Category Archives: Outsourcing

Accenture India Visit – Introduction & Town Hall

Today I slept fantastic. I got up at 8am, took a shower, and headed down to the restaurant for breakfast. Laurent and I ate together, and Jerry found his way over later. Breakfast was not quite as good as brunch, but it was still very good. I also found out that was included in the price of the room. This was a very good deal!

We took the Avis car over to the Bangalore 6 office. Laurent and were met with an unexpected welcome. We were presented with sandalwood necklaces that smelled wonderful. The team had arranged for the Bristol-Myers Squibb logo to be made out of blue and white rice on the floor of the entrance. We were asked to light some ceremonial oil lamps. And, we were followed around by a photographer. It was truly impressive. As Jerry said, we were treated like a superstar.

We were set up in a conference room on the third floor. After setting up our laptops and checking our emails, Vasuki gave a presentation as an overview of the IDC, or India Delivery Center. It was very interesting to see the statistics on the India sites. There are 6 different buildings in Bangalore, and there are 20,000 Accenture employees just in those Bangalore offices. Jerry followed up with an engagement overview deck, outlining the different teams focusing on the BMS engagement.

Following the two overview presentations was an all hands Town Hall in Bang 6. This meeting included all the Accenture folks on the BMS engagement. I always seem to get a bit nervous before these types of presentations. There was no real need for me to, though, as I have a strong grasp on the material I was presenting. Laurent and I shared the presentation. He covered the bulk of the material, including BMS IM, Enterprise Architecture, and SOA. I covered the corporate strategies around the brands, and covered some Internet Marketing specific slides at the end. The material was very well received, and was a big success. I was very happy not only on how well received the material was, but also how I kept the audience engaged. There were not as many questions as I had hoped, but the ones asked were very good.

After the town hall was lunch. Our Accenture hosts have been wonderful at providing lunch for us every day. Following lunch was a discussion on tools and connectivity. More applications that I knew have been delivered to the offshore team through Citrix. This speeds up some things, but makes a lot of other things more difficult, including managing files. I need to spend some time with the team and make sure we are using our tools over Accenture’s connection to BMS to their full potential.

We spent time meeting each of the team leads across Laurent’s organization. Each presented their area, discussed staffing, completed projects, upcoming work, and success stories. This gave me a great picture of all the work we are doing, and it was just within Laurent’s overall area. After this meeting, I took two calls with the U.S. – the technical team meeting, and the new work intake meeting.

While we were wrapping up the day, and waiting to leave for dinner, Raghu pointed out the windowand showed us the bank of busses that return everyone home. The last set of busses leaves at 8:30pm. This is very different from home. Most folks drive to and from work in the United States. The bulk of people take busses to and from work in Bangalore. And, since the growth of Bangalore is exponential, it takes hours to get from one side to another. 20 miles could take an hour and a half to travel. The infrastructure has not kept up with the exponential growth, and that causes massive traffic problems. The logistics of work is so different than it is at home.

Dinner was at an Indian influenced Chinese restaurant on the other side of the Technology Park. The food was very good, and we got to enjoy the company of all the team leads. Building these relationships is one of the most important take-aways from this week, and events like this allow us to focus on that.

We got back to the hotel at about midnight. These are long days, with a lot of information, and a lot planned, and I am very tired. I am really glad that the Town Hall went so well, and got to meet large parts of the team.

Accenture India Visit – Recovery & Prep

When I finally got to my room, I slept until 11am. Not having slept on the plane, when my head hit the pillow, there was no waking me up. The bed was very comfortable, and the pillows were nice and soft. I am glad I got a wake up call, otherwise I would have had problems.

Laurent, Jerry and I planned on having brunch together. We met up at the restaurant at 11:30am. They didn’t start serving until 12:30pm, so we spent an hour catching up, relaxing, and drinking the fresh fruit drinks. At 12:30pm We were all starving. We hadn’t eaten for what felt like days. Brunch was great! There was fresh fruit, lots of vegetarian dishes, pasta salads, breads, salads, and lots of non-vegetarian dishes too.

