Time Zones: Why Follow the Sun is a Failure

 Have you hugged your Time Zone today? Perhaps you should. One of the major complaints from those who send work to farshore locations, such as India, is the …

 Have you hugged your Time Zone today? Perhaps you should. One of the major complaints from those who send work to farshore locations, such as India, is the significant time difference between them and their farshore resources.

 

India is a half day ahead of the U.S. and it isn’t easy to hold conference calls or to schedule interviews at a time that’s convenient on both sides of the planet. It might seem clever to setup a “follow the sun” business support model but reality sets in rather quickly when that model falls short of actually working. Business continuity and convenience are more important than a few theoretical dollars saved by using those farshore resource locations.

Bring along the caffeine

If you’ve tried farshore locations for your development projects, you’ve probably spent many late nights on the phone trying to turn a bad situation into a good one. I hope that you were successful. It’s all too likely that you weren’t or you wouldn’t be reading this.

Nearshore locations offer more than just a few saved dollars. Sure, you’ll save money using nearshore resources but you’ll also get more sleep doing it. Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean offer something that India, China and Eastern Europe can never match: local time zones. Most of Mexico is in the Central Time Zone, The Caribbean is Eastern and South America is one to two hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone. Do those sound better than trying to work around an 11-and-a-half hour or more time difference? It sure does.

And, when can you call India during regular U.S. business hours to check on your software project? You’ll have to stay up late or wake up very early to work with your farshore resources during their working hours. When you have a critical issue arise, you can risk calling at 4:00 AM India time or wait a few hours for their workday to begin.

When you set a deadline for a particular milestone, do you set that deadline on Indian Standard Time or in your time zone?

Farshoring and Scrum don’t go well together

 

Time is money. Time Zones, related to time, are also money.

When you set a deadline for a particular milestone, do you set that deadline on Indian Standard Time or in your time zone? Think about it—it makes a big difference. If your deadline is December 17th at noon and you haven’t made it clear on which time zone that deadline occurs, your project could suffer a significant time lapse. Alternatively, you could have your project 12 hours ahead of your proposed deadline. Don’t hold your breath too long with that expectation.

For those of you who practice a Scrum-based project management style that requires constant feedback and daily meetings, your style won’t work between you and your farshore developers. Why? It’s about engagement, feedback and collaboration during meetings. Those meetings are held when everyone’s mind is fresh and ready for action, which is also known as first thing in the morning. That same meeting would have to occur at 9:00PM or later stateside. There are too many distractions in the evening on both sides of the planet. Therefore, you hyper, Scrum adopters will have to resort to traditional project management techniques and dust off your copy of Excel or buy a copy of Microsoft Project for you and all of the members of the development team.

A wide-awake response

 

The other often forgotten twist on time zone differences is that if you need to fly to one of your nearshore partner locations or have one or more of the developers visit the U.S., no one experiences jet lag or has any issues trying to adjust to a foreign day-night schedule. Those who fly to or from India experience extremes of day-night confusion that requires a few days to regulate. Your nearshore developers arrive rested, awake and ready to talk business.

The lure of cheap farshore labor clouds the reality of working within the time difference restrictions required when working with farshore locations. By working within your own hemisphere’s time zones, you’ll be able to save as much money, enjoy better response times to changing business conditions, have the comfort of calling at 4:00PM local time and knowing that you’ll hear a wide awake voice on the other end that’s ready to answer your requests. To the “Land of Call Centers,” I hope you know what time it is.

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Ken Hess is a technical analyst, author and consultant. He writes regularly for Linux Magazine and ServerWatch.

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