Archives for February 2020

5 Tips for Working with Offshore Partners

When it comes to Salesforce configuration and development, the trend of looking outside company walls for necessary skills and expertise is nothing new. In fact, it could be the way to go. Our 2019 survey of 300+ Salesforce stakeholders found that those who reported the highest grades for their system and the most Return on Investment (ROI) were also the most likely to report that all of their Salesforce implementation was built by 3rd party contractors. 

However, high ROI and A-grades don’t just happen. It’s the result of knowing how to and how not to work with outside talent — especially talent that is based overseas. And if you’re looking for development talent and other hard-to-find technical skills, then chances are you’ll be working with a partner or independent consultant based outside your time zone at some point in your career.

Research from 10K’s most recent Salesforce Talent Ecosystem Report shows that while Salesforce talent is growing across all regions, the highest growth (more than 240% YoY) is happening in emerging markets like South America, China and Africa. While growth rates aren’t quite as high in India, it still has the largest worldwide concentration of Salesforce developer talent. 

If you are already using or planning to use offshore talent for your Salesforce program, 10K’s CEO Nick Hamm offers some useful do’s and don’t to make sure you and your partner are getting what you want out of the relationship.

1. Don’t be lured by the cheapest rate

There’s an old adage that “you get what you pay for,” and those who shop only for the cheapest rate are usually surprised at the additional amount of management, review and rework that comes from looking only at hourly rates. When it comes to your Salesforce system, a critical part of business operations, consider quality over quantity. 

While you might still be able to find offshore Salesforce developers with hourly rates below $20 an hour, buyer beware. You will most likely get 1) someone who hasn’t been working with Salesforce very long, or 2) someone that will take 2-3x longer to accomplish your needs. Wouldn’t you rather hire an experienced and qualified candidate who can accomplish your needs in an hour, versus a candidate who takes 3-5 hours to accomplish the same task? And consider what is being compromised to offer such an “affordable” rate. What are their working conditions? What kind of take home pay do these people actually see? While there might be greater value in the rates of offshore partners than onshore equivalents, if you’re looking for a specialized skill like Salesforce and you want it done right, expect to pay more than “traditional offshore” rates.

2. Do know your needs

Before you start your search for an offshore partner, make sure you are clear on your goals and needs from the very beginning. For example, do you know your specific budget and timeline? Understanding that up-front will save you valuable time and money down the road when it comes to evaluating different options. What roles and skill sets do you need both internally and on the partner side?  Do you need basic configuration help or custom development in a particular language? Is it a larger project that requires an experienced technical architect or a project manager to coordinate between internal and external groups, or something that can be done with a single consultant? Knowing what you need early on and how your offshore partner will fit into those plans will not only help you select the right partner and make sure they allocate the right team, it will also help alleviate the unexpected costs and disappointments that invariably come from unclear or misguided expectations.

3. Don’t just think of offshore for development

A company’s first instinct might be to look overseas solely for developers, but keep an open mind. Other roles or skills might be required to successfully execute a Salesforce initiative, and many of those hard-to-find and hard-to-retain skills can be found abroad as well. 

Some offshore partners are certified in specialized skills such as AI and Machine Learning (e.g. Einstein) or data visualization (e.g. Tableau), all of which are useful for any kind of digital transformation effort. Don’t overlook the need for QA (Quality Assurance) or integration expertise for certain initiatives either. These can play an outsized role in making sure systems meet their intended business requirements. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, consider whether you could use a technical or solutions architect on your program, which can not only define, design and execute solutions but also act as a technical advisor to steer you on the right course. Seasoned architects, especially those with great communication skills, are in high demand and may have a higher hourly rate. However, they can make a significant difference in achieving a high ROI.

4. Don’t skip the context or rush onboarding 

When in doubt, lay it all out there. The more context and detail your offshore partner has from the onset the better.  If you’re working with someone well-versed and experienced in Salesforce, which is the goal here, you shouldn’t have to spell out every single thing you want done. But you should be clear about project goals, explain what’s unique about your environment and recommend solutions you might have already investigated. If you do this, your partner will be a lot more effective. It will also allow them to identify potential pitfalls and limit the amount of time spent in back-and-forth. Always begin a new project with a kick-off where you lay all this out in detail, and try to document as many of these details as possible in the stories and requirements you assign to the team. You might be surprised by how much this can save you from making bad decisions.

5. Do build personal relationships

Finding talented people who have the skills you need, can understand your business and meet your timelines and budget isn’t easy. If you’ve found those people, or think you might have, spend time nurturing those relationships. Creating personal relationships with your overseas partners will not only help you get more out of your business relationship, it will pay dividends when you hit the inevitable rough patches that happen in projects or during go-lives. It will hopefully also instill a level of loyalty that makes a partner feel like, well, a partner. 