One of the things that Laurent noticed was that the culture in India is one of service. Everyone opened doors for us, the gates to the hotel were opened manually, they walked us to our room, at the airport there were employees who walked us everywhere… Later, I found out there is an expression in Sanskrit, “Athiti devo bhava”, which means Guest is God. This is a tradition in India that honoring your guest is like honoring God. Hospitality is extremely important in this culture. This explains a lot.

After lunch, I went back to the room and worked some on the slides for Monday. Laurent and I got together at 4pm and reviewed. We did the last bit of organization, and called the deck done. I am really excited about doing the presentation. We have lots of great information, and I think it is mostly new to the team.

Laurent, Jerry and I met Raghu and Vasuki for dinner at the Northern Indian restaurant in the hotel, called Terracotta. I got to try the local beer, called Kingfisher. It was very good. Raghu did most of the ordering. The food was all fantastic. We had tandoori chicken and lamb shanks for appetizers, and both lamb and chicken biryani for the main course. All the food was absolutely wonderful. Raghu keeps teasing me that he is going to order very spicy food for me sometime this week. Raghu ordered two traditional desserts for us to try, rasmalai and kulfi. I was not a big fan of the rasgulla… the taste was fine, but the texture was spongy, and I didn’t take to it. The kulfi was a cold ice cream served in a small clay pot, and that was really great.

I am still adjusting to a vegetarian culture. It is very clear in their language that vegetarian is the dominant preference, because the word for those who eat meat is in the negative – “non-vegetarian”, or “non-veg”. In the United States, it is quite the opposite. It is assumed that you can eat meat, and has a special section of the menu for those who choose to eat vegetarian.

It is almost 11pm here. I am off to bed. We have a long day tomorrow, including our town hall presentations.

Accenture India Visit – Newark to Bangalore

The trip has officially begun. With a struggling High Performance Team, I was asked to go to India to help build the relationship, and help get the team back on track. I knew this was a good idea. It was an opportunity for the team to really connect to the work we do, and for me to really connect with the team. Besides, I love to travel, right?

Well, I took a big bite of travel today. I had the car service my house at 4:30pm on Friday. I like car services to the airport. i don’t have to worry about getting there on time, and when I get off the plan exhausted, I don’t have to deal with extended parking and driving home for an hour. But I have digressed. I got to the airport at 5:30 and checked in. I was at the gate by 6pm. Business class meant I got to wait in the President’s Lounge. That is where I met up with Laurent and Jerry. We had a few drinks, and piled onto the plane. the rain did not cause any delays, and we left (relatively) on time at 8:30pm.

The 15 1/2 hour flight to Mumbai did not go very quickly for me. They started us off with dinner, which was surprisingly good. It was a curry chicken. All the courses of dinner took about two to three hours. I worked on my slides for all of my presentations, and that ate another 2 hours. With my power cord packed, that was all I could get out of the laptop. I watched the new Star Trek movie, and Iron Man, and that took up another 4 hours. That left 6 hours of me trying to fall asleep without success.

Once in Mumbai, we had a 4 hour layover to Bangalore. I upgraded my ticket to first class on the India Air trip, so that I could sit with Laurent and Jerry in their executive lounge. We talked a lot to pass the time, and I worked some more on my slides. The flight to Bangalore was uneventful, and we got our baggage without too much pain. The hotel is 45 minutes from the airport, but the rainstorm we hit extended that a bit more.

I am finally in my hotel. After the hour to Newark, the 1 hour check-in and security, the 2 hour wait, the 14 hour flight, the 4 hour layover, the 1.5 hour flight, the 1.5 hour trip to the hotel, and the little bits of time in between, Newark to Bangalore took 27 hours.

NowI can finally get comfortable and sleep. Goodnight from Bangalore, everyone.

