Offshore Outsourcing

Choosing your IT partner is the business equivalent of choosing a spouse- you’re hoping for a happy, long-standing relationship or perhaps like choosing a builder for an extension or renovation- an offering that can work with your style, needs and budget and most importantly, a contact that you have a rapport with. These kinds of relations assist in communications which are key to any IT project- be it enterprise scale or start-up. Considering that communication will be the single most important factor in success, it goes to show that choosing an off-shore provider, sourced through a trade directory, with project managers that you will never meet face-to-face, can be likened to choosing a mail-order bride. Risky at best.

There are key aspects that should be explored and considered when it comes to choosing the right company to supply you with IT services. It should be a ‘partnership’, not a ‘contract’, and you should aim for a long-standing relationship that will provide your company with what you need, when you need it, within the time and budget constraints of your organisation. You might not always know exactly what those needs will be at the outset… often this becomes apparent and is demonstrated only further down the road.

If you are considering offshore IT resources, consider why people are uncomfortable with the idea that their personal information is stored in another country where there are different cultural attitudes to personal information and different laws. A lot of countries do not provide secure property laws which make it easy for economic espionage to occur and those with the most sought labour costs are the ones that are still busy developing their political systems and labour laws.

Offshore outsourcing also relies heavily on documentation needed to comply with certain policies and procedures and to increase the chance of IT projects meeting objectives. This could lead to a lengthy waiting period before you can actually start working and producing what you need to, not to mention the expertise and resource required to complete technical software requirements and specifications. Local software experts tend to specialise in specific industries reducing the need for such extensive specifications and usually offering added value in many areas due to specific, localised industry knowledge.

Another aspect to consider is time zones. Even though the offshore company you are busy forging a relationship with might not be a whole day ahead of you, even a few hours can make a difference. Say you request a task for completion at 8am in the morning and the country of your outsourcing is 2 hours behind, it will be 10am before they receive the request. They might only complete the task by the end of their day, which is already 2 hours after you might have left, making it a whole day of waiting on a simple task. Had you asked a local company, they could have received and completed the task within the day. Doesn’t sound so bad waiting 1 extra night on 1 task, but multiply this by the number of tasks and queries on a complex IT project that runs for 6-8 months and what you end up with is basically just a waiting game.

It is true that cost reduction plays an important part in the decision to choose offshore outsourcing as an option. Most offshore companies usually offer competitive labour rates that can be very appealing, but most businesses that choose this option rarely ever look at the fine print or the hidden costs behind it. These costs are usually not calculated into the overall budget and should be analysed carefully. There are things like costs for long distance communication, training, and travelling. Any long distance relationship requires a large amount of effort, money, and time and it can become taxing on your everyday work situation.

More often than not these relationships are not always maintained. It’s breakdown is so fast and severe that it can cause major damage to your business. Common causes for these breakdowns include an insufficient number of individuals involved, poorly designed policies, gaps or uncertainties in the contracts, and poor execution of roles between the two parties.

So the vital question that still remains is the following: is offshore outsourcing something to consider when delivering an IT solution? Evidence shows that it is not something that you should delve into blindly due to the factors that can hinder it. Onshore business will save you costs, time, and money, and the lines of communication will be open and easily accessible for all.

In short, it is acceptable to outsource certain elements of your IT function, and in certain situations can make sense, but it is better to use local companies in order to save in the long run and ensure seamless integration. Even if your local IT service provider does manage to successfully outsource some of the development to offshore resources, let them do the project managing and technical integration. The cost savings will still be passed on to you as the client.

George Toursoulopoulos is a technology specialist and CEO of Synetec, one
of the UK’s leading providers of bespoke software solutions.

Are you making use of your data?


Is your company one of many sitting on Mega size excel spreadsheets, creaking with data, but no time or expertise to sort, report and analyse the mass to make it usable and worthwhile? Data is like gold, while it is in the ground it is worthless. It is when it has been extracted and polished that it becomes very valuable.

With a surge in rapid software development frameworks and improved data manipulation methodologies, comes the ability for companies to unlock the potential within their data and information about markets, trends, customers, potential customers, productivity and competitors far and wide. However, in order to use this data to tell a meaningful story and for it to affect actions and decisions in line with strategic planning, it needs to be moulded into nuggets of information relevant to the business goals and objectives.

Synetec had a client that ran most of their operations on a combination of a Back Office System, CRM system and very functional Excel spreadsheets. Across these three technologies they had terabytes of data that they were not realizing any value out of. Through consolidation and interpretation of these data sources, the resulting data set, very accurately pinpointed ‘sweetspots’ and indicated where there processes and teams were achieving the greatest results. Just as valuable was the ability to identify where things could be improved on and what was the differentiator. This in turn brought about some minor adjustments to their processes, some training in very specific areas for individual team members and over a very modest time period an increase in performance across the board. It was all in the data.

