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Outsourcing: a good fit?

Written by David Hathiramani on Monday, 05 November 2012. Posted in Enterprise, Technology

In David Hathiramani’s second column on outsourcing, he takes us through the journey from those initial baby steps to having an altogether more grown up outsourcing proposition...

Outsourcing: a good fit?

In my last column, I discussed our growth journey at A Suit That Fits and our foray into IT outsourcing. I concluded that a local chief technology officer, coupled with an international team, works best for us. However, we didn’t make a swift leap straight from outsourcing a few projects to finding our perfect way of working – we tried a few different ways of outsourcing, including having a dedicated resource.

A dedicated resource is when a service provider allocates one person to complete work for your business for a fixed amount of time (ie, you have one permanent person working with you for a month).

There are a number of advantages to this approach. The first is commitment; you have one person concentrating solely on your work. Knowing that you don’t have an outsider juggling different projects as well as your own gives you peace of mind – you are the priority. What’s more, just like a new member of your team, your dedicated resource grows with time, gets better at working with you and starts to need a less directional approach. You’ll then begin to develop a good working relationship with your resource and they will learn your ways of working and the culture of your business – similar to when you recruit internally. The final advantage we identified with a dedicated resource who was with us for a period of time is that they could maintain our software – something that a freelancer commissioned for a project can’t do.

However, it’s not all plain sailing and we did encounter a number of problems when using a dedicated resource.

First of all, we had to recruit. We needed to find somebody we trusted with our IT function. Therefore, we needed to find a company that we could trust, and then work with them to find a resource who was right for us.

When you find the right person, there are likely to be culture differences. Even if neither of you realise to start with, when you start working, you will soon realise that there are differences in your ways of communication and working.

We delivered a number of projects using a dedicated resource, but we were never able to manage, grow and develop the projects like we would with an in-house member of our team.

We have been through different styles of working internationally with IT programmers and, as I concluded in my last article, we have found that a local CTO coupled with an international team works best for us. That way, we are able to source the most skilled people, who are dedicated to our business and able to support our fast growth.

Potential problems to consider when your dedicated resource starts working with you:

1 Keeping a log

You need to find somebody who you’ll trust to consistently write good comments on their code – otherwise, you will go back and nothing will make sense.

2 Setting up for scale

We found that projects and databases would be set up on a ‘one project’ basis to get something done, rather than setting up to scale up and grow the business.

3 Retaining your resource

When you are not directly employing your resource, they can change at any time. Whether they leave the agency or start working on another project, you’ll have to start again with someone else. Potentially, you could be provided with someone without the skills you require – so it’s a risk.

4 Settling in

Your dedicated resource has their own manager, in their own company, with their own business culture. Therefore, they’ll never really feel like they are a part of your business and you won’t get the commitment levels you would with a member of your own team.

About the Author

David Hathiramani

David Hathiramani

He may be co-founder of trendy suit retailer A Suit That Fits, but Hathiramani is also something of a closet geek. And the Imperial College Computing graduate is here to impart some of his wisdom about setting up an internet business.

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