teams, and prevent that professionals are overloaded with work.

My experience is that keeping teams composition stable enables team members to learn and improve continuously. Also XP promotes a Core Practice “40 hour workweek”, which aims to reduce pressure on team members to prevent them from making mistakes that result in less quality.

Why do project managers put time pressure on their teams? I don’t know, and it still surprises me, so I can only guess at their reasons to do it. Maybe because they think that putting pressure on people makes them more productive? That team need deadlines to come up with results? They might see it as bargaining, where they want to find the optimum amount of work to be delivered within a time frame? If you know what drives project managers to put pressure on their teams, please react to this post, and let me know!

Summing up, there are lot’s of good reasons for project managers to reduce schedule pressure, to reduce quality risks with products that are developed. Why it is still done (too) often surprises me.

Conclusions

Project Management can drive quality. By taking decisions that enable the project team to develop software, and by establishing a structure and environment where the team can deliver quality products and services in an efficient way. And by taking and communicating decisions timely so that professionals know what has been agreed with the project stakeholders. Together with Senior ManagementOperational Management and Process Management, Project Management drives professionals to deliver high quality products, on time and within budget, which meet their quality goals.

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Positive effects of Offshoring on innovation of Firmshttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/positive-effects-of-offshoring-on-innovation-of-firms http://bridge-outsourcing.com/positive-effects-of-offshoring-on-innovation-of-firms#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 05:58:26 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6666 Continue reading ]]> I speak to many people about offshoring and nearshoring. One of the central themes that come up is the move from ‘providing people’ to ‘R&D offshoring’ and ‘collaborative innovation’. Instead of providing people for specific customer projects, companies look at joint innovation.

Products that are developed for a customer, can be sold in the local market of the offshore provider. Software that is developed by the offshore provider for the local market or another customer in another country, can be sold in the country of the customer. Products can even be developed as a joint investment. I heard someone at a big telecom company from the Netherlands describe this case literally. They had outsourced a big part of their business to a partner in India. They specifically selected the partner on their innovative merits, not only on price or the narrow competencies needed to ‘do the operational job’. They have successfully launched products together and sold products back and forth in their respective markets. 

Many companies also establish R&D centers offshore, especially in India. This can be done in collaboration with a partner or as a captive center. In India there are many highly educated engineers, many even studied or worked abroad. These engineers can contribute substantial value to innovation for companies that are established elsewhere. An interesting case I read in a paper from Ferrazzi Greenlight:

Leveraging Remotely-Located Product Teams
For most global companies, teams located in far-flung parts of the globe are a huge untapped resource for innovation. At a large manufacturing company with whom Ferrazzi Greenlight recently worked, most innovation came from research and development teams located in the United States, despite the firm’s presence in approximately 180 countries around the world and its research labs in more than a dozen locations. Most products marketed abroad included only minor adaptations for local markets. While some of these were successful, many weren’t. Often they were much too costly for the local market. Also, some were developed myopically, without fully understanding local needs
As homegrown competitors in emerging markets started to become a force to be reckoned with, the company began to encourage their own local teams to propose innovations. One such team was located in India, where the overcrowded and poorly maintained infrastructure of roads is shared by trucks, cars, scooters, bicycles, and even livestock. As you might imagine, accidents are commonplace.Using base technology originally developed in the U.S., the company’s research unit in India proposed and co-developed a special strap-on bumper for cars that reduced impact and made fewer accidents fatal. The local team’s superior understanding of the market’s needs – and its price sensitivity – defined the project’s parameters, while U.S. team members contributed technical and testing expertise. The resulting product was so successful locally that the manufacturer is considering marketing it in other emerging markets – but not without getting sufficient input from local teams first
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Feedback needed for a new platformhttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/feedback-needed-for-a-new-platform http://bridge-outsourcing.com/feedback-needed-for-a-new-platform#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 07:02:54 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6661 Continue reading ]]> The past year we’ve been working on an online platform, Bridge Teams. I have done a lot of research on outsourcing/recruitment/hiring platforms and would like to get your feedback on the use of this type of services. 

