Studio Spokes

Onshore vs offshore


Both onshore and offshore have their pro’s and con’s. For digital companies what is the best solution, onshore or offshore teams? This is seemingly dependant on the focus and size of the company along the battle of quality vs cost and agile vs waterfall.


Having a digital arm in an organisation nowadays is a must have for any company regardless of the size, however this can be costly investment with minimal analytics to show the cost recovery in the first couple of years. It’s true that IT infrastructure, software and hardware can cost millions and will need thousands to keep up to date. But having the delivery mechanism in house can give your company a much better end product and ability to have vital knowledge within the company and avoid a knowledge gap.


Depending on the approach you take to your workflows will also reflect the final product, having Subject Matter Experts onshore available to lend their expertise at a drop of a hat can really benefit speed and quality. It allows for greater communication through teams and normally reduces culture barriers recognisable with offshore teams. Of course this can be completely contradictory if your co-workers simply don’t have the ability to talk to one and other. however tools such as Slack agile development and knowledge sharing has been made simple and traceable between project teams.

Offshore teams can only produce the product that’s described to them on the system presented to them. This could reduce the quality of the product and it’s future proofing. Whereas if you’ve invested in talent and have a strategy to nurture the quality, the engagement in their work will be shown in the end product along with a commitment past the finish line.

Let’s face it we all enjoy a chocolate biscuit but if you bring a rubbish selection that’s not had as much love in it’s creation, most people will notice it in it’s appearance and taste. You’ll be shunned for bringing the cheap biscuits to the tea party. Of course there are some differences with IT as a lot of it’s in the background however the customer only sees the end product quality and if it’s the cheap chocolate and poor product, they will notice eventually and fixing that can cost double the amount.

So the fundamental question is whether agile techniques can be used in an offshore setting. If so how does it compare to using an plan-driven methodology (the term I’ll use here for non-agile)?Mark Fowler on onshore and offshore topics alongside agile vs non-agile techniques


Normally companies head offshore when the costs start piling up which is fully understandable as IT infrastructures can cost a huge amount as I mentioned before. They tend to go to large specific Development houses or manufacturing companies to tender, then it’s a battle of cost regardless of the end quality. In IT you tend to have the IBM’s of the world who have large offshore offices; there’s nothing wrong with having large offshore ‘agencies’ and they can produce excellent work given the correct parameters.

Offshore tends to be the option for companies that need the ability to wipe the slate quickly if crisis hits, which is clearly a cost driven option. After all the world is run by ROI (return on investment), or at least the digital landscape is. What I’ve seen in the recent years is a change in this landscape with agencies beginning to join up to become global agencies such as Wpp. Again very similar to how offshore teams work but these agency teams have account managers based in their local areas, going as a rubber washer between two different materials. This is a solution to address some of the issues that have been faced in the past but it doesn’t completely stop the leak out of miscommunication.

I would say it’s completely dependent on the company, personal experiences and financial bottomlines. If a company has the believe and money to bring the majority of creativity and development onshore then you would assume they would. Having the expertise onshore keeps the knowledge gap as a crack instead of a canyon. Once the crack begins to widen is when the quality of the product starts to degrade and if that starts then it’s a snowballs.

There is still a space for offshore teams in my eyes, as a last resort. Yes they are considerable cheaper but as the saying goes ‘you pay for what you get’ and if you’re paying half the price, chances are it’ll be worse or require further development by which point you would have exceeded the cost of doing it right the first time.


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Adam Spokes

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