Nearshore Americas

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 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.

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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.

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

Tarun George


  • I agree and at the same time I disagree with the article. It is possible to do follow-the-sun 7×24 work, but it is not easy. We do it. Let me explain. For example: if you have a facility in the US, and a facility in India, and you try to do follow-the-sun work "by hand" (no tools) and without disciplined processes, you will see that either you cannot do it, or you will go crazy very fast for the resons explained in the article. You could do work between the U.S. and a nearshore location in the same (or similar) timezone. You have the advantage of time and proximity. YOu can have your newarshore team travel to your US location and be there in a couple of hours. If yur nearshore location is in Mexico, NAFTA visas help a lot.

    However, sometimes you HAVE to do follow-the-sun. In that case, the smart way to do it is with more than 2 locations with time zones that overlap, as an example: Mexico, someplace in Europe, and India. You could make two locations work, but only if you have the tools and the processes to do it. For example, we (dell services) can pass tickets from one site to another using tools, and having a very structured hand-off process. It can be done, but it needs processes, trained people, a common language (English), a common viewpoint (ITIL) and good tools.

  • Its strange to see these naive articles thinking that just because something is nearshore it would have the needed talent and competence? Its like offshore players in India saying that "we will increase our European presence and hire more locals" without realizing that not many European locals want to join an Indian company. We must understand to make an industry thrive there is a lot of input which goes such as needed talent, processes, training methods, government incentives, culture and cost. The nearshore destinations significantly lack talent at this point in time.

    The argument that nearshore regions are at the same point what Indian players were 15 years ago is misplaced. An industry has a growth and maturity curve as well as inflexion point. The time of making an industry from grounds up is gone and the IT industry has significantly evolved and hence for a new country to come on the block will be very difficult. The argument of Indian+1 and +2 is highly seductive, yet, will take enormous amount of time to show results.

  • Have to respectufully disagree with "resrpt". As someone that has lived in Asia (Philippines and India) and is very aware of what is going on in many other "offshore" locations, I think that the assestion that "…The nearshore destinations significantly lack in talent at this point in time…" is simply not true. If you measure actual productivity of apples-to-apples skills, you will see that the most sophisticated parts of "nearshore" are as good or better than the best of India and other "mature offshore",and to that you have advantages such as same time-zone, physical proximity and sometimes better "soft skills". I am talking about places like Buenos Aires, Monterrey, Guadajara, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Santiago, Curitiba, etc and for some skills even places like Panama City and San Jose CR. This does not mean that there is a Bangalore or Noida-type location in Latin-America, but the best of LatAm is highly competitive. Of course you cannot find the same skills in Bangalore and in Kingston Jamaica. In fact, as the level of skills goes up, the difference in TCO between India and many LatAm locations goes down.