Fresche Solutions

Why IBM i Shops Are Outsourcing IT Resources

June 1, 2015
Leo Lymberopoulos

At face value, the significant cost savings made possible through outsourcing is a difficult business proposition to resist for many IT organizations. On the other hand, companies who turn to outsourcing often end up experiencing substandard quality and a loss of IT control. Either of these outcomes easily counters the promised cost savings.

But the tug-of-war between cost, quality and control isn’t a foregone conclusion in the outsourcing world. There are approaches and partners that offer all of the benefits without the tribulations.

Here are some strategies you can employ to ensure your outsourcing experience is as productive and positive as possible.

1. Find the right partner

Look for an adaptable business partner that is trustworthy, capable and flexible, rather than a vendor that will try locking you into a specific contract. A true outsourcing partner will strive to address your specific needs of the moment, while adjusting the partner­ship as necessary to fit those needs as they evolve over time. Above all, you need to find a partner company that is as committed to the success of your business as a key employee would be.

2. Aim for a balance between offshore and onshore resources

The right balance of offshore and onshore resources is key to building an effective outsourced team. Pushing too much offshore without proper oversight might save on costs, but may lead to loss of quality and control.  Maintaining too much work onshore will drive up overhead and costs. We recommend keeping senior technical leads close to you, so they can participate in the daily conversations and be the bridge to the offshore team. This way, work can be arranged into easily digestible chunks, while being properly monitored and measured.

3. Avoid hiring “yes” people

Your outsourcing partner should bring expertise and knowledge to the table. They aren’t there to agree with you because you sign the cheque. Your outsourcing partner’s employees should be continuously encouraged to question the status quo, challenge management, and feel sufficiently empowered to push back against how things were always done in the past.

With the current push toward agile development methodology, quick decision-making and ability to adjust and adapt to changing conditions are key elements of a successful development environment. Ask your prospective outsourcers about their developer turnover, and talk to the developers themselves to determine if they have a happy, supportive work environment. This additional due diligence might eliminate risk from the outsourcing relationship and save you the cost increases and productivity hit that occur when developers transition elsewhere.

4. Look for specialists instead of generalists

Finding a good outsourcer amongst a sea of options isn’t enough. You need to aim for a great fit, and that means finding a partner that offers a clear and understandable differentiator. Outsourcing firms that undertake the enormous responsibility and chal­lenge of earning your trust should amaze you not only with their developers’ skillset, but also with world-leading tools and industry expertise.

You probably have been enhancing, tweaking and customizing your software for decades so that it intimately reflects your way of doing business. Even if a newly on-boarded developer is conversant with your development language and systems, that person’s knowledge of your business will be very limited. It can take six months to a year before even the most senior developer is fully productive. But imagine the productivity benefits, should that developer arrive armed with impact analysis and documentation tools that serve to demystify your complex and highly customized ap­plications. Automated analysis and documentation tools can reduce ramp-up time.

Outsourcing has inherent risks, and IT organizations make bad decisions and choose the wrong providers everyday. But if you approach your outsourcing relationship strategically and find the right partner, with the right mindset and skillset, you’ll soon broaden your organization’s horizons with capable developers who are able to tackle problems head-on and deliver demonstrable value.

A fresh set of external eyes can often find, understand and resolve problems that seemed daunting or even unsolvable. And an unbiased group of developers can find new avenues for innovation, allowing you to breathe new life into your software applications and extend their usefulness once again.

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