October 01, 2012, 4:47 PM — You can't offshore agile.
That had largely been the accepted wisdom in corporate IT since the iterative development approach was introduced more than a decade ago.
Distance, it seemed, would only make agile methods of close-working, collaborative teams, self-governance, and rapid, time-boxed development more difficult.
According to a September 2012 Forrester report on "rightsourcing" agile development, "geographically distributed teams add complexity [to agile development], making it harder for teams to communicate the flow of work, backlog status, and issues and impediments."
But over the last few years, many niche offshore providers have been quietly developing their agile development offerings-several exclusively supporting such incremental software development. And some IT leaders are embracing the offshore model.
"I know of a few successful examples of agile development with offshore teams," says Cindy Carpenter, vice president of research at outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research. "One experienced offshore agile project manager told me [that while] the usual view is that you must be in the same room to do agile, his view is that if you're not in the same room, the best way to do software development is with agile methodology."
Here are seven tips to make it work:
1. Be Prepared
Daily scrums via Skype or another video conferencing system is the only way to make distributed agile development work, says Carpenter. But no one wants to spent 15 minutes finding appropriate rooms and equipment for a 15-minute check in. That's a big frustration for those who offshore agile development, according to the September Forrester report, which says, "wasted time searching for rooms and equipment to support communication seriously impedes agile transformation." The solution is to create standards, not only for communication tools but also the software tools and method for sharing and discussing artifacts.
[Related: Offshore Outsourcing Can Boost Agility]
2. Start Small
Roman Kaplun, director of engineering services for discount travel site Hotwire, decided to offshore agile development because he had to compete with the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Google for programming talent. He opted to work with Russian IT service provider Luxoft, but started with simple test automation work for the first year and a half.