Merce

Managing quality in outsourced teams

  • The definition changes

    Customer centric When a customer enters into a contract to operate an outsourced team with us, the customer defines both outcome of work and quality to an extent which is completely different from our in-house teams. This has interesting consequences.

  • The gap

    Customer leads In some cases, the customer has highly specialised technologies and a long history of using them. Our team may not have equal depth of expertise in those technologies.

    One common area where our customers may have specialised depth is in specific features of a specific database product. For instance, we have worked with various flavours of Oracle in various projects but our team may not have the expertise to design applications which will deliver the highest horizontal scale-up specifically in an Oracle RAC environment. Our customers may have such expertise. Another area where the customer sometimes had much greater depth than us is in specialised computing platforms, e.g. the IBM zSeries mainframe, with RACF and CICS. A third area is in audit processes. Our customers from the BFSI sector have taught us valuable lessons in this area because of their culture of stringent audit.

    We lead Our company has a depth in technology, and a tech-friendly culture, which is rare in the Indian software services industry. We have the confidence to take technology risks with new technologies, and this risk-taking has built our depth in technologies over time. This often puts us in a leadership position vis-a-vis our customers who work with our outsourced teams.

    We have depth in open source technologies which permits us to deploy such components in mission-critical business applications. For instance, we can do with Linux, Citrix XenServer or PostgreSQL what many of our enterprise customers will only attempt with RISC-Unix systems, VMware vSphere, or a commercial database. We sometimes use hash-table libraries for large data processing where our customer restricts themselves to relational databases. We use multi-threaded software designs for high throughput in server-side processing where our customers restrict themselves to text-book designs and linear processing. We use development environments with development servers accessed from thin client appliances while our customers use heavy desktops for all developer workstations.

  • External standards

    We therefore work with the customer and re-orient our quality standards and processes to fit in with the customer's expectations.

    • Some teams need to be at site on time every morning. We place high emphasis on timeliness in attendance in such cases.
    • Some teams have heavy emphasis on tracking and closing each question or complaint. In such teams, we emphasise processes and special training to ensure that this remains flawless.
    • Some teams are subject to inquiries and status checks from the top management of our enterprise customer. In such teams, we select team members carefully based on their personality profile which may facilitate handling of such queries.
    • Some teams are asked to perform a continuous chain of routine modifications to existing software, without much technical challenges in the tasks. We select team members who are more productive in such environments.

    This approach forms the foundation of our quality assessment and assurance for outsourced teams. We put on our customr's hat and re-orient accordingly.

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  • Case studies

    Work we have done for other customers in various engagement models