101 Challenges of any offshore Information Technology Service Provider

Information technology service provider companies go through several challenges. Herein I have captured just a 101 of the several challenges they have gone through over the years. Kindly read through to understand their pain below.

1. Customer

1.1 Proposal & Bidding Stage

1. How do you arrive at a good effort and cost estimate for a proposal based upon the minimal information provided at times in an RFP (Request for Proposal) by the customer.

2. How do you justify the effort estimate in a proposal to the customer given the fact that 20% of the technical project tasks consume 70% of the project effort. This is due to the fact that if a developer(s) were to be stuck on a technical defect or missing feature it could take days to resolve it or implement a workaround. The delay could be more in case of third party and off the shelf tools.

3. How do you arrive at the optimal cost of a proposal when there are various internal groups, teams, verticals, horizontals and other sub vendors demanding a larger size of the pie (customer business)

4. How do you convince the customer to go with a Fix bid vs Time and Material model for a project based upon what is less riskier for your organization.

5. How do you make a decision on whether to propose a custom developed application vs a customized application using an off the shelf product from the marketplace.

1.2 Engagement Kickoff stage

6. How do you engage the right developers both internally and externally by interviewing them and reaching out for references.

7. How do you organize the right candidates to travel overseas to customer site for the scoping and business discussions phase given the fact that the candidates who are right for the task might not have the visas and the candidates who have the visas might not be available for travel or yet to be deboarded from other projects, engagements or practices.

8. How do you setup devops pipelines and code quality gates upfront before the start of project and still meet the schedule.

9. How do you justify on-boarding a full-time project manager or full time technical architect or a full-time security architect or full-time devops architect on a frugal customer budget. And if they are on-boarded part-time then how do you ensure that they do not end-up spending 100% of their time on the project which unfortunately is a frequently observed scenario.

10. How do you ensure that the background check of candidates is completed in time before on-boarding them into projects.

11. How do you deal with a delay in providing functional and technical inputs from the customer.

12. How do you ensure that there is workspace, connectivity, servers and other infrastructure available for a project team to hit the ground running at-least a couple of weeks in advance before a bid is awarded and project kicked off.

1.3 Peak Development Phase

13.How do you ensure that project tasks are divided logically and are evenly distributed among all the developers so that each developer is equally loaded and a few developers are not burned down while the others try to create tasks for themselves.

14. How do you deal with code and design changes trickling down due to requirement and functional changes from Business and most importantly differentiate a change from a misinterpretation of requirements.

15. How do you ensure that the technical leads , architects and developers who might be loaded with design and development tasks are doing a good job at reviewing the code and documents.

16. How do you ensure that the project team creates time to incorporate the feedback and review comments provided on the project deliverables.

17. How do you ensure that the customer SME calendars are blocked well in advance for reviews and inputs and any changes originating from those reviews are incorporated as design and developmental changes without slippage in effort, schedule or cost.

18. How do you deal with customer escalations on quality of deliverables , infrastructure or human resources.

19. How do you ensure that candidates who are deboarded from projects temporarily due to customer budget constraints are kept engaged or billable in other projects so as not to drag down the revenue of the group/org as a whole.

20. How do you deal with projects that have been long running at a low billing rate.

21. How do you ensure that the data that has grown in the back-end exponentially over a long period of time in a system/application is migrated from a RDBMS to a NoSql DB or from on-premise to cloud without causing any major disruption.

22. How do you ensure that an over-customized off-the-shelf tool/product used in an application is migrated from one version to the next without causing a load of regression defects.

23. How do you ensure that you do not over commit and under-deliver on requirements both functional and performance.

24. How do you equip the existing development team to handle the increased work pressure due to frequent separation of co-developers from the organization.

25. How do you deal with a team from other vendors or competing vendor organization who have been handed over a piece of the pie or project and have been too eager to escalate any delay in dependent deliverables to the customer.

26. How do you ensure that development team members get a chance to attend seminars , meetings and training which might be beneficial to the organization and help further their personal career but may or may not be directly related to the project.

27. How do you ensure that the development team gets the required inputs incase they are stuck while the customer organization is on long holidays.

28. How do you manage the deliverables when the development team has requested for a holiday due to major and long local festivals or personal time-off while the customer organization is working.

