Lemmings and Crying "Cliff Edge"!


    Sometime ago I heard a colorful expression on theh radio: "As effective as crying, ’Cliff Edge!’ to lemmings." Lemmings are rodents known for thoughtlessly displaying herd-mentality, sometimes jumping off cliffs into the sea and dying just because they cannot think for themselves. 

    For some reason, this expression stuck with me and reminded me of offshoring of business processes as well as software development.

    Geraldine Fox handles this issue very well in her recent article, "Sourcing Inside Out: From Lift and Shift to Fix and Mix." She talks about offshoring already inefficient ways of doing things only for these efforts to fail miserably. Instead she advocates improving these processes and THEN offshoring them. She nails the situation with personnel turnover, especially as our own anecdotal experiences suggest.

    C.K. Prahlad, the management guru, calls this "Paving The Cowpath." Cows meander across meadows, not exactly in a straight line and pretty soon these become footpaths and sometime later possibly get paved over!

    It’s the same thing with either software development outsourcing or business process outsourcing. Many times steps in a business process may have been outdated a decade ago since laws may have changed. I am not sure many companies review their processes for these often. They may be doing the same thing over and over again and pretty soon it gets outsourced as it is.

    Software development is even worse at times. Companies start with very well laid out processes but in practice they devolve into ad-hoc quick and dirty methodologies, especially when deadlines loom! Not common, you say? Scratch the surface of any large enterprise’s processes and what you may find are a whole lot of ad-hoc processes that no one may have good explanations for.

    Which brings us back to "Crying Cliff Edges and Lemmings." Many offshoring efforts spend so much time on contracts and legal minutiae that they hardly think about improving something before sending it offshore. Unfortunately, it serves neither the buyers nor the sellers of these services! Buyers are looking for the next cheaper destination to switch their efforts to while service providers are on the lookout for new prospects all the time!