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Connect-World Eastern-Europe, First Issue 2002

Outsourcing Software Projects to Russia

by Arcady Khotin


Russia has long been justly famous for the high quality and technical expertise of its human resources. Nevertheless, the image most western managers have of the country, mostly derived from Hollywood and bad press, make them reluctant to entrust critical projects to Russian companies. Russia's software industry has organized itself to deal effectively with the real quality problems and to improve their image abroad. There are still pitfalls in software outsourcing, but this article points out how to avoid them.

We know how difficult it can be to part with our creation, our software project, and turn it over to total strangers. It is even harder when these strangers live in far-away countries, about which all you know comes from a few lines in their history books and several Hollywood movies - none of which speak well of my country.

So it is difficult for someone from my country to take on a project from a company or a person in the West, who just wants the project done and who is unfamiliar with the business and cultural issues associated with the foreign outsourcing of software projects.

Forget your worries. This article provides some simple guidelines to help you ensure your project is completed on time and within budget, in Russia. Before we begin, some background about offshore software development in Russia will help.

Russia now has a national software development association, the National Software Development Association, founded in 2001 with the mission of creating a beneficial environment and conditions for Russian software developers. It unites a great many software companies throughout Russia and is the best source for reference and finding a partner. You can visit to learn more.

Even before the founding of this national association there were several local associations across the country; the largest are Fort Ross in St. Petersburg ( and SibAcademSoft in Novosibirsk. Fort Ross Information Technology Services is a consortium of all the largest, most technically competent, information technology companies in St. Petersburg. By joining forces under the leadership and control of Fort Ross, they can offer customers a synergistic and comprehensive range of technologies and solutions.

The Fort Ross Information Technology Services Consortium unites more than 1,500 highly qualified, professional software engineers from 18 companies. Many have advanced MS graduate-level degrees in Computer Science and many have PhDs. These engineers are the product of Russia's excellent technical education system. In addition, Fort Ross is affiliated with leading St. Petersburg universities, giving it access to superb research, technical capabilities and human resources.

SibAcademSoft is a non-profit partnership for the promotion of information technology development. Its founders include the Novosibirsk Regional Administration, the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk State University, the Executive Team of the Scientific Techno-park "Novosibirsk", SibIT, Sib Soft, SoftLab-NSK, Alecta, Novosoft, Unipro, and Data East. It is estimated that its commercial software company members combined have between 1,050 and 1,550 employees.

The year 2001 was spent actively spreading the word about Russian programming abilities in Western countries; we organized many meetings, conferences and trade shows worldwide. What we learnt during these conferences was very disappointing to all of us. Although Western companies know and value our developers' skills, Russia is regarded as an unsafe and unreliable country to deal with. Everything that Western people know about us comes from TV news, newspapers and movies and the picture they convey is mostly unfavourable.

Realizing this, we in Russia began working in earnest to improve the image of our country and its IT sector. We are now working closely with a number of our successful ex-patriots in America and other countries and are participating in the Russian Digital Alliance ( as part of our effort to change our image. We have put much effort into uniting many software houses to work on westernising our development and management style. The programme includes getting our companies certified for compliance with ISO and CMM standards. The results have been very promising, Our efforts have already been noticed by Western IT society, including the American Chamber of Commerce (see "Offshore software development in Russia" at and the Swedish trade council. (

We are working hard on all fronts trying to learn more about Western methods of running software businesses, and about our customers' businesses and their expectations. We hope to make Russia's IT sector look better in the eyes of our Western colleagues.

When considering an offshore software projects with Russia it would help to keep the following suggestions in mind:

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