Sunday, April 26, 2009

Agile adoption in offshore companies

I have been observing an Agile adoption trend/pattern in offshore companies (read it as India). The offshore companies are mostly into softservices with a small chunk into product development.

Offshore Software Services companies seem to be adopting Agile methods mainly due to the request/push coming from onshore customers. Many of these services companies still have projects running applying waterfall model too. My experiences while working with many of these services companies has made me to realize that, they want to retain both Waterfall/CMMI, ISO kind of certifications along with Agile. These companies are neither oriented towards Agile nor Waterfall/CMMI, and they are only customer and Profit centric.

P.S: In the above paragraph, I have used Waterfall and CMMI together. Even though I am not an expert on CMMI but I have observed that the CMMI recommendations are mostly applied with waterfall process by many companies.

Typically this is what happens when a new customer walks into one of the offshore services company. The offshore company show them the menu with various process options. Based on customers choice, the process would be customized and applied on that particular project.

Above observation is leading me to come up with some new questions and I have also attempted answering them...

Questions include
  1. Can CMMI and Agile coexist ?
  2. Can Agile methods sustain in such environments ?
Answering Q. 1 above, I do believe that CMMI and Agile can coexist. I have observed many companies bringing these two giants together.

Answering Question 2 above needs bit more explanation. I feel that, Agile methods cannot sustain in such environments. Reason being, the CMMI concepts coupled with Waterfall model needs a mindset which is totally opposite to the one needed by Agilists.

Some of the conflicting practices/mindsets include

1. Self organizing/Self Managing teams in Agile as opposed to "one man show" in Waterfall
2. Iterative Vs BigBang approach
3. Daily estimation Vs One time estimation
4. Customer collaboration Vs "Fire and Forget" customers policy
5. Regular Iteration Retrospectives Vs Postmortem sessions after the project

If the CMMI/Waterfall company wants to set up an Agile practice group, it is recommend to create two different groups to manage these two different processes rather than allowing only one person to manage both of them. I have interacted with many Quality/CEPG/CMMI Auditors, and they are so obsessed with waterfall concepts that they don't believe in Agile. If the stakeholders of the companies make such people as the sole group heads to run both Agile and CMMI processes, then it is pretty clear that, Agile would get slow death.

Another draw back I have observed in "Client driven Agile" projects include, that the offshore companies will never be able to appreciate the real value of Agile. Since Clients would be driving the Agile practices, the offshore teams just follow them blindly without knowing the Whys behind them. This leads to misconception and creation of Agile myths.
Successful implementation of Agile methods in offshore projects depends on couple of key points.
  1. It needs a good support from both onsite and offshore team
  2. The onshore team also has to ensure that the offshore team and the stakeholders running the company are well aware of Agile in addition to understanding the values and benefits of Agile methods.

Even though Agile is picking very fast in offshore projects, benefits of the offshore companies taking lead in propagating Agile is more than the onshore teams driving it !


Willem said...

Interesting observations. I do think many of these issues are typical to non-offshore companies as well.
I wonder how many softservice companies would rig up a facade that presents any alternative approaches to their customers? I.e. you want agile, we got it! You want CMMI - we got that too! Makes business sense, but confuses the developers downstairs ;-)

Tony said...

Other companies adopt agile offshore best practices in managing offshore teams.

Sadekya Foundations said...

I do think that these perceptions apply to all companies, not just offshore ones.

Hedley Pratt said...

Since Customers would be generating the Nimble methods, the overseas groups just adhere to them thoughtlessly without understanding the Whys behind them.