Bridge Teams enables companies to select (a team of) A-player developers. Users can find detailed profiles and can request an interview. Many programmers are screened by us and get the label ‘guaranteed’. Once the teams is selected, the team (all employees of a company) will work from our (or one of our partner’s) office. A process manager will be assigned to facilitate the communication between the team and the customer. We’ll manage and improve the team step by step (using a structured personal development process, team activities, training). 

The current solution is aimed at software product and service companies and enterprises with large scale (ongoing) software development needs. As it’s hard to find good developers in many countries, companies can hire them outside their borders. The work will then be done remotely from our office (India/Ukraine) or the people can relocate. 

Right now, the team can be assembled by picking individuals based on skills, technologies. The longer term vision is to enable users to search existing teams that have worked together before on a certain domain, industry, solution or technology. 

The main thing I found on comparable platforms is that they all focus on ‘freelancers’. My vision is that although freelancers can take on projects, for larger scale projects it’s not always the best solution. In bigger projects, you want a team to work from one place, because it’s already complex enough to work with 2 locations. In addition, freelancers became freelancers to be ‘free’ > meaning you can’t always rely on their availability as they often have other projects .

Major platforms I have in mind are:

Odesk > this is the biggest platform for freelance work
Elance > recently merged with Odesk, the offering is similar to Odesk

These two platforms work well for smaller scale projects and for time-rich-cash-poor companies. The main hurdle is picking the right people. For that, you need to invest a lot of time (even though the reviews from previous projects help, you’ll get many results or many offers that you’ll need to go through). 

Recently, I found a few variants that aim at solving specific problems compared to the ‘Odesk model’:

Ziptask > adds a project management layer. You pick a PM, the PM picks + manages the team/project. 
Toptal >  pre-screens the freelancers for you. Before you can search for the people, you get an intake with a sales person and they provide the best fit. 
Matchist > you post a project, they match the project with a pre-screened freelancer. 
 
If you think we miss any other service, please put it in a comment or drop me an email

It would help us a lot to get your feedback on our own platform. Here are some questions I would like you to address (put it as a comment or drop me an email).

1.      What would you say about the concept/value proposition of the staffing marketplace/platform (e.g. is it clear, would it appeal to you)?
2.      How distinct/similar is it comparing to other (known to you) staffing solutions?
3.      What would you say about the user experience, usability, layout etc. of the site?
4.      Would you sign-up/register (please do if you feel like doing so)? Please elaborate
5.      Would you immediately transact on the platform? If not, what would it take to make you transact? Please elaborate 

 

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Work is what you do, not where you gohttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/work-is-what-you-do-not-where-you-go http://bridge-outsourcing.com/work-is-what-you-do-not-where-you-go#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:32:35 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6656 Continue reading ]]> I saw the following diagram spread in social media several times in the past weeks. Although the changes go slow, organisation moves in this direction. One element I believe needs to be added to the picture is from ‘office’ to ‘anyplace’. This has a very big impact on the way work is organised. In the 20th century work was where you went. Now work is what you do. Work moves to the people instead of the other way around.

Technology has only recently started to facilitate this change (although the Internet is several decades old, only the past 15-20 years did it start enabling people to work remotely). Many tools are developed to support remote work. We move from rigid ERP/SAP environments to specific cloud based tools that support work. We move from server-based Microsoft solutions to Google Docs and Hangouts. When I started my business 9 years ago, I had to build my own project management tool to facilitate distributed software development. Today, if you google ‘project management tool’, you’ll get bombarded with solutions. 

Offices were invented in the industrial era. People moved to the office to do the work together, because there was no other way. Before that, life revolved around the house. I believe life will move ‘home’ again in the decades to come. Office is where you go to meet your colleagues once in a while, to feel the human connection (because sitting alone at home 5 days a week will make you numb). 

And it will matter less and less where you’re doing your work. People can live where they want. Teams will become completely cross-cultural and cross-country. 

