Requirements for an ODC and a Project are different

Published by Guntis Urtans on Sunday, December 02, 2012 14:20

The Offshore Development Centre is in many cases a preferred solution that provides the true long-term benefits of outsourcing software development. The requirements differ from the ones used when outsourcing a single project. Here is how.

When you outsource a project, you are looking for:

  1. Technology skills
  2. Domain expertise
  3. Resource availability and the right skills level

If the project is of significant size (20+ engineers), you should check the availability of the core team along with the time frame for filling remaining positions.

Are there any differences if you are looking to build an ODC with a goal to transfer some of your ongoing and new project activities?

Initially it seems, that the requirements are the same. You still need to evaluate the potential vendors' technology skills and domain expertise and immediate resource availability. Depending on the importance of the project you may have more strict requirements on all of the positions.

In some cases using the same criteria may work well

However - there are some specifics of ODCs from my point of view, which should be taken into account:

  • While the exact match of technical requirements are very important for a project just because you don't want spend time and resources on training for one single project, it may not be that critical for an ODC. Especially if finding the exact match in the inventory of available skills is a challenge. Since this is a long-term activity, it may be sufficient to have individuals with a similar core skills profile who are capable to fill skills gaps efficiently.
  • The same applies for domain expertise. As it's highly probable that the vendor will need to acquire the very deep domain knowledge required in the specific area, the customer should not expect focused knowledge to be available from day one. A proven process and a track record of how to obtain such knowledge may be more important.
  • In the ODC the seniority is important since you want to secure a smooth knowledge transfer from the core team members to new developers as the ODC should be able to scale with the work-load.

While browsing vendor success stories of developing ODCs you may find that in most of the cases, vendors did not have any significant domain experience when setting up the new ODC. However, a substantial number of the ODCs later became competence centres, attracting additional projects. 

In fact - if a supplier is building an ODC in new domain area, the customer can be reasonably assured that the best possible resources and skills will be assigned to it development - from internal resources as well as from the approach to the job market. However, if there are more than one ODC with close profiles, taking key resources out of an existing ODC to fill the gaps in a new, will not be a priority for any vendor. As a customer you would not be too excited to see your key people going somewhere else. Most vendors have a policy to not move people from the core team of an ODC in order to preserve the knowledge within the team, in the best possible way.

Therefore - as there is more than just the skills and the experience from technology and domain point of view, it is important that your vendor candidates:

  1. Can demonstrate an ability to build and scale ODCs in a domain where they have limited experience
  2. Can provide enough resources to kick-start the ODC
  3. Has capabilities and local brand to attract and hire high quality resources
  4. Has a proven ability to build strong and motivated teams under pressure

As result - when starting the ODC you may put experience and existing skills under lower priority, primarily focusing on:

  1. Track record of building ODCs (even in other technology areas)
  2. Efficient HR processes to staff and maintain core team
  3. Attrition
  4. Ability to scale - both up and down

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