Global software development has emerged as a discipline in response to the challenges and complexities of developing software over distance and has grown substantially since the early years of the 21st century (Damian and Moitra 2006). The most frequently cited challenges are those related to communication, coordination and control in global projects (Ó Conchúir, Ågerfalk et al. 2009). Although associated with a particular set of challenges, the field of global software development can be viewed as an umbrella for quite diverse project arrangements. A closer look at the variety of global project setups (Smite, Wohlin et al. In Press) reveals that the differences are based on the what (e.g., scope and complexity of work, dependability, criticality and ownership), when (e.g., at the beginning, middle or end of the lifecycle), where (e.g., geographic, temporal and cultural proximity, capabilities and skills, turnover rates), and how to source (e.g., number of sites, team structure, work allocation). From a more abstract view, there are four main types of sourcing arrangements (See Figure 1), with global software development consisting of offshore outsourcing and offshore insourcing (Smite and Wohlin 2011).
Figure 1. Global software development
Companies striving for offshore benefits often take these benefits for granted. A number of studies have been published on offshore outsourcing performance that measure efficiency, user and business satisfaction, service quality, and cost reduction; however, a comparison of these studies revealed conflicting results (Lee and Baskerville 2003). One possible explanation is that suppliers over-promise and under-deliver (Lacity, Willcocks et al. 2008), which may be why experienced organizations seek insourcing and partnerships (Sahay, Nicholson et al. 2003; Smite and Wohlin 2011).
Although studies on offshore outsourcing performance have conflicting results, offshore outsourcing failure stories are rarely told. There are a few exceptions. For example, Heeks et al. (2001) discuss the challenges of synching with outsourcing vendors in three case companies: in two cases, offshore outsourcing contracts were terminated, and in one case, the outsourcing relationship was struggling. The main reasons for termination were related to mutual disagreements, attrition problems, limitations of technological infrastructure and cultural differences [ibid]. There are other investigations from the field of information systems. For example, Barney et al. (2009) refers to two surveys on offshore outsourcing that reported that 30% to 50% of the companies involved in offshore outsourcing had cancelled their contracts. The main reasons for terminating outsourcing contracts were unmet expectations of cost savings and the necessity to protect intellectual property.
What are your thoughts and experiences of distributed software development?
- Barney, H. T., N. B. Moe, et al. (2009). Indian Intimacy ends as the Chinese Connection Commences: Changing Offshore Relationships. . Third Global Sourcing Workshop. Keystone CO, USA.
- Damian, D. and D. Moitra (2006). “Global software development: How far have we come?” IEEE Software 23(5): 17-19.
- Heeks, R., S. Krishna, et al. (2001). “Synching or sinking: global software outsourcing relationships.” IEEE Software 18(2): 54-60.
- Ó Conchúir, E., P. Ågerfalk, et al. (2009). “Global software development: where are the benefits?” Commun. ACM 52(8): 127-131.
- Smite, D. and C. Wohlin (2011). “VOICE OF EVIDENCE A Whisper of Evidence in Global Software Engineering.” IEEE Software 28(4): 15-18.
- Smite, D., C. Wohlin, et al. (In Press). “Offshore Insourcing in Software Development: Structuring the Decision-Making Process.” Journal of Systems and Software(0).
- Lacity, M., L. Willcocks, et al. (2008). “Global Outsourcing of Back Office Services: Lessons, Trends and Enduring Challenges.” Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal 1(1): 13 – 34.
- Lee, A. S. and R. L. Baskerville (2003). “Generalizing generalizability in information systems research.” Information Systems Research 14(3): 221-243.
- Sahay, S., B. Nicholson, et al. (2003). Global IT Outsourcing: Software Development across Borders, Cambridge Univ. Press.