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November 25, 2020

Integrating your Software Development Outsourcing Partner's Culture

ArkusNexus is a software development company in San Diego. In this blog article we discuss about software development partner responsibilities.

Executive Overview

Naturally the more effectively you can integrate your Outsourcing Partner’s Team within your own culture and make them an extension of your organization, the greater their productivity and success will be.

But first you have to decide based on your business needs and what exactly are you looking for in a Software Partner. Once you have determined this, then you and your new Partner can take certain actions to make the arrangement as beneficial for both sides as possible. In this Blog Article we will discuss several techniques to integrate your new Team’s culture within your own.

What are you Looking For in a Software Partner?

Staff Augmentation (Warm Bodies)

There are plenty of times as an IT Executive where all you need is a “Warm Body” to help augment your staff for a short period of time. This can happen for any number of reasons, such as an inability to hire locally for a position, the need for a specialized skill set for a short period of time, etc.

The good thing is that you are hiring someone for their Talent. And if they don’t have what you need, you can easily replace them. The downsides however are many:

  • They are Mercenaries for Hire - with little to no loyalty or motivation beyond getting paid
  • They can easily switch sides or work for someone else, if they get a better offer
  • Their actual knowledge, skills and abilities, may differ from what is on their resume
  • Costs of doing appropriate background checks
  • High costs of potential Turnover, when you have to replace them
  • Very few individuals can “hit the ground running”.  They need to learn your business, your operations, and your processes.
  • For most individuals this will take at least 3 months before they are 100% productive. And if you are turning over your Mercenaries every month or so, you are losing a tremendous amount of productivity and resources.

Just a Project Team

There are likewise plenty of occasions where you need a Team of Experts for a short period of time, in order to implement a particular Application or for the development of a single Project. The key to this model being successful is hiring the right Project Team and Partner to work with. So, vetting them and their expertise is extremely important.

The good thing is that if you find the right partner who’s Team members are truly experts with a given technology or COTS application, then you can have a fairly smooth and successful implementation or project. Plus, if anything does go wrong, you only have one Vendor to work with in resolving the issues or problems. And if the personnel are not a good fit for either the Team or the business requirements, you should be able to have your Partner swap them out for someone else who is better suited for the application or project.

The primary negatives are:

  • Beware of a “Bait and Switch” approach, where you are introduced to an awesome expert to lead the team, but within a few months they are swapped out for a more junior or inexperienced individual.
  • Watch for other turnover within the Team, as this can cost you dearly in terms of lost productivity.
  • Monitor how many of the Team members are employees of the Partner, and how many are sub-contractors.  While this is frequently done for very specialized skill sets, in can cause challenges:
  • Are they involved with other Projects / Clients of theirs at the same time?
  • When you need them will they be available?

A Long Term Partner Team Integrated within your Organization

This is where you have a business need to hire an external Team for the long term (1 or more years) to work on the development of a specific Product, Application or a large scale implementation. You might go this route for several reasons:

  1. You don’t have a Software Development organization internally and don’t want to build an organic team due to the costs or inexperience in managing a team like this.  So, you need a Partner who can provide not only the Team, but also the IT Managerial oversight to make sure they deliver.
  2. You have an IT Department and maybe even some Software Development Teams, but you need extra Team(s) to support either an Existing or New Product / Application development. In this case, you may or may not have standard tools, processes and metrics in place. If you do, you want to have the Team incorporate and use yours. If you don’t, then this is an opportunity to learn from your chosen Partner.

The biggest upside to this model is that you are typically hiring an entire “Pod” or Team, which covers most, if not all of the key roles within a Software Development Team. This allows the Team to focus on the Product or Application, while still coordinating and collaborating with the rest of your IT Staff. Another huge benefit is that your Team will often have very low turnover, so once you get past the initial ramp up time, they can be very productive.

There are some downside risks, which you will have to manage:

  • Internal Politics - how will the rest of your IT Staff feel about this arrangement.  Most IT personnel have a lot of experience in working with external Partner Teams, but some may feel very threatened by this arrangement.
  • Often Requires more of your Time - if you want your Partner Team to be integrated within your organization, then you need to treat them as an extension of your own Team. And that requires time and effort on your part.  However, in my experience the effort is definitely worth it - as they will learn more about:
  • Your business
  • Can make better more informed suggestions
  • Have higher morale and loyalty to you and the Project
  • Resulting in higher productivity and reduced turnover

Making your New Outsourced Team part of your Organization

Here are a number of techniques that you can use to build rapport with your Partner Team and integrate them within the culture of your organization.

Meetings

Include the key Leaders on your Partner Team to Internal IT Department Meetings, just as you would any of your other IT Directors and Managers. Bring them into the “Fold” to some extent, so that they can provide additional value. Obviously, there are some discussions they should not be a part of, and you may or may not invite them to your Core IT Leadership Team meetings; but where possible be as inclusive as possible.

