Insights | Spotlight on Belarus: “Project Rescue” A Digital Transformation Success Story

Spotlight on Belarus: “Project Rescue” A Digital Transformation Success Story

By Tom Cooper, PMP | September 25, 2020

The company I was working with had made a smart business decision – to start investing in digital transformation to build tools and resources that would increase their connection with customers.  

Our client had not run a project as game changing as this one before. Because they were very focused on cost, they decided to run the program in-house, leveraging an offshore development team. Unfortunately, their lack of experience combined with their primary focus on “lowest possible hourly rate” led them to significant pain.  

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At Accelerance, we partner with plenty of top-class software engineers in Latin America, but the cut-rate operator they had hired clearly wasn’t up to the job. The initial budget for the project was $300,000. Eighteen months later, that had blown out to almost $1 million and there was little to show for it. Parts of the software worked, but our client had spent so much time and money to see so little of their vision come to life that they had almost lost hope.  

We completed a code review as a part of our overall project assessment and realized a lot of what they had planned and built could be saved. Confident this product could be turned around, we offered to help them get back on track and support them as they moved development to a firm better suited to serve them. “Give us 90 days and we can get your MVP to market,” we told them. 

Our project assessment allowed us to pinpoint what had gone wrong and exactly what tools and skills were needed to recover. We matched the company with an Accelerance certified partner in Belarus. I’m happy to announce that the first production code was shipped without incident as promised – on day 90. 

Many Western businesses have never heard of Belarus. An emerging outsourcing destination for software development, the country has a mature and highly skilled talent pool offering some of the most competitive rates in Eastern Europe. If you’re in the market for digital transformation, this is a great place to look.

I could tell the company had a concept of what they wanted but no clear roadmap for getting there. One of the problems with their previous partner was that only the project manager could communicate with them fluently, really putting a big crimp in their attempt at Agile. Communication wasn’t an issue with the new developers in Belarus who all speak English well.

We believe relationships are just as important as technical skills. Nothing has changed that view for us. For years, we have advised clients to make the investment to personally visit their offshore teams – to form a strong partnership and get a better understanding of the PEOPLE involved in the process of building great software.

For this project, we were fortunate to make our trip before travel shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The client and I flew to the capital Minsk via the UK (there are no direct flights to Belarus, and US passport holders can’t transit in Russia) and were welcomed to the country with such hospitality that we immediately felt at home.

Over the next two days, we ran an intensive alignment workshop to walk the client and software engineering team through every step of the software development process, setting clear expectations for each person’s responsibilities, lines of communication and best practices for the project right through to completion. 

Belarus was a Soviet-era science and technology hub, and a great deal of cultural change has taken place since the country declared independence in 1991. Our hosts took us out for a traditional Belarusian dinner and a beautiful night tour of Minsk, and we made the most of the little time we had to explore some of the city’s important historical and cultural sites.

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A real “East meets West” insight for me was visiting the Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum, which first opened in 1944 after the country was liberated from Nazi occupation by the Red Army. More than three million people died in Belarus during World War II – a third of the population at the time.

As an American, I’ll tell you we won the war - we were the ones who saved the world. I only saw one photograph including an American in the entire museum. But the Soviet story is different from the American story. When you look at the loss of life, they paid a much higher price than the other Allies. This is the way it was for them, and it was fascinating to see that perspective on history. 

In Minsk, there’s a stark juxtaposition between the old and the very new. A great example of that is the way space in empty factories is being used by local innovators. 

One place we were taken to visit is a high-tech center hidden behind an intimidating concrete wall covered in graffiti and ringed with barbed wire. Inside this formerly abandoned Soviet era factory is a surprising community of tech founders and experimenters. Among them is a co-working space and event agency called Space that hosts the country’s largest IT events for up to 800 people, including conferences, competitions and hackathons. 

This tech community was an amazing find in an unexpected place – something I have learned to appreciate as I have traveled multiple continents engaging with our clients and software development partners. 

As our founders say, there are smart people everywhere, and that certainly has been my experience with Belarus. Oh – and we’ve now shipped four production releases from our partner there, and demand is through the roof for access to this new digital approach. A real win for our client. 

Outsource with Confidence with Accelerance

Accelerance travels the world to simplify your search for the best offshore companies – and we’re impressed with what Belarus has to offer.  If you’re interested in outsourcing your software development, contact Accelerance to find out more.

For the latest analysis on outsourcing opportunities throughout Eastern and Central Europe, check out our 2020 regional guide.

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