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MDA and Offshore Development

Stefan Tilkov,

While I'm in a blogging mood, I might as well finally write about something I found quite interesting: A long term customer of ours who has been using MDA for quite some time, was recently more or less forced to outsource part of its development work to an offshore IT shop. The approach they have taken is quite interesting.

Their development infrastructure relies heavily on modeling, in their case using Innovator, a modeling tool very popular here in Germany. Innovator is very powerful, but also pretty complex. In addition to this, they use our product, iQgen, with a huge set of custom templates that drive the code generation. While they have achieved a high degree of automation — they can generate close to 100% of their backend code in most cases — it's not an environment that is well known, nor is it easy to learn in a short time.

So the problem was: How does one address this in the context of offshore development? Should they train the offshore developers in the usage of the toolset?

My recommendation was different: Continue to do the modeling on site, and ship the generated skeleton code to the offshore IT shop. This has the major advantage of agreeing on a specification that is as close to code as you can get, because it is code. In case you're wondering what the offshore IT developers have to do then, it's about implementing those parts of the code that cannot (or rather: are not) generated, which in this case includes the Swing client UI and those business logic elements that don't lend themselves to be modeled in UML easily.

The customer has taken this approach and exercised it for 3-4 months now, and it seems to work very well.