As well as key business drivers, it appears that employees are better motivated when individual efforts and actions can be traced, rewarded and acknowledged, even when functioning as part of a team. Employees can also benefit from USEFUL data. If a certain team member is outperforming his peers, a dynamic report that highlights to management and leads to recognition and reward, would be beneficial to business goals. Or in greater detail, data may show that certain salespeople are stronger or weaker at selling a particular product or in a certain stage of the pipeline. You know software is really unlocking the value of your data when you are being informed on how to enhance processes for improvements and when its based upon YOUR data, then it’s worth listening.
What good would any of this data be if it’s all stuck in a swamp of excel or dispersed amongst various database non-coherently?

With a surge in technology that supports the financial industry and decline in the cost of gathering and storing data, the likelihood and reality of sitting on heaps of raw data is growing. The need for high level, almost instant reporting requires new and updated technologies that are not only bullet proof, secure and resilient, but also accessible to the non-technical user.

Synetec offers bespoke solutions with expertise in designing and managing the transition from legacy systems to updated technologies which can assist you in unlocking the value of your data. While this process can often be problematic and expensive, Synetec can ensure that your business mines the gold instead of just spending it.

George Toursoulopoulos is a technology specialist and CEO of Synetec, one
of the UK’s leading providers of bespoke software solutions.

Quick Guide to Internet of Things


The “Internet of things” (IoT) has been a big topic of conversation in the workplace for some time, but considering how it can change how we both live and work, it’s no surprise that it continues to make headlines. Broadband Internet has become more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down, and smart phone penetration is sky-rocketing. All of these things are creating a “perfect storm” for the IoT. This short article addresses what exactly it is, what impact it will have on you, what development trends are we seeing in this field and what can other areas of software development learn from it.

What exactly is the IoT?
The concept in its simplest form is that basically involves connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices…that’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.

How does this impact you?
The new rule for the future is going to be, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” But why on earth would you want so many connected devices talking to each other? There are many examples for what this might look like or what the potential value might be. Say for example you are on your way to a meeting, your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take, if the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 am and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more? What if the wearable device you used in the workplace could tell you when and where you were most active and productive and shared that information with other devices that you used while working?

On a broader scale the IoT can be applied to things like transportation networks “smart cities” which can help us reduce waste and improve efficiency for things such as energy use; this helping us understand and improve how we work and live. It does sound great, well parts of it do, the main concern is the security threat implication. Will someone be able to hack into your toaster and thereby get access to your entire network? The IoT also opens up companies all over the world to more security threats. Then we have the issue of privacy and data sharing. That is and always will be a hot topic, so one can only imagine how the conversation and concerns will escalate when we are talking about many billions of devices being connected. Another issue that many companies specifically are going to be faced with is around the massive amounts data that all of these devices are going to produce. Companies need to figure out a way to store, track, analyse, and make sense of the vast amounts of data that will be generated.

Development Trends
Let’s start off with a few facts and insights from the Evans Data Corporation Internet of Things Development Study 2015. A third of all IoT developers are primarily focusing on Big Data and analytics projects, with 20.6% primarily focusing on firmware or preloaded software for the client device. Middleware (20%), which is essential for enterprise-wide adoption of IoT strategies, along with backend/server development (17.2%) taken together comprise the majority of development efforts.
21.7% of all IoT developers surveyed are working on ecommerce-related projects today. Business-to-Consumer (B2C) has a slight edge regarding the number of developers at 11.7% versus those developers working on Business-to-Business (B2B) projects (10%). Developers are also concentrating on supply chain-related projects including logistics (7.4%) and transportation (7%). The following graphic provides a ranking of connected device projects by percent of developers currently working in these areas.
42% of IoT developers are currently writing software that uses sensors. IoT developers are most often supporting acceleration and vibration sensors while creating new apps, followed by electric/magnetic and flow-based sensor devices. The study makes the point that acceleration or vibration sensors can refer to the sensors that change the orientation of a touch screen based on the way in which the device is held, and can measure the stability of stationary objects or objects with moving parts.
23% of IoT developers are currently working with or incorporating in-memory databases into their development work, and 44% plan to in the next six months.

Parting Thoughts
As everything we do is increasingly connected, so will the levels of available data increase proportionately. That is the key at the end of the day, the data. Keeping it secure, managing it efficiently, all while using it to fulfil an undoubtedly massive potential.

George Toursoulopoulos is a technology specialist and CEO of Synetec, one
of the UK’s leading providers of bespoke software solutions.

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