Common concerns when choosing an IT partner and how to address them

In this episode of IT Leadership Insights, Michał Grela speaks to Lorraine Kritzinger about concerns IT leaders have when selecting a new technology company to partner with.

Apart from discussing the most common concerns of selecting an IT partner, Lorraine provides a number of actionable recommendations for IT leaders to address their worries. Lorraine also shares some real-life examples she has come across of companies looking to outsource.

Our Guests:

Lorraine Kritzinger is an independent consultant who uses her knowledge of the IT outsourcing landscape to offer support and guidance to clients looking for IT development partners. Her network of carefully selected providers is able to deliver a wide selection of software development skills and expertise, which she matches to her clients’ requirements. With a keen focus on staying abreast of current topics and discussion, Lorraine is able to offer reliable insight into the art of building lasting and rewarding IT partnerships.

Michał Grela is Future Processing’s Relationship Manager, working within the marketing department to establish and nurture relationships with prospective customers and expand the company’s network of contacts. He strongly believes that business is about people and that, at the end of the day, it’s all about Human-to-Human rather than Business-to-Business.

The transcript of the episode

Michał Grela (MG): Hello, and welcome to IT Leadership Insights by Future Processing. This program is for CIOs and senior IT executives who struggle with IT challenges and are considering nearshoring as a solution. We talk with industry’s experts to gain their perspective and knowledge on how to do IT outsourcing right. The topic of this conversation is common concerns when choosing an IT partner and how to address them.

My name is Michal Grela and today my guest is Lorraine Kritzinger, Client Engagement Consultant who helps companies with choosing their IT partners. Lorraine, would you be so kind and tell us something more about yourself and your background, please?

Lorraine Kritzinger (LK): Hello, Michal. Yes, I have been living in the UK since 2001, and I’ve worked within the IT industry for most of my life. I live in a little village just outside London, in Surrey, with my husband and my children. And, yes, I spend most of my time working with clients, helping them to understand the choices available to them and, of course, I’ve learnt a lot of things in these last few years which I’ve really enjoyed sharing with my clients.

MG: Perfect. Thank you. The topic of this conversation is common concerns and addressing these worries. As we all understand the decision of whether or not to go and outsource your IT solutions is a very tough nut to crack and, I understand, it truly gives sleepless nights to IT executives. And, no wonder, as it will have a massive, truly massive impact on your daily work afterwards. So what are the most common concerns that you have actually come across during your career?

LK: Yes, it is true that it is quite challenging, and when I’m in discussion with CTOs and CEOs and the like who are considering outsourcing, I think what they’re concerned about the most is what impact this foreign team will have on their existing workforce.

MG: Of course. Yes.

LK: You know, they might have an existing IT department within the organisation, and they have to consider how the teams will gel and work together. So that is definitely one of the key concerns. And, of course, they want to find a cost effective solution.

MG: Of course. That’s one of the most common worries. Yeah.

LK: Well, it is. You know, you’ve gotta consider that in your budget whilst there is a lot of good reasons for taking on remote teams to help bolster your existing team and help you get through all the projects that you want to deliver within the IT department, it still has to be within budget and it has to be cost effective. So that’s another consideration and, really just when you come down and think about it, how practical is it on a day to day basis?

MG: Of course. Especially if the team is far away in a different country.

LK: Yes. Obviously when you’re in a normal office environment people tend to sit in one room having meetings, having discussion, working through problems, solving those problems. How does that actually work? And it’s difficult if you’ve not outsourced before and worked with a remote team to understand how that would actually work.

MG: Sure. That’s true.

LK: And I suppose the other one I’ve come across is, really, not all providers are equal, and it is true that some clients who have outsourced before have had bad experiences.

MG: Yeah. Everybody hears the horror stories about going offshore and so on.

LK: Yes, and, you know, that maybe frightens them off a little bit, makes them a little more wary, but with good research and really investigating properly, the fact is not everybody’s the same. And it is worth looking, and, I suppose, that’s where I come in, having seen the full range, as they say, warts and all. There are some pointers and tips to helping clients to prevent falling into those same problem areas.

MG: So now we more or less know what the most common concerns are, but what can IT executives actually do to properly address them?

LK: Yeah. What can you do? Well, there’s a lot of things that you can do, fortunately, and, you know, coming across resources like this is one area. Do your research. Understand what it is that you want to actually achieve. What are your goals? How will you measure the success of whether this exercise of outsourcing and working with a remote team is actually a good idea?

I think you need to be clear on your expectations for sure, you know. It’s not the silver bullet, as they say, or the panacea that’s going to actually change everything in your organisation. It is a part of all the challenges that you have to resolve within an organisation, but understanding what role that outsource partner will play for you is very important because that also helps you to measure as you go along doing your research, whether they are the correct partner for you.

