Chief Digital Technology Officer & SVP
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Brazil & Offshoring: More Time, More Training
Brazil is without a doubt one of today's brightest economic success stories. First country out of the Great Recession, rich in natural resources and economic growth at seven percent, Brazil will soon leap frog France and Britain to become the world's fifth largest economy.
With global eyes ogling this booming nation, it's not surprising that today it is often named a high-potential IT offshoring destination. Just this December, Gartner listed Brazil as one of its "30 Leading Locations for Offshore Services" for 2010-2011.
I had the chance to visit Brazil at the New Year and was eager to see just a small part of this land that has captured the imagination and (increasingly) offshore strategies of a growing number of global businesses. Without a doubt I was impressed with Brazil's grandness, its beauty and its rapidly growing infrastructure. However, both my visit and my conversations with leaders from several multinational corporations, indicate there are a few capability gaps--none insurmountable--that limit Brazil's offshoring draw.
Over the last 10 years, we at Harvey Nash have watched Vietnam evolve from a young and eager rookie in the global IT offshoring market to a seasoned and savvy offshore industry veteran with what (I will argue with anyone) is the one of the most skilled, inquisitive, educated and hardworking IT talent pools in the world.
Like Brazil, Vietnam saw a quick-booming economy that outpaced its neighbors in recent years. Vietnam, its universities and government, have re-invested a significant portion of that economic windfall into expanding education--with intense focus on engineering and science--and encouraging economic development through corporate tax incentives.
To me, this is where Brazil can take important lessons from Vietnam's success and excellence in the IT offshoring market. In addition to building physical infrastructure, Vietnam has invested heavily in its people infrastructure. The government, at times in partnership with private industry, has built numerous colleges and institutions of higher learning over the past decade. English has been named the official second language of the country and children begin learning it in grade school. Students are encouraged to pursue science and engineering and their efforts are rewarded with good job opportunities once they graduate.
Many business people I have spoken with that have tried or considered Brazil as an offshoring destination cite talent as one of the top challenges. English language skills are nowhere near as widespread as they are in India and Vietnam. With communication essential to IT team success, investment in language training and development is equally critical to Brazil's offshoring services strategy. Brazil, like Vietnam has a very large, young workforce. Encouraging young Brazilians to pursue science and engineering degrees while increasing educational opportunities and resources will also be very valuable to strengthening the Brazilian IT offshoring industry.
Finally there must be sensitivity to project urgency as well as the customer service excellence required to provide global services. In both my personal experience and through discussions with other IT executives, sense of urgency is an area where Brazilian standards seem different from those in North America, Europe and Asia.
It cannot be enough to have skilled talent, good infrastructure and a supportive government. If business clients in any way feel that their speed of delivery is negatively impacted or that their needs are neglected by the IT teams to whom they have entrusted their data and applications, they will lose trust. That means skills in communication, project management and good old fashioned customer service--promptness, friendliness, responsiveness and understanding--must be adjusted to the standards of the customer. That is one hallmark of a truly great outsourcing destination--one that can incorporate the service needs of its clients with the cultural and work practices of its own environment.
While these may seem like very long-term strategies, we have seen Vietnam successfully achieve these goals in only a matter of years. Brazil too can become a leading offshore destination as long as business and government leaders remember that in any IT services engagement, highly skilled, service-oriented technicians and hard workers are as valuable as any telecommunication grid or IT system.