29. How do you manage permanently or temporarily “work from home” employees and get the required output from them.

30. How do you manage remotely working employees in a different city or from coast to coast ,keep their travel expenses under control and get the required output from them.

31. How do you get help for developers in debugging a problem at the right time internally from with the organization or from external consultants so that the project schedule is under control.

32. How do you deal with the organizational culture of hitherto unexplored countries and geographies.

33. How do you ensure that the onsite team has enough inputs at the beginning of their day before you windup and leave for the day at offshore and vice-versa.

34. How do you ensure that project documentation is short , crisp, visual and does not take up more time of the project team. Can be easily updated in future.

35. How do you ensure that code is properly version controlled in-order to avoid accidental overwriting and other issues.

36. How do you ensure that maximum parallelism is achieved in development by ensuring that independent teams mock the data that is planned to be available at a later point in time from a peer team.

37. How do you ensure that a delay in deliverables for a particular sprint is communicated well in advance to the customer instead of giving a heads up at the last moment.

1.4 Testing

38.How do you keep the testing team well engaged during the process of delay in development phase deliverables.

39. How do you ensure that the customer does not spot new defects that were not detected by the internal testing team.

40. How do you ensure that the testing team is geared up for full automation of testing.

41. How do you ensure that any production data is deidentified or massaged before being used in a preprod testing environment.

42. How do you ensure that production application users do not receive unwanted / spam emails from application.

1.5 GO Live Phase

43. How do you ensure that the customer business is not disrupted and the customer’s customers are not dissatisfied during the GO Live phase while transitioning from one system to another.

44. How do you ensure that production issues get utmost attention they deserve and are fixed in time to maintain customer delight.

45. How do you ensure that downtime for customer’s customers is minimized during the go live phase.

46. How do you ensure that downtimes and upcoming features are proactively and in-detail communicated to customer’s customers.

47. How do you ensure that a go live checklist is complete, comprehensive and can be rolled back incase of failure.

1.6 Maintenance and Production Support Phase

48. How do you keep employee morale high on maintenance and production support projects when they might be required to do seemingly uninteresting bug fixes and may even get called at odd times to fix production jobs/processes.

49. How do you maintain a low bench strength in between projects.

50. How and whether to proactively hire candidates in expectation of large upcoming deals in pipeline and also ensure that you are not saddled with a huge bench incase the expected deals fail to materialize.

2. Foreign Govt

51. How do you comply to foreign govt requirements regarding hiring of local talent to staff projects in-spite of continuously conducting interviews and being unable to find the right or adequate number of candidates and yet be able to meet customer specified schedule.

52. How do you ensure that you do not create a perception of replacing locals with migratory workers.

3. Sales

53. How do you ensure that your organization still stays in the race against competition in the bidding process when you know that the cost of your proposal is much higher than your competitor. Reduce it and you risk burning down the development team later in the project and make the whole engagement unprofitable, Raise it and you risk loosing the bid.

54. How do you reach-out to and coordinate with various internal teams and ensure that the presentations, source code, hardware, models and personnel required to speak for demo are all organized at a short notice for showcasing the relevant capabilities , skills and experience to the customer

55. How do you look for the right leads and opportunities into both an existing business and new businesses of existing as well as new customers.

56. How do you continuously watch for market updates on a line of business or technology and also keep tabs on competitor products or tools in-order to continuously improvise on the solutions delivered to an existing customer.

57. How do you deal with the sudden departure of a top management executive from customer organization who has been till date very supportive of outsourcing to a particular vendor organization.

58. How do you handle changing times where customers want to see unique IP or accelerator frameworks developed by organizations before awarding the contract rather than just make a decision based upon billing rates.

59. How do you balance your business across various continents and geographies in the world so that your risk is spread incase of an economic downturn in a particular geography.

4. IT Operations

60. How do you ensure that there is no slippage in schedule on an engagement due to the time taken for setting up hardware and software infrastructure.

61. How do you get the necessary approvals and deviations required to access special sites necessary for development when there are strong customer data protection laws in place.

62. How do you deal with infrastructure downtimes and sudden outages which are due to telecom service providers and not under the control of internal IT operations.

63. How do you ensure that the work environment is secured from viruses malware and fishing attacks which could lead to a major downtime in productivity.

5. Quality

64. How do you bake in the time for internal quality processes like Reviews, Root Cause Analysis, Traceability and Audits into project effort estimates and justify the same to customers who are looking for the best deal in the market.

