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Can the Agile Movement Ignore Outsourcing?

Why “Agile India” Will Be Different from All Other Agile Conferences

If you scan through the Program Schedule of Agile 2011, you will be excused if you get the impression that when it comes to agile software development there is nothing called outsourcing or offshoring. There are around 200 sessions and none of them are about the challenges faced while using agile with outsourcing. Only 3 sessions (Ali Zewail from Egypt, Thushara Wijewardena from Sri Lanka & Chris O’Connor) had a passing mention to the word offshoring.

I have no explanations to offer for this anomaly – but let us explore the possibilities.

Is Agile and offshoring diametrically opposite?
There was a time in the past when it was assumed that agile and offshoring is like oil and water.

“…given Agile methodologies’ intense developer/customer interaction and light documentation requirements, the two approaches seem diametrically opposed…” – Offshore Outsourcing and Agile Development by Stephanie Moore and Liz Barnett (Forrester), September 2004

But we are now in 2011 and the times have changed. It is no longer an either – or question.

We living in a world where agile and offshoring could not be looked at two different and non-overlapping approaches to the same problem.

Is offshoring seen as a threat to Agile movement?
It was also believed by some that agile methodologies were the answer to threat of outsourcing.

“…Western developers need to become agile to survive the onslaught of Indian outsourcing companies … Even though the agile developer’s fully loaded cost might be $100 an hour compared to the outsourcer’s $25, the agile practitioner would produce better software faster using far fewer personnel…” – Agile Outsourcing by Scott Ambler, June 2005

But then Martin Fowler has nicely refuted this claim.

“…One conclusion is clear, anyone who thinks that onshore developers will triumph because they are more skilled is very wrong. We’ve found that we can hire just as talented developers in India as we can in North America and Europe…” -  Using an Agile Software Process with Offshore Development by Martin Fowler, July 2006

And that is precisely what has happened.

For instance, India will probably have as many software developers as US and majority of them are working as an offshore developer for a US or a European company. Many of these companies will be a proponent of agile methodologies and they will be employing it with their offshore partners.

Is it a Solved Problem?
Have we reached a stage where we can say that the using agile with offshoring is no longer a challenge?

Apart from the fact that offshoring involves “distributed development”, which is a challenge by itself; there are so many other issues that need to be considered.

In the word of Siddharta Govindaraj who is the Agile India 2012 Conference Program Co-Chair:

“…there are a lot of interesting topics which are specific to Indian outsourcing besides the distributed nature … Agile + CMMI, fixed price contracting, the compatibility of the current services model (large teams) with Agile, and so on. These are topics that are not well covered in Agile literature…”

Therefore, I find this exclusion very baffling.

Agile India 2012 to the rescue
The initial stages proposals at Agile India 2012 contained several topics which makes sense from Indian context. This included:

  1. Agile and Outsourcing
  2. Agile for Large Enterprises
  3. Delivering successfully in multi-vendor and multi-location - the agile way
  4. Agile In Large Enterprises with Legacy and Large Products
  5. Distributed Agile

So, if you think that Agile + Distributed team + Outsourcing is a challenge which needs to be mastered, then you know where to look for.

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
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