Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to leverage off-shore effectively in BI assignments

If you are reading this blog, you or your company are probably considering leveraging off-shore for your BI projects and you are still trying to decide if this is a good idea or not. You probably have heard several horror stories of companies who tried and failed miserably. However, did you know that for every horror story there is out there, there is an equal success story that balances things out. So, if leveraging off-shore is as likely to sink a project as it is to save it, what are the things that we need to do differently to ensure success?
I am sure there are consultants out there making a living on this. In fact a few weeks back a friend of mine asked me to co-author a book on this subject. Having spent over a decade on both sides of the fence, I can honestly said that while all vendors have similar technical capabilities the difference lies on the operating model and how you interact with your account team.
Let us take a deep dive in the subject and explore what is an operating model and why it is important. An operating model is how the service provider will organize its people to provide specific capabilities to a client. For example: While the vendor team might be internally organized in technology capabilities, geographic location or business domains, the service provider might decide to propose creating a single team seeded with people from different internal COEs to address the requirements of a particular project. The most important aspect of an operating model is to define how people will join, participate and transition out of a project; without the right structure, a client might spend weeks with a particular set of consultants getting them up to speed in their applications just to see them leave at the end of a project because of a short gap in getting the next project approved. Also important is the time it takes to secure resources once a project is approved, if the vendor does not have a pool of resources committed to your account, it will probably take a longer timeframe to identify the right talent, thus impacting the project timelines and potential commitments to the business.
So, if we define the right operating model why do we even need to bother about who the account team is and how we interact with them? At the end of day, independently of the vendor capabilities and how good (or bad) their power point presentations are, business is done among people. It boils to the fundamental question if you trust the people who are across the table and believe that they can partner with you to help you achieve your goals. Never underestimate what a good client representative can do, he/she can exercise significant influence within their organization to represent your interests and more importantly he/she can align the organization resources to achieve your required outcome.
Last but not least, try to visit the outsourced team at their base location (whereever in the world this might be). I recently came from a trip where I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the impact that a CIO created when addressing the outsourced organization directly; after the CIO addressed the team they became energized and behaved passionately about their work as they understood the value the client placed on it and they knew who the client was.