Thursday, May 06, 2010

Balancing Organizational and Project Goals In many outsourced(near shore or offshore) services organizations, employees are expected to take part in activities that are outside the purview of their projects. These activities are intended to support organizational growth in someway or the other. A few of such activities are

Conducting interviews for hiring new employees,
Taking team out for lunch/dinner,
Arranging an offsite meeting,
Conducting trainings, events
Publishing whitepapers, attending conferences, etc

The above mentioned activities need effort, and this effort needs to be accounted some where. Naturally, one might get few questions like:
Should one track these tasks in Sprint Backlog ?
Should one keep the customer updated about these tasks ?
Should this be estimated as part of Planning meeting ?

Being Agile practitioners, it is expected that the team should practice as much transparency as possible in estimation and tracking. Keeping this in mind, one should estimate the effort being spent on such activities during each iteration and capture it as part of a task in sprint backlog. This also ensures that the customer is aware of these non-billable activities at the same time, IEH and velocity counts are captured accurately.

It is not a good idea to mask these activities and also not informing the customers. This would not only affect the credibility of the team but also forces the team to stretch themselves to compensate for the lost time.

Image: djcodrin /

1 comment:

alan said...

I think the assertion is ludicrous and very typical of the sort of issue arising from offshoring/outsourcing situations. The argument given highlights the fundamental reason why agile and the sort of organsations that resort heavily to outsourcing (that tend to be cost rather than value driven) are are not truly compatible in most situations.

The reason comes back to goal alignment and long business goals.

A true agile/lean organisation should be doing all it can to foster good team ethics and capability that ultimately are in the interest of the the business and distinguish it from its competitors. The problem arising for those organisations that chase the cheap resource and resort to outsourcing is they do not have that mindset and so are not minded to invest appropriately to earn the benefits it brings. In an in-house situation over time all the sort of activities mentioned tend to average out in terms of the time and expense required to service them. This has a fairly consistent impact on team/business velocity that it is perfectly able to work with in terms of planning - both short and long term.

It allows the organisation to see the impact on its end 2 end capability and gives assurance that it can keep pace with the need to change and improve. Benefits arising from regular improvment activities, e.g. retrospective actions, Kaizen events etc will ripple through to improved delivery performance either velocity or quality based.

As soon as you separate those essential team activities from the normal daily rota they become targets for the very thing that the people/organisations who tend commit to outsourcing see as unnecessary "costs". These are almost always viewed divorced from the plus side of the equations becuase of the short term view that is taken - why shoudl I pay fro training when I can move my business to someone who already has teh capability?

If a truly agile minded organisation was to be involved in outsourcing/offshoring I beleive it would enter into long relationship with its supplier and then would have at heart the need for that supplier to improve through the activities mentioned and It would be prepared to finacnce those as part of the the necessary running expense of a forward thinking company, ie their goals are aligned.
ALan Easton