Outsourcing to India, China and Ukraine doesn’t surprise us anymore. What we found interesting, however, is an emerging trend in the world of offshoring that doesn’t revolve around India and Chennai, in particular. Chennai may be losing its top placement on the list of offshore capitals of the world, as Lima, capital of Peru, comes in. Peru is starting to be seen as the new destination for general web development, as well as more specialized projects such as CMS implementations. What are the implications?

Why Lima is Cooler

While offshoring web development to India often seemed to be a cheap way of achieving fast results, let’s face it – there are too many challenges coming your way, if you decide to go this route.

Sharing the Same Time Zone

Time difference would be one of them. With the majority of Internet companies operating in the Eastern or Pacific time zones, it’s just simply too hard to stay on the same page with India. Lima, on the other hand, is in the very approachable GMT - 5 time zone.

Language and Communication

It is amazing how unsurpassable the communication barriers be even when you’re speaking the (supposedly) same language. Thank goodness there’s Skype, AIM and other means of typed communication that eliminate the stress of trying to decipher what it is you’re actually hearing. In case with Lima, it seems to be much easier to find a Spanish-speaking project manager in the U.S. able to facilitate communication processes with the Peruvian developers, than to learn Hindi.

Hot Skillsets

With Microsoft being the primary development environment in Peru and a good amount of experienced .NET developers, it only seems logical for North American companies to go south (geographically, it is).

Proximity is a Plus

Add shorter commute times and less time spent being delayed and canceled and you’ve got a perfect solution. A flight to New Delhi from New York would take about 25 hours (on average) with layovers – and that is flying coach for at least US$ 1,000 round-trip. A business trip to LIM would cost you almost half as much money from the same destination. With layovers in either Atlanta or Mexico City, you can get to Lima in less than 10 hours. Makes quite a difference!

Culture and Sights

The poverty-laden and unhygienic India may not be the most exciting destination. Peru, with 44.5% of it's population below the poverty line (according to the CIA's 2006 estimates), is not much better. For some reason, however, Peru is deemed to be less dreary and depressing. Perhaps, the combination of the Andes, Incan culture and the Amazon has something to do with it. Howard Tiersky, the president of Moving Interactive, also adds that it is way cooler to take clients to Peru as opposed to India: there are rainforests, great food and culture. Not to mention the fabulous beaches and awesome people that Lima has to offer.

Offshoring CMS Implementations

While sending general web development abroad may sound like a good idea, when the goal is to achieve fast results cheaply, what about offshoring such specialized projects as content management systems implementations? WCM implementations prove to be complex endeavors even onshore. The reasons differ on a case by case basis, but some of them include: * Disconnect between business and IT * Lack of qualified resources * Lack of best practices enforcement Going offshore with CMS implementations comes peppered with additional challenges.

Challenge #1: Expertise

As we’ve mentioned before, some of the WCM vendors -- especially, those with a European background -- like SDL Tridion and Sitecore, – are still struggling with knowledge transfer over the ocean. As a result, the European WCM knowledge (both technical and functional) is, very often, in short supply in the U.S. Now imagine finding WCM knowledge in the land of rainforests and Spanish conquistadors… It is hard to impossible to find, let’s say, SDL Tridion developers in the U.S. How feasible will it be to find them in Lima? The chances are probably close to zero.

Challenge #2: Training

Wait, there’s another thought. Let’s just train them. For one, an absolute “must” in this equation would be a qualified CMS consultant/trainer. Peru’s official languages are Spanish and Quechua. Many Peruvian developers’ ability to comprehend written and spoken English remains a mystery. Even if we put aside the ancient Quechua, which is mostly spoken in the rural Andes, it still may be challenging to find a CMS expert, who is also fluent in Spanish. Also, see Challenge #4, as a direct outcome of an offshore implementation.

Challenge #3: Content Migration

The challenges in implementing a content management solution are numerous. Content migrations alone may take up a good portion of any given CMS implementation. Unless, the offshore team is so cheap, they would do manual migrations of content. But, then again, not all content can be migrated manually and not all content can be accessed from behind the firewall. Other specifics like installations and configurations that, most likely, must be done on site only add to the complexity of a CMS implementation.

Challenge #4: Knowledge Transfer

Oh, but who will write the final documentation and provide knowledge transfer to end-users? Unless there’s an interpreter/technical writer/project manager middle man (which, actually, sounds like a team of people) facilitating this process, the overall quality of a CMS implementation will suffer.

Challenge #5: User Adoption

Nothing hinders the success of a CMS implementation as slow user adoption rates. This brings us back to the topic of the disconnect between IT and business being the challenge. CMS implementations usually involve heavy participation from business owners and users. They help define requirements, test functionality and learn from developers and consultants as to how to use the system. Users are more likely to embrace the organizational change of introducing a new CMS if they’re close to the development cycles and have the ability to give input and get their hands dirty with the new system.

Nothing is Impossible

While nothing is impossible, the question is whether offshoring CMS development work is the best way to go? All the challenges can be managed wisely and even, perhaps, overcome. But we are yet to hear a real-life example of when an offshore CMS implementation was successful. What are your experiences? Be sure to tell us.