Globalisation and PlusNet - Software Development i...
Globalisation and PlusNet - Software Development in India
We've not publicly talked about this before (not for any other reason that the fact I've been so busy with it), but in the last two months PlusNet has signed deals with two companies in India to provide a remote software development team to supplement the existing team in Sheffield.
We've done this for various reasons:
1. It's becoming increasingly difficult to recruit high quality technical staff in the South Yorkshire area of the UK.
2. Since the BT acquisition of PlusNet we have a real need to ramp up software development capacity with immediate effect.
3. If done correctly, it's a high quality and cost effective solution.
4. We can ramp up capacity much quicker by taking this route than recruiting into our Sheffield office.
5. By reducing the pressure on our UK software development team, we can get to a position where we give the UK guys some "personal time" during the week to work on their own projects and inject some more entrepreneurial spirit into the business. (after all, PlusNet as we see it today was born out of this type of approach; I'll tell that story one day…)
'Outsourcing to India' carries with it many negative connotations. "you should be investing in the UK", "oh, it'll all go wrong", "I've heard all sorts of horror stories about that".
Well, having successfully done this before outside of PlusNet, I'm of the opinion that this is a good thing for PlusNet and something we should embrace.
In May of this year I went over to India and interviewed several software development companies, whittling the list down to two successful businesses I was comfortable working with. We are now well under way on two projects, with the first one due for delivery in the next few weeks.
To make this work on a day to day basis you need to be prepared to invest a lot of time and energy into the communication process between the two businesses. India is 4.5 or 5.5 hours ahead of the UK (depending on the time of year), so there's a narrow window when both parties are in the office together. This means you must make full use of this. All team members in both locations have each other's Instant Messenger details, so questions can be raised and answered in real time. The projects are managed centrally and with full visibility to both parties using "Trac", an enhanced wiki and issue tracking system for software development projects. You can read more about Trac (and even download it and play with it yourself), here: http://trac.edgewall.org/
We will always keep our core team of software developers in our Sheffield office. Certain projects that we undertake require us to take an ultra-agile approach to a project. To retain this approach you need to have the full project team in the same room in front of the whiteboard sketching out solutions, then going straight back to the desk and cracking on with it. For longer projects that require a detailed level of functional analysis, then the remote development team approach works out well.
I understand that talk like this can quite easily lead to fear of "it might be the software developers today, but I bet it's the call-centre that goes to India next", but let me make this quite clear; PlusNet has always been and always will be a Sheffield based business; I expect that's quite clear if you have talked to one of our Customer Service guys and girls over the years. The founders of this business were local people, the current CEO, CTO and Customer Services Director are dyed-in-the-wool Sheffield Wednesday fans, and the rest of the management team includes a good deal of local people. We are firmly of the belief that it makes no sense to "outsource" the core competencies of our business. If it makes sense to look outside and partner with another supplier or provider then we will, but the thinking, the decision making and the direction will always come from our Sheffield HQ.
It's all very interesting stuff and represents a really exciting new chapter in PlusNet's history. I'm happy to answer any questions anyone may have on this topic; put something in the forums or send me a private message and I'll be glad to respond.
Head of Future Development