The other thing also is make sure that you are ready. It is true that people obviously look to outsourcing as a quick fix, “I’ll just get some extra people in quickly and we’ll give them that project to deliver, and tick the box, we’ve done it”. It doesn’t work like that in reality.

MG: Not at all.

LK: There is a large amount of input required from you as an organisation in terms of communication, shared management of the teams, making sure that everybody is kept busy and that they are motivated. Just as you would normally do with your internal team. It’s no different. If you have an external team working for you and you want to be seamless and you want them to feel part of one unit, there is some effort required on your part.

MG: Do you have real life examples in mind perhaps?

LK: Yes. I have come across cases where even successful companies and doing really, really well, can be quite chaotic internally. And what I mean by that is the IT department is just one part of the business and, of course, they have the responsibility of delivering products and services to the organisation so that they can meet their strategic objectives. How you decide on which project you’re going to do obviously requires the input of many stakeholders within the organisation.

MG: Exactly. Yeah.

LK: And this is often where the wheels come off sometimes because you have departments within the organisation all vying for their piece of the action, they want to have their project delivered first, perhaps to make some working processes easier or, maybe, they want to start supplying different products to their clients, so the sales and marketing department are pressurizing IT. So it’s about understanding-

MG: So how to deal with this internal, let’s say, competition?

LK: Well, really it’s about good governance and good organisation within the company. Now, if they have a project management officer or a PMO, it is normally the PMO’s responsibility to take in the requirements of the business, have discussion with stakeholders, agree on the priorities and, of course, what they perceive as the return on investment. And then you would have senior stakeholders work with the business units to understand what the roadmap would be. So what is it that we are going to deliver in this quarter or the next quarter?

MG: So what about the cases when we have more than one outsourcing partner? That must be quite a challenge isn’t it?

LK: Yes. It is a challenge and, again, this is why making sure that your partner really fits your business, that the communication is strong is very important because as soon as you add more ingredients into this mix, everybody has to do their bit. It’s all gotta work together and it does require a lot of effort. But it can be done, as long as you set out with very clear expectations from the beginning.

MG: Okay. So let’s say … Well, we know what the most common concerns are, we know how to address these worries, and we have decided to go and actually outsource, and we are doing some assessments, comparing various providers and, there you have it … two companies head-to-head and no idea which one to choose. What should you recommend?

LK: Well, I tell you what you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t flip a coin for it. It needs to be a little bit more intuitive, shall we say, than that. I mean, really I think again, coming back to the day to day, you know, how you would actually work with those people on a day to day basis. It’s the culture, it’s the fit within the organisation. So you’ve done your research, you’re clear on your expectations. Now you look at each supplier that you’ve shortlisted, and you go and you do your due diligence, and that should very much include, in my opinion, an on-site visit. You want to go and get the look and feel of the place, meet the people,-

MG: Of course.

LK: … perhaps meet some team leaders. So you really get down to that grassroots level to get a feeling for what it would be like to actually work with these people.

MG: What about recommendations?

LK: Absolutely. You know, often I find that clients ask for references, but they never actually call them. They never actually follow up those clients, and it’s so important because if you go and have a conversation with the supplier’s client you can ask all sorts of questions and, generally speaking, you should get good feedback in terms of whether your expectations will be met, and the experiences that they had. Generally clients are normally quite open and honest about it. They might say things, for example, “We had a bit of a slow start. We weren’t clear on what we wanted”, or, “They didn’t really want to come and visit our office”. And this is the other thing you need to check with your supplier is: are they prepared to come and work with your team-

MG: Yeah. To travel.

LK: Yes, because it’s all part of the integration-

MG: Of course.

LK: … and it’s not just one visit at the beginning. It should be multiple visits throughout the lifecycle and your relationship. So, I think, there’s definitely a lot of things that can be done, but first and foremost think of it as, “This is an extension of my existing team” and whatever you would normally do internally, you should be able to replicate, so that you fully integrate your remote team within your organisation.

MG: Okay. So…were we to sum up this conversation. What are your three best pieces of advice to those who have concerns about choosing their IT partners?

LK: Well, definitely, as I’ve said before, because it is so important ,is be clear on your expectations, absolutely. Know what you want to get out of it. Certainly do your research, and that means looking at a number of suppliers, looking at what they offer, asking for references and, really, make sure that you are ready.

MG: Thank you, Lorraine. It has been truly interesting and extremely informative.

And thank you, our viewers, for watching IT Leadership Insights by Future Processing. If you have found it useful, please do not hesitate to share it on LinkedIn or Twitter or via email. And please also do drop us a line if you would like to have a topic covered in one of the next episodes.

This was IT Leadership Insights by Future Processing. See you in the next episode.