Outsourcing 110 – The Outsourcing Contract is Signed

The Contract Gets Signed

While my peers and I were executing and expanding our contract with Intelligroup, our upper management was exploring a possible company-wide contract with Accenture. Rumors circulated the office, and everyone was worried about their jobs. Would they remain on the company side of the contract, converted to Accenture on the other side of the contract, or receive an end date as no part of the contract at all? It was a time of little information, and lots of rumors and speculation.

Mass Exodus

With those rumors came uncertainty. The consultants in my group were all told that they were to have stable employment for the next 9 months, and would be given at least 2 months notice if that were to change. That was not enough for some people, especially when they could find more stability in another position. Lots of people decided to start looking right away. I am glad that I had a solid, honest relationship with my team. They recognized that I was keeping them as informed as possible, and they let me know when they were interviewing. We were able to coordinate departure times to minimize impact to our projects, and I appreciated that.

As people left, we did not have enough time to post open positions, interview, and hire good people. We would also have to find people who would then stick around for only 6 months or less. This led us to look for other alternatives, like the Intelligroup contract that we had. We reached out to them, and they were exciting to expand the scope of the contract. We increased the number of resources we had onshore and offshore. Recognizing that training would be difficult offshore, we tried to keep as many people onshore as we did offshore, so that we could continue to pair up resources for each projects. We struggled a bit when we lost Jim Sharp, our Support lead. Intelligroup stepped up and identified a great resource, Gangadar Kotu, who filled both support developer and support lead shoes, and did a really great job when we were in a bad spot. Intelligroup was a huge band-aid over the gaping wound that was our staffing exodus problem, and gave us the ability to keep our projects on target and transition to Accenture.

Other Teams

On my team we did not run into too many difficulties on my team with the mass influx of new resources from Intelligroup. We left the interviewing to Intelligroup, and, we had a resource or two that didn’t meet our expectations. They did not stay around long enough to cause too much of a problem. Other teams had a lot more trouble that we did. They experienced trouble with code quality, accurate estimates, resource performance, source code control, and a host of other difficulties. Although the Intelligroup did pretty good by my team, we all were looking forward to the move to Accenture for different reasons – new staff, formal knowledge transfer, new tools, resource stability, and more structured teams. We all were hoping that we had learned from the Intelligroup experience, and carry that over to our Accenture contract.

I am sure that the folks I worked with on my team, my peers, and their teams, will have lots to add about the Intelligroup contract. I hope they post their comments and share their experiences here.

What Next

In my next post, I will over the Accenture Knowledge Transfer, the Shadow Period, and the High Performance Team kickoff.

Outsourcing 102 – The New Team Members

The Plan

The initial plan was to train the liaison within my department, as there was an immediate need for assistance. After, he would be cycle through the teams of my peers, to have him learn about each of their departments. The liaison was to learn about the environment, gather documentation, and set up an environment offshore for development. As demand increased, we would slowly grow a team offshore. My focus was to start them off slow, as content managers, support staff, and graphic designers. As experience grew, we would spread the offshore team into other, more complex areas of development, such as new development and project management.

Step One – Training and Environment

My team has always been ahead of the game in terms of documentation. We use a shared platform across all of our sites, so the structure of our projects are all similar. Each of the services and the methods are documented with code samples on their usage. We use a project template to jump-start project development, with documentation on the functionality of each of the DLLs, aspx pages, and ashx handlers. We also have templates for project estimation, requirements documentation, and system testing. We have a checklist to guide the developer through the project process. All of our code is stored in VSS, all of our DDL and DML SQL is stored with the solution, and all the documentation is stored in our Documentum instance. Promotes are handled throught CruiseControl for .Net code, and SQL Navigator for the SQL code. All pur projects are initiated through a centralized PMO, and our Client Facing team are the overall project managers. Providing all of this information about our code and our process was the easiest part of the transition.

