India-heritage service providers today face increasing delays in getting visa approvals to staff the critical transition phases of large client projects. TPI has observed that the traditional two to four week window from assignment of an offshore resource to arrival at the US client site is now commonly four to six weeks.
While that may not seem like a significant delay, the problem is that any delay risks derailing implementation schedules that have very little wiggle room. In other words, if the change plan anticipates a two-week turnaround, but the visa delays make it a four-week turnaround, that means the entire project plan is off track.
Moreover, while the visa holders are critical resources during the transition phase, they are also essential over the long term. In many cases, resources that come over from India for the transition return eight to 16 weeks later to train the offshore team and manage the offshore operation on an ongoing basis.
The delays are particularly worrisome because many US-based client organizations are now undergoing significant transformational initiatives such as cloud computing and standardized service delivery models.
In this environment, the ability to anticipate and deal with delays in getting resources on shore is imperative. Here are some key elements of an effective contingency plan:
• Plan for delays to impact knowledge acquisition and knowledge transfer processes. In addition to the delays cited earlier, clients should expect that some resources will be denied visas altogether, requiring added flexibility in knowledge transition planning.
• Develop resource acquisition fallback options. Resource mobilization delays are inevitable, so adjust your internal staffing plans accordingly. During a transition, some subject matter experts (SMEs) will leave the company absent financial incentives to stay on and help. A lag in service provider transition resources can mean higher “stay” bonuses and SME costs. These all directly affect your bottom line, diminishing the value of the transaction.
• Find better ways to leverage technology and connectivity. Collaboration software and document sharing have a cohesive effect on virtual teams. Focus on integrating collaboration tools immediately. Setting up the appropriate connections is never as easy or as quick as it appears to be.
• Concentrate more transition work offshore. In some situations, the typical transition model can be inverted so that U.S.-based resources move offshore to work side-by-side with offshore team members at the service provider’s site. This can keep transition on track while improving cross-communication. Moreover, you can gain insight into how things actually work offshore, which will ultimately benefit the relationship.
• Jointly develop a risk mitigation plan. The current challenges are not isolated to India-heritage firms. European-heritage service providers in the U.S. have also experienced problems with visa processing. Facilitate dialogue between your teams and develop mitigation plans for the entire service portfolio. Given the tight schedules of transitions, these plans should be reviewed and adjusted on a weekly basis.
Kathy Welch is a TPI Senior Advisor.