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3 pitfalls in offshoring and nearshoringhttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/3-pitfalls-in-offshoring-and-nearshoring http://bridge-outsourcing.com/3-pitfalls-in-offshoring-and-nearshoring#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 07:33:50 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6556 Continue reading ]]> Few weeks ago, I gave a presentation on our company’s event. The visitors were both experienced offshorers and people planning to offshore their software development. One of the questions that arose was ‘what are the pitfalls in offshoring’. While I could write a book about this (and I actually did), I have a top three:

1. ‘Us versus them’ and ‘Parent-child’ relationships

I see collaborations across geographies go wrong most often when an atmosphere of ‘us versus them’ develops. It is human nature to develop this mentality. We always look at other people as ‘strangers’, especially if they are from another country, religion, city (right?). If not, we wouldn’t have wars. If our aim is ‘collaboration’ and ‘partnership’, we have to be weary of this mentality. 

If words arise like ‘those Indians’ or ‘the other guys’, it’s time to talk. The only way to make cross-cultural collaboration work is if it’s about ‘us’ > it’s one team and together we’re trying to achieve something. 

A similar pattern is ‘parent-child’, which often arises because of the client-supplier paradigm. We are the client, so what we tell has to get done. And if they say they deliver on wednesday the 25th of May, then they have to, otherwise we’ll fine them. With this attitude, it is very hard to make a collaboration work out for a longer period of time. 

2. Not enough preparation

I see companies spend months on RFP’s, selecting the country, talking to vendors, trying to make the right choice. And when the ‘real work’ has to start, they go with what they always did. They organize the work as they have always done locally. They rely on the vendor to show them the way (because the vendor has been doing this for years). 

What’s required is a focus on 2 things: selecting the right people and thinking about the’ how’. Everything succeeds if you’ve got the right individuals on your projects. So screen the people (even if it’s a vendor) as thorough as you’d do it recruiting your own local colleagues. And second, once the people are ‘on board’, think about how you are going to communicate and collaborate. Brainstorm on the process (and the way it has to be modified to match the new situation), agree on (coding) standards, fix a meeting rythm of daily and weekly meetings, nail down responsibilities of everyone involved. We’ve developed the ‘Bridge Global Staffing Canvas’ for this, which I can send to you if you drop me an email (h.messer@bridge-outsourcing.nl). 

3. The black box approach

When I hear people say ‘outsourcing doesn’t work for us’, I get cautious because I hear ‘outsourcing’. My question is always ‘how did you organize the work?’. And in 99% of the cases, they tell me ‘well, I took a 2-3 months project, specified everything until the smallest detail and agreed on a fixed price and date with my supplier offshore’. 

While this way of working is hard with a local supplier, it’s 4 times harder with a remote supplier. In software, it’s hard to specify upfront what needs to be developed. Next, it’s hard to estimate the workload (we’re always optimistic). And then, when requirements and estimate deviate, a lot of communication is needed to agree on the terms for ‘extra work’. 

Instead of throwing the requirements into a black box, open up the black box. Choose a process that’s more iterative, scrum based. Ensure you select the people that will do the work for you. Create a flexible collaboration, where agreements can change upon new insights. 

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Reshoring: truth or myth?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/reshoring-truth-or-myth http://bridge-outsourcing.com/reshoring-truth-or-myth#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 04:29:11 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6558 Continue reading ]]> Are companies moving IT jobs back to their home country? Is offshoring on the reverse? I often hear people say that it’s the case. It often sounds like ‘hard facts’, so I decided to do a small research. 

The first thing I found is that there is no research. There is hardly any research about the countries people offshore or nearshore to (at least from the Netherlands I couldn’t find any data). There is also no research about the net effect of jobs moving abroad versus jobs ‘coming back’. Maybe a wake up call to some researchers?

I did find some stories on ‘reshoring’. In the US, there is a movement called reshorenow. This is a group of people creating awareness among companies to move manufacturing jobs back to the US. They appeal to people by communicating the benefits of creating jobs ‘back home’. Diving into the movement, it seems to me that there is no hard prove that jobs are indeed returning, although there are individual cases. This also relates to manufacturing jobs, not IT jobs. 

In the Netherlands, the financial newspaper (FD) did a research in 2013, which showed that 10% of companies that moved manufacturing jobs offshore, moves the jobs back to the Netherlands. Another 5% is considering this. I find this research not very convincing, because it doesn’t say anything about the movement in the other direction: which % of companies moves work offshore? And from the 15% that indicated moving jobs back, how many are still at the same time moving particular jobs offshore? Again, it’s about manufacturing jobs. 

