Monday, November 20, 2006

Agile assignment in Bangalore

As some of you will already know, I've just finished a three month engagement for a Wall St bank, helping them refine their use of agile development practices. I'm going to refrain from comment on the specifics of the engagement, and instead focus on the things that I learned myself.

1) Indian programmers are just the same as western programmers - same strengths, same weaknesses. Some are good, some are not so good, some are quiet, some are extroverted. I've know this intellectually, but now I know it emotionally as well.

2) Recruitment in Bangalore is just as difficult as it is anywhere else. It might even be harder, since in Bangalore you're competing directly against Microsoft and IBM (who were on the same campus I was on), as well as Google. Most of us don't face that level of competition in our local regions. And sure there are lots more graduates in India, but if you want people with 5 or 10 years experience the ratios are less favourable. Plus Infosys wants thirty thousand new programmers in 2007 (anecdotally), and that might include just a few of the good ones ;-)

3) There are cultural differences, but they are swamped by the twin tyrannies of distance and time zones. Remote offices are dealing with comparative strangers, and between the USA and India there are only a few hours of effective overlap in a day (it's a bit better between India and Australia). Communication over email and phone just isn't the same - you need lots of face to face experience to overcome this.

4) For distributed development you need people who are willing and able to travel. Include that in your profiles.

5) You can't effect rapid change in a distributed group, especially if there isn't a strong consensus to begin with. And forming that consensus takes a long time. The Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing cycle takes a lot longer for a distributed team - there are plenty of opportunities for miscommunication, and it takes a lot longer to sort the miscommunications out.

6) Everyone's ability to influence is diminished by distance. This was certainly a personal challenge, and I don't feel that I really rose to the occassion.

That's enough to get the things that are distracting me out of my head so that I can focus on some pressing work, but I'm sure that more things will occur to me later. When I get a chance to right a blog while I'm online I'll include some photos so people can get a better sense of the work environment here in Bangalore.

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