The velocity of the software market has been steadily increasing over the years. Where it used to be just fine to release updates and patches every 3-6 months, today you risk being seen as sluggish if you’re not releasing something every day. We’re not far from a universal assumption of daily updates and hourly patches. Are your systems, and perhaps more importantly, your teams, ready for that?
The reasons for this increase in market speed vary, and it would take an entire post to do them justice. Instead, our focus today will be one specific strategy for giving your teams that capacity and oversight they need to meet these new time-to-market expectations: outsourcing. Whether it’s to free up your people to work on the shift to DevOps, or to refocus efforts on the Next Big Thing, CIOs around the world are using outsourcing in general, and nearshoring in particular, to take some of the load off their internal teams and to power ahead in their markets. Thus, we present the top five reasons we feel outsourcing might just be the way to go—let’s see how many of these resonate with you and your business.
1) Time-To-Market Expectations Have Changed, Drastically
The modern business landscape gets more competitive every day, and the result has been a longstanding arms race over who can power the fastest time-to-market. In the midst of this arms race, CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery) emerged as a viable way to speed up development times—making an accelerated software production lifecycle with daily releases possible in a way that would have been difficult to imagine in the past.
Customer relations demand you keep products and updates rolling uninterrupted. In these market conditions, it’s on you to provide bug fixes, patches, and updates to your existing product while balancing new releases that are also expected to roll out on a consistent basis. The days of a 3-6 month patch cycle are long past—meaning that you need a whole new set of tools and tactics to compete. Continuous integration requires automated verification to verify new code before it’s automatically merged into the repository, where continuous delivery can only happen if code can automatically be deployed to a staging area and then the deployment servers with minimal human intervention—all with nothing breaking.
By outsourcing some of your development work, you free up your internal teams to focus on building out the automation, bolstering the infrastructure, and grooming the codebase. This, in turn, is what allows continuous delivery to occur, with releases and patches going on as soon as they’re ready, rather than waiting for the QA team to have time to test, then checking the code and manually deploying it to the server. Conversely, you could do the opposite: let an experienced outsourced team get your CI/CD pipeline off the ground, while your team concentrates on product design and building out new software features internally.
2) New Technologies Require Specialized Knowledge
There are multiple moving parts involved in successfully speeding up software delivery. Agile and related methodologies play a role, as do emerging technologies such as distributed infrastructure and microservice-based development environments, also known as containers. These technologies require specific skill sets to develop, deploy, and maintain. Rather than hiring new technicians, programmers, and managers with these high-demand skills, today’s CIOs can choose to upskill their existing workforce in order to build the automated systems necessary to move forward.
For example: you might be trying to undertake a large development project in a new environment or a new business area, and your team doesn’t have a comprehensive hold of the right languages, design patterns, architectural considerations, or integration methodologies for the job. Sure, they had a perfectly good handle on the old way of doing things, but that doesn’t mean that they automatically have the right skills for every conceivable job with any conceivable set of requirements. You might try to hire new staff or management to acquire this know-how—but that could take months, and there’s not really enough talent to go around right now. What if, instead, you were able to bring in a coach or a small team of experts to work with the amazing people you already have on staff? This can be a more cost-effective way to get the knowledge you need and give your people the right direction and tools. You can use the right tools for the job even if they’re not the most familiar, and your people see how much they matter because you’re willing to invest the time and money into helping them thrive in a new environment.
3) Capacity Is Hard to Estimate
Of course, the most obvious reason to outsource is something that hasn’t changed much in many decades: you don’t have the internal capacity to get the work done yourself. And for a one-time project, this is still a great reason to seek out outside help—but what if you keep finding yourself in the same position, time and again, where you think you have the person-power to get a project done on time, and you realize at the last minute that it’s not possible?
Alas, this is a more and more common position that CIOs and CTOs find themselves in. Why? Because estimating software development time is in some ways harder than ever. For Agile projects, there’s often a tendency to under-manage, which results in low visibility—such that you don’t know until it’s too late whether you’re making progress quickly enough. By the same token, if you don’t have a robust way of scoping projects correctly, you can easily wind up over-scoping and putting developers in a position where they don’t know the requirements and can’t move efficiently towards project milestones. The result is costly slowdowns.
In situations like these, you could easily wind up scrambling to find a way to maintain on-time delivery, even at the risk of your budget. You might try to hire outside help, moving quickly and trying to smooth out roadblocks that have already cropped up. Here, it would obviously be preferable to already have a relationship with an outsourcing or nearshoring partner, such that you can immediately ramp up capacity when a problematic deadline starts to loom. In this way, your development team can become a lot like cloud infrastructure—you only pay for the capacity you need, when you need it, with minimal fuss ramping up or down.
4) The Modern SDLC Requires a Diversity of Skills
Adopting a distributed infrastructure and moving your systems to the cloud both take far more coding and scripting than many realize. There are hours and hours of documenting, coding, and testing to be done before your shiny new containers will be ready and able to accept the brilliant new product code. Likewise, Building a resilient DevOps team while implementing Agile and/or working to integrate CI/CD into your processes is a lot to focus on. You’ll feel pulled in several directions simultaneously, we’re sure. The key is not to let yourself, or your people, get pulled so far off course that the whole project derails.
By and large, in-house development teams are only exposed to a small number of technologies, methodologies, environments, and situations. When projects come along that require new technologies or techniques, it puts pressure on developers to adapt quickly in order to avoid slowdowns—but slowdowns are often inevitable. The advantage in this case of looking towards an outside provider is that they’re more likely to have experience in an extremely diverse set of environments. Thus, a new widget or an architectural quirk that might baffle someone on your in-house team would be old hat to your services provider—in all likelihood, they’ll have seen the same situation multiple times before, and they’ll know how to deal with it right off the bat.
Simply put, digital transformation takes time and resources, and even large companies may need scalable support in order to keep the wheels in motion during transitional periods. You might specialize in one thing or another, but most businesses are jacks-of-all-trades. Even those that aren't necessarily ramp capacity up or down internally on a whim—meaning that for tasks that might be outside your usual wheelhouse or beyond the usual scope of your projects, it can be helpful to have diverse development teams on call as needed.
5) Technical Talent Is Scarce
Dovetailing off a comment in item 2, let’s talk about the job market for a minute. The cloud, distributed infrastructure, and containerization are hot. And that means the people with the skill set you need to implement these technologies—to say nothing of QA automation and other new workflows—are in high demand already. To wit, a recent poll showed that 86% of decision makers in IT expected a lack of talent to slow down cloud projects in 2020. Moving forward, there will only be a continuing need for these talented folks, so why not focus on building them from your supply of awesome employees and avoid the headache of launching a job search that’s only going to end in disappointment?
The specific, specialized coding, automation scripting, and general grunt work required to move entire business systems from on-premises to the cloud, or to transition to from QA to QA automation, or to take on any number of new tasks, takes a large investment of time and resources. Partner with a service provider that knows the cloud and brings a team of talented developers who don’t need time to ramp up. They can get to work immediately, while you focus on getting your teams ready for their new IT environments. Since the ramp up and migration period will often require more personnel than maintaining your IT after the migration, it wouldn’t make much sense to hire a host of cloud or other specialists—even if it were easy to find them.
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