The Boston Consulting Group, did a similar research in 2013. This research showed that among manufacturing companies in the US, 54% of companies are considering moving jobs back, while 21 % are actively moving jobs back. 

For the situation in the Netherlands, this (Dutch) article made an interesting analysis on reshoring versus offshoring. They interviewed people from different backgrounds (a director, an economist, a researcher) to comment on the idea that jobs are indeed returning to the Netherlands. It seems that all of them agree the media love to report jobs are coming back, but that apart from some individual cases, the trend is moving jobs offshore, not the other way around. 

From my non-academic findings in the market, I also observe that offshoring and nearshoring are growing in popularity. I also believe that the trend is unstoppable for in Europe, we have a lack of skilled people in certain areas. And more work is done remotely than most people know about (because most media only publish on hypes). I spoke to consultancy firms that tell me most of their report are written by colleagues in India. For certain consultancy jobs, they even fly people from India to the customer. A part of the Dutch highways, is monitored on big screens in an office in Kerala. The Dutch postal service has people in the Philipines screen envelopes that couldn’t be read by their systems, so they arrive in the right address. It seems to me the movement is to the East and not the other way around.

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How to Organize Offshore and Nearshore Collaboration?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-organize-offshore-and-nearshore-collaboration http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-organize-offshore-and-nearshore-collaboration#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 04:39:27 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6585 Continue reading ]]> We recently launched our new eBook about offshoring and nearshoring : 
‘How to Organize Offshore and Nearshore Collaboration’

The main questions came up when managing teams that are geographically distributed are:- How do you organize a remote collaboration? What process should you introduce? How do you communicate your requirements? How do you ensure that people are doing what they are supposed to be doing? Nowadays, the technological infrastructure is in place and there are many companies working with globally distributed teams. At the same time, a lot of people look for a proven way to organize remote work. In this eBook, nine practitioners from different parts of the world and from different organizations share best practices based on their experiences.

In the first chapter, I discuss three ingredients for a successful remote collaboration – process, responsibilities, and performance. Thereby, the crucial questions such as ‘What process works best? Should you use scrum, waterfall, or something else?’ will be answered. As far as process is concerned, I describe the importance of creating clear responsibilities among the team members. Once the process is in place and people know what to do, you need to measure the outcome.

The second chapter is written by Darel Cullen who has a long and varied experience in the software industry in various sectors including nuclear, space, air traffic control, and other industries. He provides guidelines on knowledge transfer and IP protection. Many companies struggle with transferring (tacit) knowledge to their team members at a remote location. The remote team lacks the interaction that a collocated team has. Darel shares some best practices on reducing this knowledge gap.

The third chapter is written by Abhilash Chandran, an Agile Software Development Manager, coach, and practitioner, employed with Xerox Corporation. He shares his experiences on setting up a distributed Agile team in India. His expertise gives you practical insights on what roles should be performed onshore versus offshore, and what tools can best support the Agile collaboration.

How do you discuss, manage, and realize planning and deadlines? In chapter four, Andy Jordan introduces the steps to success in planning your offshore project. Andy is the President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a strong emphasis on organizational transformation, portfolio management, and PMOs.

In chapter five, Erwin de Bont, who has over 20 years of experience in successfully managing many aspects of the Telecom and ICT Industry, shares his insights on good governance and multi-level KPIs in outsourcing. He uses the example of a large organization that wants to outsource many primary processes to help their customers.

In chapter six, Andreas Brilling and Anuj Kumar describe their concept on ‘how to make the waterfall model work in a multi-shore setting’. While most organizations move to Agile and scrum, the authors describe a successful implementation of waterfall and how to add Agile elements to the waterfall process. Andreas Brilling is an Engagement Manager at Capgemini based in Stuttgart. He has more than 20 years of experience in software development projects in various international settings. Anuj Kumar is a Senior Manager with Capgemini, India, based out of Mumbai. He has been working with custom software development-based projects for the past 14 years. Most of his projects involve multi-shore teams.

