Saturday, September 23, 2006


“Deployed” in a word that is what I’ve felt like over the last few months and why I’ve been absent from this blog since early July. Deployed also describes the software I’ve been the Project Manager (PM) for during that time as well. Let me explain my analogy to a submarine deployment and work environment.

My experience running a software project and outsourcing the development work to off-shore (India) has been a bit like being at sea, long hours under difficult conditions. Typically I worked a 12 to 18 hour day with, on average, four hours of sleep. On a good day I could go down for six, on a bad day it was about two hours in the rack. Muster for the India developer team was 11:00 pm EST (8:30 IST Bangalore) with a 1 hour conference call. Action items from that call resulted in another one to two hours of work for me and setting the day’s priorities for the developers. Roll out of the rack at 06:30 to be on watch at the client site at 07:30 am.

Each day at my client’s site involved a standard set of work expectations interrupted by a set of disaster drills. The delivered software would either blowup, meltdown or some sort of anomaly would occur to make me wish the previous deployment of the software was my last. The reality was I had a job to do and the client and my boss were dependent on me to drive through the issues and finish.

The primary responsibility I had as the PM was to ensure that the deliverables; specifications, U/I design prototypes and finally the production software were completed on time and on budget. It didn’t happen and went over on time and budget. Although I was impressed by the work ethic of my team in India, they were constantly delinquent “dink” on my project milestones. Walkthroughs of the specifications from the off-shore team required two to five passes before the client would signoff. The business knowledge and quality control of my off-shore team became a major concern. I eventually was standing in as a Business Analyst, QA Engineer and Technical Writer in addition to the PM role I signed on for. Not where I wanted to be on a fixed bid contract that had lost its entire on-site technical staff to another larger project.

Then a real causality happened. Leaving station and heading back to home port one evening I had a head on collision when another driver who decided that with limited visibility he would chance crossing two lanes of city traffic during rush hour. His gamble with a left hand turn in front of a stopped truck resulted in me finding my air bags deployed and not knowing what had just happened.

That coincided with the low point in the project. User Acceptance Testing UAT was ongoing and the level of software bugs was excessive.

Things tuned around when I as able to get my on-site technical team back from the other project. These guys put the extra effort forward to get the project back on track doing midnight calls with me and the developers in India and working extra hours at the client’s site. We identified inefficiencies and errors in the developed code and communicated them back to the off-shore developers.

Working with a team of qualified people started to become fun again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on Indian programmers, two of my best on-site resources were from India. But my first deployment involving off-shore developed software created some hard lessons learned about capabilities and managing a project of this type.

Word to the wise; be prepared for some rough water when you’re deployed to a different ocean.

It’s good to be back. - LL


Vigilis said...

Welcome back, Lubber! Wondered what was going on with you. Checked here often.

bothenook said...

ouch. looks like your tech team was your project air bag, eh?
good to have good people to work with.
i'm assuming that since we aren't reading your obit, that the impact was more of a shock than an injury producing event.
glad to see you back in the blogger saddle.