Can Software as a Service (SaaS) projects be done offshore?


    Sometime I get these incredulous looks from people when I tell them that we are able to do SaaS (Software as a Service) projects offshore, and not only the software development portion, but we involve offshore resources from the very beginning of any transition to SaaS project. 

    There is value to be had in involving offshore resources from the very beginning:

    1. Begins the knowledge transfer process immediately giving the offshore team a much better understanding of what needs to be developed. 
    2. Optimum use of onshore and offshore resources provides for a better use of monetary funds by the client.  

    What can offshore resources actually be involved with? Below is a list, in chronological order of the types of activities we involve offshore resources in before development of the application even starts:

     - Write the Software Requirements Specification (SRS) based on the lists of required functionality
     - Develop use cases
     - Technical architecture design
     - Detailed  design
     - Design Look & Feel of the new site – show sample screen shots
     - Prototype

    So what do you need to have in order for a SaaS project to work with offshore resources from the very beginning (that may differ from a standard all onshore project). Not enough can be said about the importance of the person who will be doing the actual customer facing work onshore and interfacing with the offshore team: This person may have one of many different titles:  Account Liasion, Project Consultant, Project Manager, etc. Several of the qualities this person needs to have include:   

       * Willing to work with the offshore team from the very beginning.
       * Must be willing to work sometimes off hours
       * Patience – The same patience that this interface person displays with the client needs to be used when dealing with the offshore team
       * Have to be able to explain things long distance without seeing the person/s face-to-face
    All of these qualities in one person is not something to be underestimated. Having the client interface person work directly with the offshore team assures that the definition of what is needed is not traveling through even more people and perhaps getting lost along the way. This interface person has to be able to walk through with the clients the different scenarios and processes that need to be defined, as well as write up and define what is needed in a manner that can be understood by the clients and by the offshore team.

    As you can see I have put alot of emphasis on the interface person as opposed to the whole emphasis being on the offshore team. In today’s world, the offshore teams are more likely to be comfortable collaborating with and taking from persons who are not right next to them and offshore teams with good technical skills can always be found. But the availability of qualified interface persons is harder to find but will hopefully become increasingly more available in the nearest term.