If you are going to have a quarterly or monthly “All Hands” IT Department meeting, why not invite your Team to attend? This will help everyone to view them as simply an extension of the entire IT Department.

On-Site Visits

With the current Covid-19 pandemic this may be difficult or impossible to do, but once the current crisis is over having your Partner Team visit your offices on-site is an extremely beneficial thing to do.

  1. They get to learn more about the Business and your Operations
  2. They get to meet the Business Subject Matter Experts
  3. And they get to meet your IT Staff

Corporate Retreats & Strategy Sessions

If you don’t have an IT Organization internally or if the Project that your Team is working on is very Strategic to the Company, then it may make sense to include key Leaders on your Team in either Corporate Retreats or Strategy Sessions.

This is especially valuable, if you do not have your own IT Department, as they can then act as your Pseudo-Chief Technology Officer. You will probably need someone to represent what can be possible, what is very difficult, and what is relatively easy to do from a technology perspective. As well as in coming up with new ideas and concepts that the rest of the Executive Team may not have thought of.

The other role they can play is in translating the latest “IT Buzzwords” into something that makes sense and is actionable (or not). There are plenty of times, where we as an Information Technology industry simply slap a new name onto something trying to make it seem “revolutionary”, when the reality is far from that. It is a modest improvement over the old technology, and nothing more. But the new name sounds “cooler”.

Team Name

This is something that you can do for fun, especially if your organization already uses “Fun” names to call your various internal Teams. If you aren’t doing this, then it is an easy thing to do. Have the Team(s) pick a theme, and then have them pick a name for their Team based on that theme - just for fun.

Example - Incorporate Massage

While I was the XO (Executive Officer) at Incorporate Massage we initially had a special award given out monthly - The Wonder Woman award. And whoever won it got to use that avatar as their photo in Slack. So, I took it a step further and asked our ArkusNexus Team to pick a Superhero Theme to be named after. They picked “Guardians of the Galaxy”, and then they picked out code names for each of them, based on which “Guardian” they liked the best.

It was a huge hit both internally and with our ArkusNexus Team. Later we even bought them color coded t-shirts with their specific code name on them with their name on the back, along with “Information Technology - Guardians of the Galaxy” on the front. Then we did this for all of the other Business Teams within the organization, which just simply reinforced that they were part of the overall organization. Plus it was a lot of fun.

Company Swag

Every team loves to receive “Swag” that shows that they are associated with and part of your Organization. In some ways it acts as a uniform or flag, which they can associate their efforts with. It gives them a sense of purpose and pride in their work.

Naturally, you don’t have to do all of these ideas. However, if you decide to do one or more, make it meaningful. And what I mean by this is don’t go with the cheapest option, as then the Team members won’t use it, display it, or wear it, which defeats the purpose.

  • Banner - this is a great choice, especially for hanging up within a shared office space that the Team uses.
  • Coffee Mug / Water Bottle - always a good choice
  • Hats - normally a baseball hat, but get a good quality one
  • Shirts - can either be a t-shirt or better a polo shirt.  Just make sure the quality of the shirt is good.
  • Stickers

True Story

Ten years ago as the CIO of Garvin Promotion Group, we did a large project for Falken Tire, which is a very large tire manufacturer. The project was a huge success and they gave our entire team very nice Falken Polo shirts. And I still have mine today, and wear it from time to time. That’s what you want because your team becomes a walking advertisement for your brand, even years later.

Conclusion

As Leaders we all know that the very best and most productive Teams are ones that are:

  • Feel that they have a Purpose and a sense of Camaraderie with the rest of the Organization
  • The have a shared Vision of what they are trying to accomplish
  • Believe they can accomplish their Goals and Objectives
  • Are Highly Trained
  • Provided Opportunities to Grow Individually
  • And are highly Motivated by Competent Leadership

While some IT Executives may not want to make an investment of their time and energy into an Outsourced IT Team, if you do it can pay enormous dividends in the long term through:

  • Higher Productivity
  • Lower Turnover
  • Better Collaboration and Integration
  • Greater Innovation
  • And a willingness to go above and beyond:
  • How often are your Outsourced Developers willing to work late at Night or on the Weekends, for no additional charge or pay?

As a CIO, mine did, because we treated them just like the rest of our Organization. They were simply a part of our Team.

We hope you have enjoyed this Blog Article and found it useful.

Thank you, David Annis.

Case Study from Arkusnexus
David Annis
David is a VP and Agile Coach within ArkusNexus, having served in multiple CIO, VP of Software Development roles. He assists our Sales, Marketing, and Operations Teams on critical initiatives.
dannis@arkusnexus.com
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