Offshore Backlash

Although there are plenty of projects appropriate for offshore outsourcing, there are just as many that are not.

December 19, 2003

4 Min Read
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Offshore Backlash
Editor's Note: We've received a great deal of correspondence regarding Wesley Bertch's article "Why Offshore Outsourcing Failed Us," (Oct. 16, 2003). Below is a sample. We've also set up an online forum devoted to the topic.

As the owner of a software engineering firm, I was stunned--but not surprised--at some of the mistakes illustrated in the article. However, $20,000 seems like an acceptable loss for the knowledge gained.

The contract between Life Time Fitness and the offshore organization may have been flawed. And it seems overall basic project-management principles were not followed.

The contract should have had only deliverable-based payments. For each deliverable, the contract should have defined a metric and a minimum acceptable result for that metric--probably best provided by Life Time's QA unit. No money should have been released for any deliverable that did not meet the minimum acceptable result. The contract should have stipulated that certain deliverables (i.e., coding) could not be started until a preceding deliverable (i.e., mock-ups) had met the minimum acceptable result.

Such a contract would have limited Life Time's losses to payment for work accepted. In addition, the project probably would have been canceled when the database didn't meet expectations.I commend Bertch for sharing his experience. I think too many outsourcing failures go unreported, and it is impossible to accurately discern whether it is worth the risk to outsource software development.
Andrew W. McDonald, PMP
Company name withheld by request
[email protected]

"Why Offshore Outsourcing Failed Us" helped me initiate conversations with several prospective customers. I've discovered that many of them have experienced the same frustrations Life Time encountered. Thank you for showing the total picture. Although there are plenty of projects that are appropriate for offshore outsourcing, there are just as many that are not.
Mike Ashley

Business Development Manager; Avantia
[email protected]

I've spent my entire working life (25 years) writing software, and I've been around long enough to know that people who are both imaginitive and committed to quality work don't grow on trees. Even an infinite supply of CMM [Capability Maturity Model] labs can't turn mediocrity into excellence.

By now, you probably know that neither the media nor all those analyst firms have the faintest concept of what it takes to build good software. Excellence is not necessary in their world; good enough (mostly) works.
Josh Korn
Software architect
[email protected]

I almost never read articles on outsourcing, because I am aware of most of the hype about it. But Bertch's article impressed me. I especially liked how he compared executing the software project to a surgical team: It is not just the process.
Ashu Joshi
Director, Product Development - iVivity
[email protected]We have encountered many offshore development projects at Fortune 500 firms where senior officers stated publicly how wonderful the deal was, but internally everyone knew the projects were a mess. The poor-quality code Bertch found is not unique. It is the rule more than it is the exception.
Bill Hayduk
Director of Professional Services -- RTTS
[email protected]

Without exception, I have experienced the same lack of success in several offshore outsourcing projects for which I was responsible while working with a rather large company. Unfortunately, I was unable to express myself as well as Bertch did. Besides, in one case it would have been politically incorrect to do so--the CEO involved had a technical center in India named after him.
Ed Patterson
Control systems engineer and freelance consultant
[email protected]


The prices provided for Gomez's GPN Service in "A View From There" (Nov. 13, 2003) were not consistent with the pricing scenario we put forth. Gomez has since resubmitted its pricing in accordance with our scenario, which asked for the cost of monitoring up to six locations worldwide. An updated pricing chart--which now includes minimum and maximum values-- can be found here; the report card can be found at here. Even though the Gomez products receive a lower pricing score and total score, the order of finish does not change.Also note that Keynote Systems' MyKeynote portal provides for up to 12 hours of data on a scatter plot, rather than the four hours we reported.

In "Enemy At the Gateway," (Oct. 16, 2003), we incorrectly stated that Westbridge's XMS uses XPath for encryption of specific elements and implied it did not support SQL Injection protection. The XMS uses QNames, not XPath, and does provide basic SQL Injection protection.

Tell us how you really feel. Send e-mail to us at [email protected], fax to (516) 562-7293 or mail letters to Network Computing, 600 Community Drive, Manhasset, NY 11030. Include your name, title, company name, e-mail address and phone number. All correspondence becomes the property of Network Computing.

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