On/Off-shore working - have your cake and eat it

On/Off-shore working - have your cake and eat it

When faced with choosing a technology partner, one of the main decisions a company must make is whether to work with an on-shore partner or outsource its work to off-shore developers. While both can potentially provide a high quality of service, they come with their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Working with a partner based locally brings obvious benefits; cultural alignment, common language and the ability to communicate directly in person. Furthermore the current focus on data security and the introduction of GDPR may bring a regulatory requirement to keep data on-shore or at least in the EU. Of course these benefits are tempered by the primary drawback of employing people in the UK - it’s generally much more expensive. Though it’s certainly true that the pandemic has enabled more homeworking and a levelling out in global salaries across the IT sector, it’s still much easier to hire expert IT talent outside of the EU, which is an understandably attractive option to businesses now that remote working is the de-facto post-Covid.

While the commercials of off-shoring are appealing, there are some drawbacks. Even with good language skills, sometimes communication across geographic and cultural distances may be difficult. There may be hidden costs in ensuring compliance and data security, making testing and QA more difficult without access to production data. And more time must be spent on clearly defining requirements, building shared understanding of the wider business context for solution design and ensuring clear communication with non-native speakers.

The Hybrid Model

The choice between these two modes of working no longer has to be an either/or. Thanks to the aforementioned shift in remote-working, the concept of distributed teams collaborating closely has been proven to work. The task for technology companies is to find the perfect blend of people and working practices to the right resource for the right job, working in harmony to provide a ‘best of both worlds’ approach.

An example of how this works in practice; on-shore staff work alongside a client’s product managers to translate business requirements into specifications that are clearly understood across geographical and cultural divides. Both teams work closely together to ensure communication is clear and both sets of development staff fully understand the solution design. The bulk of initial development work, quality assurance and dev ops set-up can be delegated to the off-shore team.

Once complete, the on-shore team can then act as an intermediary between the off-shore workers and the client. Security audits, code analysis and compliance can be done locally, as well as UAT and production testing. On-shore teams can also provide front line support, leaning on their off-shore colleagues for consultancy and expert advice.
Having workers spread across different locations also offers the potential to take advantage of the time difference. By having a global workforce, a company can offer a round-the-clock service, while still ensuring all of its staff work acceptable hours.

Global talent is as accessible as it’s ever been. Technology companies are in an unprecedented position to take advantage of the opportunities borne out of a post-pandemic world. In doing so, and in successfully delegating the right work to the right staff, they will be able to offer their clients a better service that combines all of the benefits of both on and off-shore working - providing the commercial benefits of a global team whilst eliminating the drawbacks to deliver the best results possible.

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