In the seventh chapter, Jean-Paul van Wieringhen Borski and Herke Schuffel describe the differences between offshore and nearshore collaboration, and provide suggestions to deal with them. They have developed a framework for organizing nearshore collaboration differently from offshore. Jean-Paul has 17 years of experience in the IT domain. He has spent most of his time in an international environment where he managed several offshore delivery centers. Herke has been in the IT domain for almost 20 years now. He is currently responsible for a business unit delivering application support on custom-built software with extended resource teams in Serbia and Ukraine.

In the final chapter of this eBook, Henk Woolschot, Delivery Manager at HCL, shares his insights on partnership. He draws the line between two kinds of collaborations and gives us a clear picture of when one should prefer a ‘client-supplier’ relationship over a real partnership.

This is the third 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 toh.messer@bridge-outsourcing.nl

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How to avoid the talent shortage in ecommerce?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-avoid-the-talent-shortage-in-ecommerce http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-avoid-the-talent-shortage-in-ecommerce#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 10:52:09 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6572 Continue reading ]]> The past few years, the ecommerce market is booming all over Europe. And consumers plan to shop online even more. Deutsche Post published a research last week, which shows that by 2025, ecommerce share on overall trade in developed countries, will grow to 40%. In another research by Ecommerce Europe (Europe B2C Ecommerce Report 2013 – LIGHT version), it is estimated that the Internet economy in Europe consists of 3,5% of the total 16 trillion GDP of Europe. This percentage will double by 2016 and triple by 2020. 

At the same time, the European Commission estimates that in 2015, Europe has a shortage of 700.000 IT people. This shortage could even go up to 900.000. Even in countries like Greece, where about 24% of the working population is jobless, there is still a shortage of IT people and vacancies remain open. The shortage is biggest in the Northern European countries. 

The question for companies in Ecommerce is: how will you attract and retain talent? The past decades, we’ve all been fishing in the same pond. While there are very few talented IT specialists, we keep stealing them from each other, driving up the salaries. 

One solution is to change the education system. While governments in Northern Europe have tried this, the results are not sufficient. In Sweden, about 3.000 people graduate from an IT education. In the Netherlands, this number is about 7.000. At the same time, the baby boom generation, with many people working in the IT industry, will leave the labor markets. 

My strong belief is that there is only one solution: we have to change our mindsets. We need to start thinking about a global workforce, engaging talent where ever on the planet they live. In countries outside the EU, like India and Ukraine, there is a vast pool of highly educated engineers. India graduates about 300.000 people with an IT background every year. 

To achieve this global mindset, we need to think in terms of talent, not location. We also need to change the way we organize. Of course, it’s easier to manage a person in your office, sitting next to you, speaking the same language and understanding your culture. To work with people remotely (even in the home country) requires a change in the infrastructure, in the systems we use and in the way we communicate. As many companies have shown, this can be achieved. The most extreme example is WordPress. They have over 220 employees working from 190 different locations all around the world. Everyone works from home. 

If you are able to attract the brightest engineers from all over the world and they wrap their brains around creating more value for your company, you’ve got a strong competitive advantage. And you also guarantee that you can stay in business, for your competitors will have a big challenge finding the talent to grow their business. 

 

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Can video conferencing replace physical contact?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/can-videoconferencing-replace-physical-contact http://bridge-outsourcing.com/can-videoconferencing-replace-physical-contact#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 20:12:31 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6554 Continue reading ]]> The past months, I have interviewed some 35 candidates for a marketing and sales role in our company. Because I want to save time, I always do the first screening through Skype. I believe this is a better medium than only phone, since you can see the candidate. So I have a list of questions that I go through in maximum 30 minutes to assure that there is at least a basis. 

I am still flabbergasted by the errors I made. With some candidates, within the first minute, I knew there wasn’t a match. And through Skype, I thought ‘wow, this guy knows what he’s talking about and makes a strong impression’. How can we be so wrong, while we see and hear the other person?

In her book ‘wilful blindness‘, Margaret Heffernan writes the following: 

‘Video conferencing distracts all its participants, who spend too much time worrying about their hair and whether they’re looking far, uncomfortable at seeing themselves on screen. The nervous small talk about weather – it’s snowing there? It’s hot and sunny here – betrays anxiety about the vast differences that the technology attempts to mask. 

