Maintaining Outsourced Development Quality

Many firms that outsource want to reap all the savings from cutting costs on developers without accounting for the additional overhead they’ll need to manage developers who aren’t right down the hall. All the informal code reviews, requirements clarification, etc. that was done real-time and face-to-face must be made explicit and conducted remotely…often across multiple time zones. Furthermore, the project management performed by the outsourcing company is done for the benefit of the outsourcing company, not one’s own firm.

This overhead can only be ameliorated a bit with tools and technique: there is effort inherent in making inarticulate or tacit knowledge explicit. My heuristic is to add from between 25 and 33 percent more project management effort (beyond the typical in-house estimate range) to such projects.

From my comment on a long-standing LinkedIn post, this one on outsourcing QA.

Scott Adams on a “real” college education

The Dilbert creator writes occasionally for the Wall Street Journal and has had some great pieces.  This past week’s entry hit on the mismatch between college student and curriculum:

I understand why the top students in America study physics, chemistry, calculus and classic literature. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, thinkers and engineers who will propel civilization forward. But why do we make B students sit through these same classes? That’s like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship?

The entrepreneur’s knack — “the strange art of transforming nothing into something”  — is exactly what a clever, but not brilliant, person should cultivate.  Adams helpfully includes a list of behaviors this B-student curriculum should foster: Combine Skills, Fail Forward, Find the Action, Attract Luck, Conquer Fear, Write Simply, Learn Persuasion.

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Asking vendors partnership-promoting questions

As I closed my Q&A with Gary Cohen, I asked about working with oursourced resources.   Service and technology providers are integral parts of many projects, but too often I see them treated like arms-length vendors rather than true partners. 

  • Crossderry: What kind of questions should we ask consultants and vendors to reinforce to them — and to other stakeholders — that we are all in this together?
  • Gary Cohen: To encourage partnership with consultants, I recommend asking the following questions:
    * What risks are there to you if the project fails?
    * What opportunity costs are you giving up in order for us to work together?
    * What would like to hear me say to you a month after the project has been completed? What praise, in other words, would signify the optimal outcome?
    * What might prevent you from hearing that praise?
    * What can I do to help you achieve the optimal outcome?
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