While you may be tempted to have an “out of sight out of mind” mentality when it comes to working with contractors overseas, remember that’s a human on the other end of the email or phone line. Not just a “resource.” Regardless of gender, nationality, religion or background, the universal needs of humans apply here, and working to find commonalities among the inevitable challenges of working across timezones and language barriers should be a top priority.

To help find that human commonality and provide perspective into what it’s like to be an offshore provider, we interviewed some of our most successful offshore partners — Abhinav Gupta, founder of Concretio, and Ankit Arora, founder of Briskminds.

If you’re an offshore partner or use offshore partners, and have additional do’s or don’ts that you think would be helpful, we’d love your comments as well!

Working with Offshore Teams: A Q&A with Abhinav Gupta

By 10K COO Jared Miller

Our CEO Nick Hamm recently wrote a post about working with offshore partners to fill Salesforce talent needs (if you haven’t read that, we recommend you start there). It had some great tips for clients on how to be more successful, however, as the person responsible for growing and nurturing 10K’s own community of Salesforce experts, I think it’s also helpful to understand the provider’s perspective — what is it like to be on the other side of the digital fence and what do those teams need in order to be successful. 

The first Q&A in this series is with Abhinav Gupta, founder of Concretio Apps, a Salesforce consulting firm based in India. Abhinav has been working with 10K Advisors for four years, and his team has helped dozens of our clients meet and exceed their business goals with Salesforce. What first drew us to Abhinav and his team was not just their reputable work, but also their communication skills and the fact that they thoroughly train and support their teams. Their concern extends beyond just the work they produce, to making sure they are skilling-up their teams, providing career paths for every member, learning from mistakes, and celebrating the small (and big) victories.

Let’s get started. 

What kind of Salesforce work does your team do?

Abhinav: Concretio Apps is often called on for complex Salesforce implementations as well as mobile and custom development using Aura, LWC, etc. We have completed multiple Community Cloud implementations, developed AppExchange apps for many ISV partners, and  worked on projects such as, now, Amazon’s English-Arabic language e-commerce platform.

Why do you love what you do, and how does working with a community like 10K help?

Abhinav: We are quite passionate about how fast companies can move and go live with, and the level of innovation which comes from having three releases in a year. 10K has become a trusted advocate for us. Their relationships and proximity to clients, and their depth of experience in managing offshore relationships helps make sure both parties (the client and offshore team) are well aligned. 10K’s agile development approach and the placement of 10K’s expert architects in a client’s local timezone is a big plus for our teams as well.

Why do you think India is such a hotbed of Salesforce developer talent?

Abhinav: The number of engineering colleges in India is one reason. The fresh pool of talent we are building with every passing year is huge, and IT and Computer Science continue to be the hottest majors for college students to pursue. Apart from this, developers in India are very experienced in delivering enterprise solutions using languages like Java, .NET, NodeJS, Ruby, etc. This creates a big pool of polyglot talent that can be cross-trained in Salesforce quite rapidly.

Other than lower rates, what benefits come from using a development team like yours?

Abhinav: Our motto is “Quality > Integrity > Salesforce”, and we are very selective in the people we hire. Top class people keep the bar high for everyone in the company, but we also bank a lot in our internal training. We believe a learning culture keeps the quality high. Last but not least is INTEGRITY. We would never fake a resume, bill the same person on two projects, or breach a solicitation clause with our customers/partners (which are rare but do exist in the Indian market).

What are some of the characteristics of your best clients and worst clients?

Abhinav: Our best clients are respectful towards our team and they don’t see Indian offshore as servants. They understand the importance of discovery and having a clear scope of work, and keep active and open communication throughout a project to avoid ambiguity. They give us time to write good unit tests and see the value in having a QA team in place for non-trivial projects. They let us use our own project management tools or bring their own tools to avoid requirements being shared on calls, emails and chats. Finally, they give a clear idea of resource utilization plans, and proper notice before terminating a contract. 

Our worst clients do the opposite. They solicit my team members, or worse, are abusive to team members over the phone or email for no real reason. They don’t pay, delay payments, or ask for discounts to pay in full. They try to get a complex job done by a junior member of the team because they need a low rate, or they are not open in communication trying to get tasks done via chat or email to avoid calls. 

Some clients worry about the communication or timezone challenges associated with using an offshore team. What advice would you give to companies and other consultants on how to overcome these challenges? 

Abhinav: It’s always possible to find a timezone overlap, one side’s morning vs another’s evening. Even a short sync-up call or chat to go over queries, status, risks, etc. will achieve a lot with a capable team in place. This sync-up could be frequent in the initial phase of the project and could cool done to once a week when things are stable. 