Physical distance isn’t easily bridged, no matter how refined the technology. Instead, we delude ourselves that, because so many words are exchanged – email, notes and reports – somehow a great deal of communication must have taken place. But that requires, in the first instance, that the words be read, that they are understood and that the recipient knows enough to read with discernment and empathy…It’s extremely hard to communicate well with people you don’t really know, whose concerns you cannot see.’ 

Although I am still a fan of Skype and video conferencing, I believe the key is in the last sentence. Skype can’t replace the physical connection and the ‘human connection’ we only make when we meet in person. Using Skype as a ‘judgment tool’ for interviews seems very challenging (we’d need some research here, cause I still believe it does help to screen out the people we believe don’t match on hard data/background). But using Skype to communicate with people that you know, does seem to work. 

I use video conferencing every day to communicate with my management team in India and the Netherlands. And I believe I can even read people’s emotions, because I know the people. But maybe I am wrong. Having said that, especially in a context of offshoring work to a team far away, it’s required to meet your colleagues at least 1-2 times a year. After meeting, video conferencing will serve you well in organizing the work you need done. 

Margaret also quotes a research to support the above conclusion. In the experiment, people are asked to give electrical shocks to others. The shocks grow in intensity and people are ordered by a researcher to raise this intensity step by step. When people are in different rooms and can’t see each other, 65% of people delivered the maximum shock. when they are in the same room, this number reduces to 40%. And when people had been able to touch each other, it lowers to 30%. Still a shocking number, but it shows that we better meet each other regularly to ensure we really collaborate!

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The Business Value of Agile Retrospectiveshttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/the-business-value-of-agile-retrospectives http://bridge-outsourcing.com/the-business-value-of-agile-retrospectives#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 07:14:06 +0000 Ben Linders http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6544 Continue reading ]]> Agile retrospectives are a great way to continuously improve your way of working. Getting actions out of a retrospective that are doable, and getting them done helps teams to learn and improve. An overview of things that you can use to get value out of your retrospectives.

Together with Luis Gonçalves I have written the pocket book on Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives which can be downloaded from InfoQ and Leanpub. This book is based on our blog posts on retrospectives (see Luis blogs on retrospectives and Ben’s blogs on retrospectives). We value your feedback, feel free to contact me and let me know what you think of this?

Retrospectives bring benefits to Agile teams, they help them to improve and increase the business value to their customers and the company.

The things that you can do in retrospectives to get business value out of them are:

 The retrospective Prime Directive

 The prime Directive from the book Project Retrospectives by Norm Kerth assures that a retrospective is a positive event. It states: “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 people feel comfortable enough to share their problems, opinions and concerns. Which is important as that assures that retrospectives become an effective team gathering to learn and find solutions for teams to improve their way of working.

If you want to learn more about the theory behind retrospectives, see the book Agile Retrospectives* from Esther Derby and Diana Larsen

Visibility

I stimulate teams to use the means they already have to make their actions visible. Stick them to the wall at their workspace, put them on their planning board, use them as input in the planning game, etc. For bigger improvements it often helps to define a User Story (describing who, what and why), and plan time to do it. For some examples on visibility, “Continuous Improvement, Make it Visible!“.

We need to  need to uncover better ways to do (process) improvement, and retrospective support that. I prefer to do short cycled improvement, helping teams to develop continuous improvement skills. Teams can self-assess their agility and actually use  use Scrum for process improvement. With improvement (change) skills, teams become agile and lean. and are able to efficiently manage their own improvements and deliver more value to their customers.

How does a Retrospective look?

Different techniques help you to get most out of retrospectives. They are also useful when there is a risk that teams might be getting bored with retrospectives.

