XRS expands development cycle and increases IT output and with outsourcing partner Coherent Solutions. Working at Delphi in the 1990s, Peter Thayer was one of the pioneers of offshore outsourcing. Delphi was one of the early firms to engage an outsourcing partner, and Thayer learned the hard way what works and what doesn't. "Initially it was awful," he said. "There were no best practices in place yet, and it took a long time to get it right."
Today, Thayer is Chief Technology Officer at XRS, the leader in onboard fleet management systems for private fleet transportation. Although XRS had no experience in offshore outsourcing, based on his experience, Thayer knew an outsourcing partner could help the company control development costs and increase the length of the development day.
He conducted due diligence on four vendors: two in India, one in China, and one headquartered in Minneapolis with a development office in Minsk, Belarus-Coherent Solutions, Inc.
Thayer was unimpressed with the talent pool and language skills he found in the Chinese firm, and he had two concerns with the Indian firms: high employee turnover and cultural differences. "The average turnover in Indian firms is 100 percent a year," he said. "And the cultural differences create a high degree of power separation distance. Most contractors there follow directions blindly without questioning, even if they notice something wrong."
Coherent, however, presented a more appealing option. "Coherent Solutions has very low turnover, and our cultures are much more closely aligned," Thayer said. "They have a great pool of talented, well-educated, energetic resources-both heavy hitters and up-and-coming stars, which is the mix you need to be successful."
Over the past two years, Thayer has enlisted Coherent to provide Microsoft® C#, C++, and .NET development on several of XRS's fleet management software products, as well as quality assurance (QA) testing. Overall, he's been pleased with the deliverables.
One of the keys to success is teamwork. "I learned at Delphi what not to do-throw a project over the wall, disappear until it's finished, and then beat the vendor up when it falls short of expectations," Thayer said. This time, he worked to integrate his internal team tightly with the Coherent team. For example, Thayer and his team travel regularly to Belarus-and vice versa. XRS also leverages Coherent's delivery management capabilities, and the development teams frequently attend each other's code reviews.
According to Thayer, working with Coherent is paying dividends for XRS. "We saw a return on the QA work within three to four months, and we're starting to see some gains on the software work as well," he said. "Our budget has remained relatively flat, but our output has increased 30 to 40 percent."
In addition, Thayer appreciates the 18-hour development cycle he gains working with Coherent. "Our QA team here can submit bugs at the end of the day, and they're resolved in Belarus while we're asleep."