Offshore Outsourcing with Scrum
...he wanted complete geographical transparency. Mainly to optimize the project, but also he wanted to build a positive competitive dynamic between the teams where every member of every team on either shore, knew that somebody off shore could do their work tomorrow. So, he decided something that is very unique and there was a lot of controversy about. He decided that every team would be half in Utah and half in St Petersburg.Martin Fowler and others have written about the difficulties of merging an agile process with offshore teams, and so some might be surprised to learn about an unqualified agile offshore success story. According to Jeff, two things helped the distributed Scrum teams at SirsiDynix work effectively with one another. One was the use of automated planning and tracking tools:
When you have many teams, every team needs to oversee the state of other teams, in particular when you have outsourced teams it’s even a bigger problem. So, you need some automated tool where all the data flows in and everybody can see it all the time.The other enabling factor was the organization of the teams:
It is really crucial to have all the product owners, in the Scrum sense, very close to the customer. And you want the product owners close to the teams. Now, what SirsiDynix did... is that all the Scrum masters were in Utah, all the product owners were in Utah, and all the architects were in Utah. So they had very tight centralized control over the product and the product direction.
Decisions over the wall?
Were there any issues because of the Scrum master being geographically distributed? Did the team in Russia have to wait for a while for getting the impediments resolved?
Though the results seem encouraging the one team concept seems to be missing within teams.
Re: Decisions over the wall?
Featured in the Carnival of Agilists for Feb 14/07
Ummm.... This is funny because this was actually an epic fail
However, everything that I heard from the developers was that the Russian team was constantly messing things up... i.e. the build would be broken whenever they'd come in for the morning... their tests would all be screwed up... the project that they were doing this huge coordinated effort on ended up being canceled in part because of some major overruns in the project.
Jack Blount - who is mentioned in this article (I'm pretty sure he was CEO not CTO - but maybe he considered himself both) went on to found another startup and in that startup he didn't do any offshore agile teams. You would think that if this method were successful for him at SirsiDynix he would want to use it again at his next company to replicate the success. Nope.
So... Be careful putting too much weight into this study as it being a 'positive'. I'm not saying that it's impossible for this offshore agile to work - but I am saying that using SirsiDynix as the example might leave you looking like a fool once someone digs a bit deeper into the story to hear about what really happened with it.
Mike Amundsen May 29, 2015
Ben Linders May 28, 2015