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Operational Manager Dilemma


Imagine Marcus, Head of software development in very successful fast growing company. As a manager he is responsible for 10 SCRUM teams, approx. 60 people, representing IT functions such as business analysis, software architects, software engineers, testers and operations that follow an agile methodology.

Marcus receives a plan for next year in delivery of 2 big projects. First project for existing VIP customer and second one for new customer also very promising one. During project planning phase Marcus realize that for successful completion of both project he needs two additional SCRUM teams with 5 members each.

He agrees with customers on project milestones. Both projects will start from 1st of January, Milestone 1 is set for 1st of April, Milestone 2 is set for 1st of July and projects completion deadline is set for 1st of October. After getting all approvals he sends request to Human Resource (HR) department for hiring. HR department gives him confirmation that they will hire missing developers until 1st of March. HR department immediately publish job on corporate web and on several job portals.

At beginning of January both projects started, so far everything is looking promising. Marcus is little bit varied about missing team, but until establishing of new teams existing ones will take some additional load. It's just temporarily, month or two so it's not so bad.

Due to huge tech talent shortage in Western Europe, on 1st of March HR manages to hire 4 out of 10 required new team members. Now Marcus is uncomfortable, both projects are slightly of the plan and both customers noticed it, but he manages to calm situation down convincing customer that they will meet milestone 1 deadline. Existing teams started to work overtime due to constant overload because new planed developers are missing. Despite heavy overtime and extra effort of existing team Milestone 1 deadline 1st of April is missed.

Customer is not happy and is putting pressure. Marcus sits down with HR and analyses the situation. He proposes HR to search immediately for an outsourcing partner that can help to close the developer's shortage gap. HR refuses and convinces him that they will hire needed developers until 1st of June. Marcus is not happy but he feels like he has no choice.

After additional two months situation is critical. HR manages to hire additional 3 team members but in the same time because of heavy overload 2 existing developers unexpectedly quit. So now company is missing 5 planed developers and those 5 planed developers were planned to start on 1st of March and now is 1st of June. Now milestone 2 1st of July will for sure be missed. Both projects are significantly of the schedule and customers escalate lack in delivery to high management. Marcus had a firefighting meeting with customers and proposed new delivery dates. Customers accepted new dates but they are not happy. Can you guess what happened after month or two?

HR missed to hire required developers. Because of heavy overload 2 architects decided to quit the company and core technical knowhow is getting lost.
Of course both projects missed the delivery deadline, customers were disappointed and direct impact on revenue is obvious. Marcus is dismissed because his explanation to management that he didn't have resources to deliver was not convincing enough.

New Head of software development, Martin is hired. The first month he took over the burning situation he negotiated with customer's new delivery dates. He got approval from management to immediately find outsourcing partner. But now finding and onboarding outsourcing partner also takes time and time is one thing he does not have. He speeds up the process as much as he can but still it takes him 2 months to find the right company and one more month for them to start working. Onboarding and knowledge transfer for outsourced team becomes very difficult and takes much longer because many customer's key technical people and other developers left the company. On those who stayed overload and pressure is overwhelming. Also because of pressure there is very poor documentation or it does not exist at all. Both projects are still in high risk of failure and missed deadlines. At this point there is no easy solution.

What could Marcus do differently?

Just after project planning phase when he realized lack of two SCRUM teams and tight project deadline he should immediately realize that situation is serious and he needs backup plan. He should immediately contact Serengeti. Serengeti nearshore outsourcing company with their proven Team Extension model would definitely help. He should make realistic plan.

Let's say he plans to have until 1st of March initially planned 10 new developers, 5 from Serengeti and 5 internally hired. He starts cooperation with Serengeti from 1st of January to have smooth on boarding of Serengeti team. Now he is sure he will get covered even in case his HR fails to deliver and even in case his planning for 10 additional engineers shows to be underestimated.

Since Serengeti team size is flexible if his HR will be successful in hiring he can reduce size of Serengeti team. He will deliver on time all project deadlines and he will keep his internal team and knowledge in place. On top of that, at the end of project, Marcus will have proven fully established partner that will have deep knowhow about his business and which will be able to support him on future projects.

More about the Team Extension Model

Team Extension model is specially designed to help companies that need instant engineering capacity or flexibility. It is designed to make distributed teams most productive and on boarding of new team fastest and most efficient.

Engagement starts with min. 2 Serengeti's Ambassadors at customer location. The Ambassador will be a good developer in Client's core programming language but his focus will be more on strong learning-, team- and communication skills in order to efficiently integrate in Client's existing team and to be able latter to recruit, manage and scale an optimum Serengeti team around him. The initial role of the Ambassador is to fully participate in Client's existing engineering teams and use this opportunity for knowledge transfer, understand formal and informal processes, and design the transition to offsite work and actively scale new team members as needed. After his initial role as Ambassador during onsite phase he will move offsite and become Serengeti's team leader.

The concept of this engagement model is based on mutual confidence of Client's technical peer and Serengeti's Ambassadors, they know each other and trust each other. Therefore, the highest risk with outsourcing which is "communication" becomes manageable. Communication gets much more fluent, effective and efficient. The Ambassadors will learn and understand company culture, values and actual challenges of the Client. Additionally, the Ambassadors already know Serengeti's pool of engineers, experiences from other projects and therefore has fast access to right skills and capabilities.

Consequently, the Ambassadors play an important role when it comes to recruit, manage, on board and scale Serengeti's project teams. With an Ambassador Serengeti provides the Client with a single point of contact and the Client does not deal with individual people micromanagement which is very important when working offsite. This approach mitigates several risks of outsourcing (or distributed teams in general) and lowers management overhead on Client side for managing an external partner.

Serengeti Team Extension is proven engagement model where Serengeti guides a client in step by step process to get productive remote team in shortest possible time. It is used by many companies not only to work with external partners but also to set up their own remote teams.

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