What kind of processes do your teams use to ensure the quality of work?

Abhinav:  For process, we strongly believe in reporting status on a daily basis, with clear mentions about what’s done, pending or what are blockers. If a client needs to ask for status, it means something is wrong. We make sure to agree upon communication frequency early and are transparent with customers even when things are not going according to plan. We tell our team that it’s fine not to know the answers, but to look into it and find a solution.Lastly, we don’t share the resumes of senior folks and make juniors work on the project. This solves a lot of other offshore-related problems automatically. 

Working with Offshore Teams: Q&A with Ankit Arora

By 10K COO Jared Miller

Did you know that developers and technical architects are not only some of the most difficult to find roles in the Salesforce ecosystem, they are also the most in-demand roles? 

If you’re looking for technical talent, chances are you will at some point look to an offshore partner, and likely one in India. According to our most recent Salesforce talent ecosystem research, India already comprises 39% of the global Salesforce development talent and is experiencing higher YoY growth rates than either Europe or the U.S.

While unfortunate stereotypes may be creeping into your head as you read this, I want to address that head on. I have worked with dozens of Indian development teams over 10+ years in the industry, and can attest that the vast majority of these teams are just as committed to quality work as their onshore counterparts. Yes, there are communication challenges when it comes to working across different time zones and languages, but with the right mindset, onboarding, processes and tools, these challenges can be overcome.

We recently wrote a post about the do’s and don’ts when working with offshore teams. If you haven’t read that, we recommend you start there. That post was written from the client’s perspective, and I believe it’s helpful to understand the provider’s perspective as well. What’s it like to be on the other side of the digital fence and what do those teams need to be successful.

To provide this perspective we conducted a Q&A with Ankit Arora, founder and director of Briskminds, an offshore provider with 110+ developers, consultants and architects specializing in Salesforce. I’ve worked with Ankit, a fellow Salesforce MVP Hall of Famer, for more than four years and admire not only his passion for doing great work but the passion he has instilled in his team. 

What kind of Salesforce work does your team do?

Ankit:  I would say we are “masters of all trades” when it comes to Salesforce. We specialize in implementing Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, and have become very well known for our development work with Lightning. We also have certified Mulesoft, Marketing Cloud, CPQ and Commerce Cloud developers, which are in high-demand.

Why do you love what you do, and how does 10K help you?

Ankit: When we come to the office we are not just coming for a job, we are passionate about what we do. Working with 10K offers an environment that makes us comfortable and allows us to focus on what we are passionate about — doing great work on Salesforce. There is a mutual trust and understanding with the 10K team, and they give equal importance to clients and to us. This makes us feel like a part of the team and not just an offshore company.

Why do you think India is such a hotbed of Salesforce developer talent?

Ankit: People in India, especially around my area, are really passionate towards technology. The tech community here is very strong and close-knit, which helps everyone to learn from each other. Another reason is likely the number of colleges and universities, which are graduating 1.5 million students per year. That makes it easy for companies like ours to hire fresh talent and train them according to the greatest market needs.

Other than lower rates, what benefits come from using a development team like yours?

Ankit: Being cost effective is only one of the benefits, but a bigger benefit is the ability to get talent and resources as you need them. You don’t need to worry about retention or expansion, and if you’re working with a good partner, you will get good quality. To compete in this market, services companies like us must keep ourselves up-to-date with the technology which also helps clients to stay ahead of the game. If you need more skills or more capacity without impacting the quality of your current setup, we are here.

What are some of the characteristics of your best clients and worst clients?

Ankit: This is a hard question as we look at everyone individually. Everyone has a different nature and behavior of work, so comparing anyone is difficult. However, keeping a mutual respect and understanding is very important, and all of our clients are on the same page there.

Some clients worry about the communication or timezone challenges associated with using an offshore team. What advice would you give to companies and other consultants on how to overcome these challenges? 

Ankit: It’s all about setting the right expectations. Offshore has to be very clear about whether they support the client’s working hours or not. If they do, there should be no concerns. If they do not, they should set a specific time to collaborate every day at the beginning or end of a workday. Communication is not always easy, but hiring or training for this helps or again setting expectations with client upfront. Offshore teams that over-commit when it comes to timing and communication just to get the deal is the bigger problem.

What kind of processes do your teams use to ensure the quality of work?

Ankit:  We assign a mentor to each person, and collaborate on a daily basis. The mentor helps to check the code and point the mentee in the right direction. We also conduct weekly resource planning meetings where action plans are made for resources who need more attention or assign more mentorship to ensure they keep improving. Company leaders also meet either face-to-face or online with clients weekly or bi-weekly to keep track of projects and get regular feedback on performance.