How to Apply DevOps to Offshore Teams

ByAlice S

According to Accelerance, the global outsourcing market was worth close to US$90 billion in 2015.
Many off-shore teams have enormous expertise and technical prowess. It is only a question of injecting the DevOps culture and philosophy into their systems.

Offshore teams pluralize to different needs, cultures, and deadlines. A model of continuous delivery, if part of the strategic mix, significantly improves an offshore team’s performance and role in the entire product thinking process.

Read more about why product thinking matters

So How Do We Make It Work?

The rise of DevOps has led to floating consultants and specialists who work on specific aspects of products. So whether you outsource your work to another team in another country or not, you find yourself commissioning parts of the work to specialists on the field. The gig economy ensures the team has people who understand the market and have a first-hand knowledge of what users want and competitors threaten.

A case study titled ‘A Study of How DevOps can be adopted in Offshore Projects’ by Anna Grönvall from the Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden published in 2018 gives more clarity in this regard.

Grönvall’s thesis was to find how DevOps can bridge the gap between development and operation, based on the finding in the company’s projects and work in distributed setups, the most obvious being an offshore setup. She studied a company’s projects and how they worked with offshore teams with a DevOps approach. Project 1 was delivered out of India and a country in South-east Asia. The account management was from a site in Spain, and the Operation Engineer worked from Southeast Asia. The Developers, Software Architect, QA Engineers, and the Project Manager were in India.

Though Project 1 did not have a dedicated DevOps team, they worked with a high level of cross- functionality. The development department took responsibility for some operational work. The QA team went beyond traditional definitions of their work description and even made sure the software went to production, hassle-free.

One of the DevOps practice that really worked was automation of parts of the work process. If there was an error, every member of the team could solve it. In other words, there was accountability, and the employees were trained to be multi-skilled.

Other ways that the company used DevOps was to reduce communication overheads, and it even used the time difference of 1.5 hours to its benefit! The team in Southeast Asia could check the status of the software before the team in India and in case of bugs, could alert the others.

Read more about the reasons why more enterprises are adopting DevOps.

While the company did face customary challenges, the development cycles were shorter. They understood and tried to tackle the most significant problems – initial training, cultural differences, time differences and information getting lost. An integrated work culture would help them stay true to DevOps practices and put the product first.

Pluralize According To The Product

Using the DevOps mindset to any product or company requires the ability to think beyond divisions of work. Each product comes with its trajectory in this world and its performance in the market and with customers.

This thought process works when applied to offshore teams. It is essential to make the offshore team a part of the process in every way and to add accountability to every aspect of DevOps that we want to leverage in the first place – transformation of a manual system to an automated system; continuous delivery; simplified communication and improved collaboration; decreased rate of bugs and failures. In creating a performance-based work environment that genuinely unifies all stakeholders, it encourages everyone to put their skin in the game.

Outsourced sites and companies are encouraged to look beyond ironbound contracts and value the product and its performance in the market.

The time zones can become tricky when having an offshore team, but it isn’t hard to figure out how to integrate and collaborate effectively. Real-time monitoring and engineering can be done from anywhere, as long as all the teams can coordinate efficiently. This coordination is, by nature, integral to the DevOps philosophy.

What is more crucial though is that companies that hire offshore should also do the contracting from a DevOps lens. They should operate and hire from a DevOps philosophy too. In other words, don’t go in for the cheapest and most scalable offshore option, and do not go shopping for backups. Instead, look at your offshore team as an integral arm of your continuous improvement system. The beauty of DevOps is that it applies to so much more than just applications, IT, automation and the delivery pipeline.

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