65. How do you justify the need for vendor internal quality processes , documentation and personnel when the customer is more comfortable with their internal quality team.

66. How do you ensure that there are proper disaster recovery, backup and restoration procedures in place incase of a crash.

67. How do you ensure that there is proper knowledge transition when a product or application is handed over from one team to another or from one organization to another.

6. Human Resources & Recruitment

68. How do you maintain the morale of Candidates who are looking for a change in project / assignment / work location

69. How do you retain candidates who are unsatisfied with their current Salary or Designation

70. How do you deal with employee fatigue and delays in reaching workplace due to infrastructure problems in city.

71. How do you deal with employees who refuse to work from client locations.

72. How do you organize the right training programs to upskill and cross skill the employees on various projects.

73. How do you deal with poor performers and ensure that they are either retrained or moved out of a project in time so as to not drag down the performance and rating of entire engagement.

74. How do you encourage more patent , IP and research papers creation within the organization. 

75. How do you ensure that there are proper processes and avenues available for individual employees, and teams to share the knowledge gained across projects in-order to avoid duplication and rework

76. How do you ensure that there is a right mix of fresh graduates from university vs lateral recruits in the hiring process.

77. How do you ensure that positive and right messages are sent out by current and past employees on employer review portals like glassdoor.

78. How do you ensure that job offers of campus recruits are honored in case of an economic downturn or atleast proper adequate arrangements are made for them to pursue an alternate opportunity.

79. How do you ensure that employees being deputed overseas are briefied adequately so that they carry themselves graciously and act as ambassadors of their native country.

7. Upper Management

80. How do you search, hunt, create , demonstrate, grow the business at the tall target growth rate set by CEO and at the same-time ensure that the delivery on existing projects and engagements also gets adequate attention it deserves.

81. How do you correct the customer perception on the group or organization as a whole carried over from a previous slippage in delivery.

82. How do you handle the various personalities and characteristics of stakeholders in the customer organization. One who is always on the verge of escalating every other issue, another who is very supportive to a competing vendor organization and yet another who supports you and speaks on your behalf.

83. How do you keep the team motivated with outings, excursions,luncheons and other team building activities.

84. How do you decide on what percentage of your profits to giveaway towards charity and other corporate social responsibilities.

85. How do you organize the various technology leaning horizontals and the domain leaning verticals such that they do not present an incoherent picture of the organization to the customer and there is a unified message being delivered to customers.They do not compete with each other for customer business instead compete with each other healthily in delivering value to the customer.

86. How do you shift the focus of an organization steeped in the usual programming and development business using technologies of the previous decades to one that can consider itself to be in the forefront of digital transformation with AI Machine learning and Deep learning.

7. Finance

87. How do you invest and maintain cloud infrastructure for new R&D projects when Finance keeps insisting on demonstrating the RoI

88. How do you kickoff projects on-time and ensure that the schedule is not affected due to incorrect and delayed Purchase Orders and invoices to and from the customer, when there are protocols laid down by finance to not start projects without a clear Purchase Order

8. Legal

89. How do you deal with new govt laid data privacy laws and laws that vary from country to country.

90. How do you deal with HIPAA, GDPR and similar compliance issues.

91. How do you keep the Total Cost of a Project to the customer low by choosing between opensource and enterprise tools

92. How do you ensure that any untoward breach in privacy of data or process is handled swiftly and sternly causing little to no damage to the organization’s reputation.

93. How do you handle individual and class action lawsuits from departing employees in any country of business.

9. Home Govt

94. How do you run a business in a high tax environment and in a place with strict land acquisition and labour laws.

95. How do you speed up approvals for new investments

96. How do maintain continuity of work in the face of strikes and shutdowns in a city

10. Job Market

97. How do you find candidates with the right skills and recruit genuine ones from among those million resumes with several claiming to have “set foot on the moon”.

98. How do you deal with candidates who have a long notice period and bail out at the last moment on your offer.

99. How do you deal with candidates who accept a job offer just to demonstrate it to a competitor for a better one.

100. How do you hire for a position when the upper limit of the gross salary on offer is lower than the median offered by large multinationals

101. How do you prepare an accurate job description so that the right candidates apply for the position and the shortlisting process is easier.

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