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The Russians are coming!

Dave » 12 years 48 weeks ago

I just had to use that heading. It was taken from inside the current eWeek, which is featuring news and analysis on offshoring to Russia. We hear so much about sending our technology work to India and we perhaps never really take a good look at Russia.

When looking to offshore, especially technology, it really comes down to India and Russia. India’s technology industry dwarfs Russia’s, with $24 billion for the former and a mere $1 billion for the latter. The economics are similar, but aside from the size of their industries, what really sets them apart? For one, India has a vast English speaking workforce and they are relatively well versed in Western business. And the sheer number of skilled people makes it easy to have a flexible and changing staff on a project.

More notably, though, Russian culture is radically different than that of India’s — and this can be a good thing. I have experience with both Russian and Indian professionals, and I think this bit from the article sums it up:

“In Russia, the good news is that you have very creative and strong-willed people. And the bad news is that you have very creative and strong-willed people,” said Marovitz [the dude who chose to offshore to Russia].

“In India, people want to say ‘yes’ to please and to follow instructions. That can create problems sometimes. In Russia, people aren’t afraid to tell you that you have a silly idea that makes no sense whatsoever. But that’s what you need.

“Sometimes you have to stand up and explain why you want something done a certain way. It’s easier to have a relationship where the line between employee and vendor gets blurry because people are active members of the team and not just following orders.”

I couldn’t agree more. One of the problems with outsourcing to India is that, though you’ll get alot of assurances, there’s a good chance you’ll realize things are in disarray when you really analyze the situation. Indians generally don’t have the rigid discipline that’s detectable in Russian engineers — Russians scoff at poorly written code and just can’t bring themselves to write it. At the same time, prepare for an argument when you want to see things a particular way.

I tell my clients the only way to outsource work to India successfully is to have a clear, well documented specification for what you’re trying to do, coupled with a local, high-level development lead, and tools to support team collaboration (issue tracking, revision control). With these in place, outsourcing to India can be very successful, and indeed pleasant.

That said, I believe Russia could be a very effective location to outsource to for longer-term, more sophisticated projects that will have the right level of local support in place. The majority of the work I offshore goes to India, but I’ll be exploring Russia further with this in mind. I suggest that if you’re looking to offshore your project, you thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of each offshore location, as it relates to the specific requirements and characteristics of your project.