The Global Delivery Model!
Thanks to pressure on prices and the need for increased project capacity, IT project delivery has been transformed into a complex model that utilizes both onshore and offshore activities. This global delivery model can take several shapes depending on the work and responsibility sharing. For about 10 years, I have been delivering IT projects for a major customer in the aeronautical domain for my company. I want to share my analysis with you.
Risk reduction must focus on cost optimization. Quality and planning are directly linked in the organization. The ratio of offshore activities must correlate to the experience of the onshore team-and project complexity. In any model, even if it's not fully efficient, the ratio of offshore activity must be increased during the project lifecycle. The project plan must address this topic during initialization. (To reduce risks linked to virtual delivery teams, there are many tips...but that's not the purpose of this article).
Horizontal delivery model
This model is based on a horizontal share of activity in a waterfall project. You just have to set the middle phases of the lifecycle in offshore, and keep the upper and final phases in onshore (in other words, put the technical phases in offshore and keep solution design and validation in onshore, where customer contact is required).
This model is easy to deploy; that's why projects are naturally moving to it when starting offshore initiatives. But despite the quick and easy set-up time, this model raises some constraints:
- Technical activities are concentrated in offshore, leading to a decrease of the technical skill in onshore.
- Offshore depends on the onshore team to understand and refine the requirement for development. This dependency could be expensive depending on the size of the team. Many presentations and very detailed documents are required to insure quality.
- Offshore teams will be demotivated if they only deal with technical issues.
- The functional dependency will limit the offshore ratio and will increase testing activity before delivery to reduce the gap.
Vertical delivery model
This model is based on a systematic sharing of all the project activities (project management, specifications, design, development, testing, etc.). But for each activity, a work-sharing ratio will be defined. In other words, this model consists of transferring offshore functional and project management responsibilities. This model requires a full integrated project mode with onshore-and quality risk is largely decreased.
A strong set-up phase is needed where functional knowledge will be transferred to the offshore team and the documentation will be shared. Once this model is implemented, it's very easy to adjust the offshore ratio on the project. This model is also really appreciated by the remote team. The development team will have local support, decreasing onshore dependency. It can be helpful if there is a major time difference between the teams.
Part of the testing will be delivered from offshore as there are functional skills. It will reduce the loop effect during the integration phases of the project. On top of this, as all the activities are shared, peer-to-peer relations can be set up between the onshore and offshore teams. This will help solve internal problems and increase the mutual confidence of the teams.
The main limits and constraints of this model are:
- A heavy set-up phase and a constant effort to maintain functional knowledge. Looking at the attrition ratio in offshore, this effort must be improved.
- Full project management coordination is required to animate the organization, so offshore experience by the manager is required. The PM must be fully compliant to offshore. This item should not be underestimated.
So, which one is preferable? I think that the vertical model is the best one, as agile transformation will be easy. We are at the beginning of the distributed agile projects era. For my part, I am pushing the vertical model and agile practices in projects. We have a very good level of quality, and it's been a real pleasure to deliver these projects together.
By Roland COMBES PMI France Chapter