While I am not a fan of offshoring IT development, I do understand the attraction.  From a rate perspective they look very attractive, but in my experience that is the smallest part of the story when it comes to offshore resources.  There are a number of hurdles you will have to deal with if you are going use developers that are half way around the world.

The first obstacle is the language and cultural barrier.  I am not talking about just understanding the words, but understanding the meaning behind the words.  A significant amount of time can be required to make sure that requirements are properly understood.  You need to put additional time in your project plan to account for this factor.

The second thing you are going to run into is the time difference.  In all cases I have been in both teams have had to adjust their schedules just so they have at least a minimal overlap.  Then there is the fact that nothing ever gets done in one day as they would with a team that is entirely in one location.  This will stretch your timelines for task completion.  This could mean the loss of opportunity costs in situations that require a quick turn around.

Quality is another issue that I have seen in some cases.  This is a problem that happens no matter where the work is done, but the distance makes it harder to keep an eye on quality as development progresses.  I had one case where a remote team indicated that they were done coding and when we tested it we found it was nothing but stubs.  I would hope that this is the exception and not the rule, but it should be a tale of warning.  You may need to allow for additional budget for rewrites and/or to interview the offshore team to determine their competency.

These cautions are not to say that you shouldn’t use offshore resource, but that you need to understand the costs related to this approach and if you can afford them.  Just as with open source code, there is not free lunch and what you don’t know could kill your project.  Make sure you go into these situations with your eyes open.s

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