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Offshore development teams: a strategic asset in a post-pandemic landscape

This article was previously published for the Forbes Tech Council and was written by our CEO, Emilien Coquard.

The last 12 months saw unforeseen — and unprecedented — changes in the world of business. A redrawn landscape came into view, giving rise to rapid diversification to stay relevant and make the most of new opportunities.

Some people perform better in times of crisis. I suppose this applies to businesses as well — or rather, the people who drive them. In order to survive, many were forced into digitalization sooner than they’d planned — often in interesting and innovative ways. On a smaller scale, some fitness instructors took their clients to online video platforms to deliver the personal training experience to the living room. Likewise, small restaurants partnered with Uberized food delivery networks to give their customers table service with a small dash of quarantine.

It’s easy to talk in cliches and refer to a pre- and post-Covid-19 landscape, but this is probably an accurate summation that reflects reality. The business community accurately predicted that the pandemic would “accelerate” digital transformation initiatives, and indeed, digital acceleration has been at the top of many businesses’ strategic objectives as IT decision-makers (ITDMs) seek to help their organizations capture new market space or prevent others from taking theirs.

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An Oasis Of Top Talent

Skills shortages in Western Europe aren’t a new phenomenon, although signs point to an exacerbation over the past year. Companies are fighting tooth and nail for the best tech talent, and there’s not enough to go around. According to a BBC report, demand for developers in the U.K. rose by 15.5% between June 2020 and July 2020. At the same time, there is a worsening of the skills crisis in the country. This is echoed elsewhere on the continent and is a key factor for the ITDMs I speak to that are looking further afield to tap into pools of top talent. 

If Western Europe can be characterized as being in the midst of a drought, then offshore talent pools can perhaps be described as an oasis for software development team builders. You might be thinking, “I already outsource. Isn’t that the same thing?” Good question — and there are some very key differences.

70% tech employers expect to face skills shortage

Short-Term Gain Vs. Long-Term Value

Dedicated offshore development teams aren’t the same as outsourced software houses. In the latter, developers work simultaneously for a number of different clients. With dedicated offshoring, engineers are hand-picked to your specific requirements. An integrated development team is 100% focused on the vision of the company and engaged with the product and success of the business. The level of talent is so important because it’s about long-term value, collaboration and cultural alignment and not strictly cost optimization and speed of delivery.

For short-term, project-based requirements, outsourced development can be a great go-to. However, for the business resilience and transformation that many are craving in the current climate, I would argue the case for the long-term value that a fully integrated team provides.

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Rehabilitation: Dipping Toes Into Global Talent Pools

One of the main tasks for ITDMs on the road to recovery is presenting the compelling business case outlining that this way of building development teams gives their respective organizations access to untapped pools of highly skilled engineers without the premises prices facing firms in cities such as London or Paris. Also, these engineers should be fully committed to the business as a whole, acting as an authentic augmentation of the team at HQ.

Let’s play a quick thought experiment. Imagine you and your competitors all have their offices in western European cities, but you also have a highly talented and rapidly scalable team in an offshore location. It’s a strategic asset: You have access to talent that they can’t find at home. You have the power to grow, but they don’t. You can build in several months a team that would take your rivals 12-18 months with locally sourced engineers.

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Taking The First Steps

Understanding the differences between project-based outsourcing and value-based offshoring is one thing, but understanding the steps to successful implementation is another. To facilitate the smooth onboarding of new engineers, a company must have a concrete vision. After all, how can you culturally align your new team if there’s nothing concrete for them to hook into?

There are also local legalities to understand in order to establish your development center abroad, which an offshoring partner can help to navigate. Should you go that route, choosing the right partner is an area where discernment is key. A history of building successful teams, alongside their approach to people, are the most important parameters. Likewise, do they have a requirement-based recruitment process in place to help you source the specific skills — and cultural fit — you need to optimally augment your existing setup at home?

Key Takeaway

Why should businesses be limited by location when on the lookout for talent? I think one issue is that some executives hold an outdated view of offshore teams that remains centered on cost-saving rather than talent access and global expertise. Offshoring used to be about finding a price you couldn’t get at home, whereas today it’s about finding the skills and people you can’t get at home. As economies look toward recovery, embracing global talent may be the difference in a business remaining viable or not and a key competitive advantage in the race to digital-first.

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