Different kinds of techniques that I use are:

  • I use the 4 retrospective Key Questions from Norm Kerth, including “what did we learn?” and “what still puzzles us”. In many of my retrospectives learnings are shared and valued, and the puzzle question has revealed lot’s of tough issues that needed attention.
  • A variant on the 4 questions is to divide a flip-over into quadrants, labeled “continue”, “start”, “stop” and “shout out” (shout out is where you can give appreciation to what team members did). Team members write sticky notes and add them to the quadrants. You can do clustering and dot voting to determine which actions will be done in the next sprint.
  • Actually, there are lot’s of different questions that you can ask in retrospectives. The trick is to pick the ones that help the team to build up insight into the main / urgent issues and improvement potential, and add questions where needed to go deeper during the retrospective.
  • When there are issues in a team that need to be discussed, I have each team member state how they feel about the past sprint in 1 word. Chances are big that at one or more words, with some questioning, triggers a discussion where things are spoken out about the team that often don’t reach the surface. A variant is to use images from magazines or the web, or have team members draw an image on how they feel about the sprint.
  • When there was a significant problem, that the team doesn’t want to happen again, I do a Root Cause Analysis using a 5 times why retrospectives. Often actions coming out of the retrospective can be done immediately in the next sprint.
  • To explore how team members are collaborating, I have them draw a timeline of things that have happened during a sprint. They can use smileys to show how people felt about it. This makes visible where a team faced some tough situations, and where there was high energy and flow. It is also a great way to measure team happiness and improve the team morale.
  • A somewhat similar technique is to ask team member when they felt high energy (flow!) during a sprint, and when low energy. Discussing these moments helps a team explore their way of working, to discover bottlenecks and take actions.
  • One of the most valuable questions that I have experienced in retrospectives is asking why? It gives insight in people’s behavior and their feelings and motives that drive them, helps to find root causes of problems, and reveal the strengths that people have. And helps teams to see common goals, and find ways to collaboratively reach them.
  • You can use a solution focused approach in a strengths based retrospective to visualize the strengths that people and teams have, and explore ways to use them as a solution to problems that they are facing (for a article in Dutch on this, seeVeranderen vanuit je sterktes, da’s anders).
  • You can also use a deck of cards to discuss the qualities of the team members (Dutch: Kwaliteitenspel). This is often useful with new teams, to combine a retrospective with team building, and to develop feedback skills.
  • When time is limited and a team feels pressured, I often do the “perfection game“. I ask team members to rate the sprint on a scale from 1 to 10, and to state what they could do in a next sprint to make it “perfect” and score a 10. Try to limit actions and come to one significant improvement that can be done in the next sprint.
  • A technique similar to the perfection game is the Angels Advocate, a brainstorming technique which stimulates creative and positive thinking. Just as the perfection game you are not allowed to say negative things (that would make it a Devil’s Advocate).
  • When a team has many actions open from previous retrospectives and finds it difficult to implement actions, I use the retrospective to set priorities and remove some of the actions from their list. They come out of the meeting with fewer actions, and feel more empowered to work on the ones which are still open, because they now have a better picture of why these actions are needed.
  • You can use (family) constellation to see how team members and stakeholder co-operate. Have the team members take a role, either representing the team, or a stakeholders that the team interacts with. The members take positions in a room, showing how they feel that the roles relate to each other. Then ask a team member to move, and have other team-members react to that, visualizing the interaction within the team, and with the stakeholders of the team. This can give insight in team dynamics, and visualize collaboration issues.
  • When you have a agile project with multiple teams, you can improving collaboration with the retrospective of retrospective. This is a good way to share learnings across a project, and to solve problems that a project is facing.
  • If you have teams that have more than one customer, maybe even multiple product owners, things are different. Team members are often not working together on a daily base. You can do a retrospective for teams with multiple customers to find actions that will be beneficial for the complete team.

Using these techniques helps to keep teams in a continuous learning and improvement state, making many small steps in delivering more value to their customers.

