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Offshore Outsourcing with Scrum

Swedish consulting firm Softhouse recently published the second part of an interview with Jeff Sutherland [pdf], in which he describes how one company (SirsiDynix) used Scrum to integrate with an offshore development team in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jeff relates a key decision of CTO Jack Blount:
...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.

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