Chief Digital Technology Officer & SVP
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Implementation Euphoria: It's an Offshore Thing
Outsourcing and offshoring can sometimes get a bum rap in the marketplace, especially when the economy is in turmoil. Why shouldn't opportunities stay local rather than being "shipped overseas?" Is long distance a hindrance rather than a value?
As someone who designs, manages and sells BPO and offshore IT services, I love getting those questions. Why? Because the answers are good and the solutions we deliver are making businesses more innovative, successful and better equipped to grow. I get to see clients revel in satisfaction when a tough, resource-draining project is sent offshore to our Centers of Excellence in Vietnam and comes back soaring high above all expectations.
The best way to look at the advantage of outsourcing and offshoring is through an example. Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server upgrades/migrations provide an excellent illustration of the incredible advantage outsourced resources offer. Many clients will argue that the institutional and operational knowledge their IT teams bring to any upgrade outstrips the knowledge and value outside resources have to offer. However, a feature- and function-rich solution like SharePoint can stop those arguments in their tracks.
It is difficult to find a company able to confidently say that they have been able to leverage all of SharePoint's capabilities to maximum advantage. It's easy to see why. Just look at the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 feature comparison document Microsoft provides on its SharePoint Service home page. The Excel document takes up nine sheets and rows and rows of charted functions to explain the core capabilities the technology offers.
From collaboration, portal and content management capabilities to business processes, search and business intelligence, SharePoint Server 2007 is not just a server solution: it's a way to transform business processes and workplace efficiency. Extensive SharePoint expertise is required to implement the solution in a strategic and comprehensive method that ensures businesses can realize the full value of the technology.
But what's a business to do? Should a company tie up a handful of its key technology resources so they can learn the intricacies of SharePoint in order to manage the one-time implementation or upgrade? The answer is an easy no. SharePoint skills are invaluable for the upgrade/migration, but after that their purpose is fulfilled. Why transform your IT team's skill set and lose substantial manpower for a one-off solution? Investments in talent training should produce skills that will advance efficiency and innovation over the long term.
Now this point is where many skeptics will say, "You talk about SharePoint expertise, but what about the expertise of an internal operation? To implement or upgrade a rich technology solution well, knowledge of the environment is equally critical." And what do I say to that? Absolutely right. That is the reason why Harvey Nash advocates the "rightshore" approach for companywide technology implementations and upgrades.
An on-shore and/or in-house team is needed in a SharePoint solution to assess current state, map the environment and plan the upgrade from start to finish. In no way can you underestimate the value of comprehensive knowledge of the business and the technology environment; and that level of understanding has to be achieved directly.
In my experience, companies often bring in an outside organization to conduct the critical assessment phase. The outside perspective is needed to serve as an unbiased and critical inventory taker that can better spot areas of weakness, overlap, pitfalls, gaps in processes, etc. Additionally, the outside organization brings in the added SharePoint expertise needed to see where existing processes and operations can be greatly enhanced by the new technology. This is the onshore part of the optimum SharePoint upgrade. The onshore team comes in to conduct a world-class current state assessment and then builds a detailed road map for implementation.
After that, the work can leap continents to less expensive IT teams whose SharePoint implementation expertise equals any U.S.-based provider. Offshore teams can also rapidly, and at little cost, ramp up staff to meet tough deadlines, making implementation timeframes short and very sweet. Teams can also expand to include very specific areas of expertise or to focus on precise technical or business process challenges. Knowledge transfer back to the in-house IT team is quite simple through Webinars, documentation and conference calls. If needed, an onshore team can go to a client's location to perform the knowledge transfer in person
The best part of the onshore-offshore model for most clients is that the implementation seems to be happening right in front of them--updates are constant, milestones are quickly being reached and achieved--and it's happening without the stress and worry. I call it implementation euphoria. You feel fantastic because you know the SharePoint investment you made is going to pay off, and you didn't have to retrain teams, lose critical manpower or sacrifice the technology's full capabilities in order to achieve it.