Getting the offshore team a working environment was not as easy. All of our servers are in the United States, behind our firewall. Working with our security team, VPN access was ruled out as too risly to provide without a more diligent legal contract. This left few options. The one that was chosen was a web based Citrix solution. Tools such as Visual Studio, VSS, and SQL Navigator, were provided to the development, test, and production environment through the Citrix Business Partner site. Some other tools were provided directly to the offshore team, such as local copies of Visual Studio and a local version of our database.

Step Two – Content

Some of the first tasks assigned to the offshore were to help manage content for new projects. I figured that this was a simple set of tasks that would expose the outsourced developers to our development environment. An offshore developer was added to a new project, paired up with an existing onshore developer, and work was divided. Each new page has to be registered in the database, and assigned to the proper application, with all the right properties and URL rewriting information. Our page content comes from advertising agencies in the form of HTML. We take that HTML, slice it into reusable blocks and unique blocks, and insert them into our custom content management database. Each of the pages then has to be associated to each of the content blocks. All of this data is inserted into the database via Data Manipulation (DML) SQL scripts. Once inserted, the pages need to be tested with the solution. These activities were the responsibility of the offshore team members.

Step Three – Support

A significant part of our development activity is support. Each project allocates a 5 year budget to support that application, and we need to manage those activities just as well as projects, if not better. In fact, support tickets are like mini projects. They contain an analysis, design, implement, test, deploy, and stabilize phase just like projects do. The only real difference is that upport activities last less than 15 days. This is another great way to get new staff familiar with a new environment. We set aside two people offshore to be responsible for support. The tickets were divided across the two people. And they had all the same resources as the project based developers. These two very quickly got a cross section of all projects and sites, tools and technologies, and processes and procedures.

We had also implemented a role onshore that would be responsible for coordinating all support, both across technologies and across the globe. This person was responsible for support assignment, workload, quality, and process, all as it related to support. This was received well. Support functions now had a champion; a clear voice representing their perspective.

Next

In my next post, I will cover the results of our new outsourcing contract, and how some other teams were impacted by the outsourcing contract. I will also cover and how it became the most important decision of the year for the team.

Outsourcing 101 – Introduction

The World is Flat

Outsourcing and offshoring is a mainstream business practice in today’s economy. Companies reach to outsourcing and offshoring to find cost savings, find expertise outside of their core business, and provide a follow-the-sun workforce. Blended costs for outsourced companies is lower than a purely domestic team by leveraging lower resource costs in other countries like India, Brazil, and the Philippines. Things are no exception where I work.

The Story

I have decided to document the transformation of my department into a global organization that embraces outsourcing and offshoring. I am also hoping that those that went through this process with me who read my blog will provide comments of their own, and keep me honest.

In The Beginning…

In the middle of 2007, my department decided to globalize our work force and find an outsourcing vendor. Other departments had experience with Satyam, Intellogroup, and Accenture. We decided to start with Satyam, as we heard the most positive reviews of their performance.

We put together a brief meeting and walked through our objectives of blending a global team to drive down costs. Over the course of the next 4 months, we focused our interviewing skills at a half dozen candidates for our first outsourced team member. The first candidate seemed to be a good fit for our team, and so we made short order in making an offer and getting a contract signed. But, in the 24 hours between interview and offer, the candidate mysteriously became unavailable. Interview followed interview, and all the candidates seemed to fall short of our expectations. It reached a point where the resumes stopped coming in. With only two months left in the year, we resolved ourselves to try another outsourcing company.

After reaching out to Intelligroup, we held a brief meeting with them. The meeting turned into an ad-hoc interview for one of the attendees. He seemed to be strong in .Net technologies, have a solid background in software architecture, knew enough about web technologies, and had project management experience. We made an offer, signed a contract, and on December 3, 2007, we had officially taken the plunge into offshore outsourcing and hired our onshore liaison.

Next…

My next post will talk about how we expanded the team to include our first offshore resources located in India, how we integrated them into the team, and some of the bumps and bruises we experienced along the way.