Disciplined Agile

Where Do We Start?

We just wanted to round out our discussion about agile approaches to geographically distributed development (GDD) with a few important words of advice:

  1. Get some experience. Worry less about enterprise-level adoption and instead get started with a small project, or better yet a series of increasingly more complex projects. There will be learning experiences as you build a relationship with the offshore service provider. This advice is applicable whether you’re working with your own offshore division or with an independent service provider.
  2. Have a long-term staffing strategy. It may be great in the short term to have work done in a lower cost country, but how are you going to transfer the necessary skills to the sustainment team? Outsourcing that work is also an option, but it can be a risky one as you would need to build up expertise in “your” systems if you ever decide to insource that work again.
  3. Be concerned about intellectual property (IP). The rules are different around the world, and you may inadvertently be financing the creation of a new international competitor if you don’t have a clear division of ownership. And yes, this may mean that some components of your systems are still built internally by your own organization.
  4. Show off locally before you go global. GDD makes things harder to manage, so if you’re struggling to manage local teams you’re really going to struggle managing teams at a distance. Make sure you have local success first and are good at agile development in general. Furthermore, if your agile GDD projects run into trouble, don’t end your local agile adoption just because of difficulties with distributed projects.
  5. Let your offshore partners lead. The offshore partner likely has more experience than you at successful distributed development, and this is particularly true when you’re dealing with an established service provider.
  6. Prefer north-south distribution. If you are going to seek cost advantages of distributed development, consider going north or south before east or west to minimize time zone differences.