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Building bridges between people – in two wayshttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/building-bridges-between-people-%e2%80%93-in-two-ways http://bridge-outsourcing.com/building-bridges-between-people-%e2%80%93-in-two-ways#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:30:04 +0000 Judith Weinberger http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6533 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: http://bridge-india.in/bridge-in-the-society

 

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Self-assessing How Agile You Arehttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/self-assessing-how-agile-you-are http://bridge-outsourcing.com/self-assessing-how-agile-you-are#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:19:20 +0000 Ben Linders http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6518 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 themhttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/remote-teams-why-you-need-them-and-how-to-work-with-them http://bridge-outsourcing.com/remote-teams-why-you-need-them-and-how-to-work-with-them#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 12:35:16 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6408 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%. 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?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/does-the-situation-in-ukraine-affect-nearshoring http://bridge-outsourcing.com/does-the-situation-in-ukraine-affect-nearshoring#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 12:19:40 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6460 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?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-prepare-for-managing-a-remote-team http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-prepare-for-managing-a-remote-team#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 04:25:19 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6416 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- outsourcing.nl

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Project Management – The Base Rulehttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/project-management-the-base-rule http://bridge-outsourcing.com/project-management-the-base-rule#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 04:45:20 +0000 Binu Kumar http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6445 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 Scrumhttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/simply-scrum http://bridge-outsourcing.com/simply-scrum#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 10:07:45 +0000 Binu Kumar http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6421 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.

Overview

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.

Roles:

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.

Events:

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?

Items:

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 Improvementhttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/golden-rules-for-agile-process-improvement http://bridge-outsourcing.com/golden-rules-for-agile-process-improvement#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 12:57:04 +0000 Ben Linders http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6392 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 veranderproject.nl.

 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.

 Conclusions

 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’http://bridge-outsourcing.com/remote-managing-the-practice-is-unruly%e2%80%99 http://bridge-outsourcing.com/remote-managing-the-practice-is-unruly%e2%80%99#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 11:24:34 +0000 John van Schagen http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6280 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.’

Quarrel

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’.

RETurn KIEV

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?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/do-soft-skills-really-matter-in-it http://bridge-outsourcing.com/do-soft-skills-really-matter-in-it#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 12:23:02 +0000 Ben Linders http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6264 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?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-hire-a-nerd http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-hire-a-nerd#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 11:37:24 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6222 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  h.messer@bridge-outsourcing.nl).

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What’s an Agile Retrospective and Why Would You Do It?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/what%e2%80%99s-an-agile-retrospective-and-why-would-you-do-it http://bridge-outsourcing.com/what%e2%80%99s-an-agile-retrospective-and-why-would-you-do-it#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 11:53:06 +0000 Ben Linders http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6139 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?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/lean-distributed-startups-how-to-launch-your-product-with-an-offshore-team http://bridge-outsourcing.com/lean-distributed-startups-how-to-launch-your-product-with-an-offshore-team#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 10:34:40 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6101 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 Outsourcinghttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/advantages-of-medical-billing-outsourcing http://bridge-outsourcing.com/advantages-of-medical-billing-outsourcing#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 04:16:18 +0000 Daven Michaels http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6078 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?http://bridge-outsourcing.com/mature-or-capable-what-really-works http://bridge-outsourcing.com/mature-or-capable-what-really-works#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 12:08:32 +0000 Ben Linders http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=6039 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 teamhttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-not-screw-up-when-managing-a-remote-team http://bridge-outsourcing.com/how-to-not-screw-up-when-managing-a-remote-team#comments Mon, 30 Sep 2013 07:44:05 +0000 Hugo Messer http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=5932 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 h.messer@bridge-outsourcing.nl. 

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The Evolving World of Outsourcinghttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/the-evolving-world-of-outsourcing http://bridge-outsourcing.com/the-evolving-world-of-outsourcing#comments Thu, 26 Sep 2013 08:56:36 +0000 Daven Michaels http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=5945 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 Offshoringhttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/the-biggest-myths-about-offshoring http://bridge-outsourcing.com/the-biggest-myths-about-offshoring#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 09:47:23 +0000 Sara Collins http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=5881 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 Teamshttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/steering-product-quality-in-agile-teams http://bridge-outsourcing.com/steering-product-quality-in-agile-teams#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 08:57:07 +0000 Ben Linders http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=5854 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.

Conclusions

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 Termshttp://bridge-outsourcing.com/ten-offshore-outsourcing-buzz-terms http://bridge-outsourcing.com/ten-offshore-outsourcing-buzz-terms#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 12:29:11 +0000 Daven Michaels http://bridge-outsourcing.com/?p=5813 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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