This is where many relationships and projects have failed. Do not buy into the pitch that there will be improvement in the efficiency or savings in the cost “from day one.” Typically, the efficiency and productivity in infrastructure management falls during the first three months of operation as compared to the baseline results. The offshore team is in the learning stage and needs time to get used to your environment.
After three months of slightly degraded performance, the efficiency and productivity should start increasing and will get back to baseline after another three months. Thus, it takes around six months to reach steady-state operations. Make sure you have contingency plan to handle this degrade either by retaining some of your senior talent or by setting expectations with the users. Once steady state is reached, set an achievable and progressively incremental productivity improvement target. Measure them rigorously.
The SLA’s should be set based on the SLA’s measured during the baseline. Do not press any SLA terms until you reach steady-state, as this will unnecessarily put additional burden on the partner and may take more time to reach the steady-state. If you are having a penalty clause in the agreement for failing to achieve SLAs, make sure to have a bonus clause if they exceed the SLAs.
Note that you are in win-win situation if more bonuses are given than penalties received. It is clear that invoking a penalty means you are in a bad situation. The failure of your partner to adhere to the SLAs has already caused a business loss. No penalty can compensate your productivity and business losses.
The Offshore Team is Your Team
Always consider the offshore team as your own extended team; else you are inviting disaster. In infrastructure management, you cannot toss a task over the wall and expect results. The onsite team and the offshore team have to work cohesively and as an extended team. The combined team is working on the same set of applications, infrastructure and the business users and probably with the same business challenges. Make sure the communication, information exchange, training, processes, allocation of work, and work culture are similar for both the onsite and offshore teams.
Communication gaps due to cultural differences are very common in offshore projects. One effective way to reduce these gaps is to have an interface manager who is of offshore origin. One of the key performance objectives of this manager should be to ensure a successful transition of the project.
Both the customer and the partner should establish communication at all levels from the initiation of the engagement. More importantly, all the team members of operations should have daily communications. Sometimes, due to cultural difference, the context of email may not be completely understood. Initially it is advisable to have frequent telephonic conversations along with emails. Over communication in the initial stage is advisable, providing ample opportunities for offshore team to understand the operations thoroughly. This will be useful during the knowledge acquisition and setup stages.
Run Book Approach
A run book is a live document which details the application architecture, IT environment supporting the applications, the technical details of the applications and the IT infrastructure, step-by-step instructions on configuration of applications and IT infrastructure. It also includes the trouble shooting tips, shift hand-holding details, report generation and escalation mechanism. This has “how-to” and “what-to” details for running a seamless operation.
It is important to establish a run book approach both onsite and offshore so the entire operation can be executed seamlessly. This approach will also help the operation to be more process-dependent than person-dependent. Since the procedures of daily operations and the knowledge base are embedded in the run book, the operations staff can overlap each others activities to some extent reducing dependency. It is important to keep the run book live and simple.