Accelerated Product Development Vs. Outsourcing
Why It’s Time For A Change In Mindset
In 2019, the saying “bigger, better, faster” is an accurate depiction of the growing pressures facing tech companies. Tech leaders and their teams are pushed to deliver new features, versions, and products to market faster than ever before while customers demand only the latest tech and flawless experiences. Leaders know the faster their companies can deliver, the faster they can solidify their market position, and the faster revenue can flow.
What seems like a simple equation is more like multivariable calculus. Successful delivery requires a complex balancing act from managers and developers. A daily to-do list could include:
Prioritize the new demands of customers while fixing existing problems to avoid heavy technical debt
Maintain a focus on future functionality while executing the grand vision of company leaders
Execute an ever-expanding roadmap with an understaffed, overworked workforce
And that’s just the beginning.
Bigger. Better. Faster.
Under the constant pressure to get more done, executives need to seek new strategies to tackle new problems. They’re forced to contemplate hard choices on product features, new hires, and specialized training to meet the high expectations of their customers and their company.
Executives will explore every option in their arsenal before resorting to one of the best possible solutions: getting outside help.
Outsourcing is one of the few solutions that can increase performance and accelerate delivery for minimal cost. Several tech giants like Google, IBM, and Alibaba credit outsourcing for their astonishingly high growth rates. Unfortunately, this option has developed a bad stigma that causes many executives to shy away from the option.
The hard reality is outsourcing is the key to beating the bigger, better, faster market mentality. Instead of avoiding it, it’s time for tech executives to embrace a new mindset, a new strategy, and new processes to take advantage of all the benefits outside help has to offer.
Let’s talk about how we can make outsourcing work for you.
Why Does Outsourcing Draw Such A Negative Response From Tech Leaders?
When you hear “outsourcing” do any of these words strike a nerve?
Loss of Control
One? Maybe a Few? The word is loaded with negative emotions often associated with the poor outcomes tech leaders have experienced from past outsourcing attempts. Bad experiences can heavily influence future decisions and keep companies from returning to a strategy that didn’t work out in their favor.
After all, why would you stick your hand in the fire again when you’ve already been burned?
But Wait - Outsourcing Is Not The Cause of Those Painful Outcomes
Personal experience can have a heavy hand in decision making. But, the bigger, better, faster market is strong enough to force leaders to reassess their feelings towards outsourcing.
When they crack open those old project files, managers will find it’s not the choice to outsource that generates poor results. In fact, many notable companies like Google, Slack, and Skype have made their mark with the help of outsourcing. How did they find success where others found failure?
These tech unicorns learned through repeated experiences that there are many different models of “outsourcing” and getting the model right makes all the difference.
Through trial and error, they’ve found outsourcing to be the best way to meet both the demands of customers and the goals of company leadership. And by putting the right model in place to implement and support outside teams, their managers ensured their outsourcing efforts delivered the best results for their product and team.
Conversely, many companies have implemented weak models, often without being aware of its flaws. Their managers have witnessed the opposite effect as simply adding cheap offshore developers to your environment can wreak havoc on quality and production. Even outsourcing the wrong types of work or not defining your internal team’s essential responsibilities can affect the success of the external team and your product. Mistakes like these have left many executives misattributing poor results to their choice to outsource, when the real underlying problem is in the model.
How do we build a model that creates successful results from our external teams?
A Strong Model Starts With A Change In Mindset
The first step to developing a strong model is to shift your mindset to view external solutions as “accelerated product development” and not as “outsourcing.”
What’s the big difference? It’s just a difference in vocabulary.
Words matter. As we mentioned earlier, the word “outsourcing” can generate some very negative reactions. Executives hear security risks and poor quality while developers hear job loss and brain drain. People immediately become closed-off to the idea of bringing in outside help, putting your model in tough position from the start.
Focusing instead on accelerated product development produces better reactions and more immediate support for an external model. Instead of bulldozing your current development process and replacing your team with cheaper resources, you are focused on adding new extensions and filling gaps to strengthen your existing process and team.
Accelerated Product Development is about enhancing the skills, productivity, and speed of your internal team by allowing external teams to fill the gaps in resources and expertise that are dragging down your development.
The slight difference in phrasing can combat negative biases, increase adoption across the organization, and help lay the foundation for a successful model in your environment.
How Do We Successfully Implement Accelerate Product Development?
Changing the tone is only a first step. The real key to success comes down to how the internal organization sets up its outside teams for success. A common mistake managers make is treating outsourcing as a one-way street and expecting results to perfectly align with their vision.
If you treat external operations like a black box, you will continue to end up with the poor results you’ve always experienced.
If you want to achieve bigger, better, faster then you must treat your external teams as true extensions of your internal organization.
Accelerated product development will always look slightly different across organizations as each company has its own unique environment.
But, there are 3 strategic actions you can take today to start implementing accelerated product development in your environment.
1 | Ensure Consistent Resources and Communication
Outside organizations should be staffed, treated, and supported just like your internal teams. Savvy tech leaders know that consistent communication is crucial for acceleration. Both teams should have the resources that allow them to work together on all decisions, reviews, and resolutions. If internal engineers are supported with leadership, product management, and ongoing architecture review, the external team should also have this support.
2 | Support Shared Ownership of The Product Roadmap
External teams should own important pieces of the product life cycle. Similarly, internal product management needs to prioritize these pieces the same as the rest of the roadmap.
All architects need to be aligned on decision making at all levels of the product. Internal DevOps and infrastructure leaders need to understand how externally-built features will be deployed just as they would internally-built features. And internal designers need to be just as involved with externally built features as internally built features.
3 | Select The Right Roadmap Items
Ask yourself these two questions when selecting which roadmap items to give to outside teams:
Are there technologies or feature types that my team lacks experience in? Consider these items for external teams. The time and cost to hire or train an internal person on a missing skill will far outpace that of finding outside expertise.
Does the roadmap item require deep historical knowledge of the internal product history or previous decisions? Consider these items for internal teams. The time and cost to bring an external person up-to-speed on legacy architectures, even true experts, can potentially outweigh the value and eventual acceleration.
If you want your product to be bigger, better, faster, it’s time to look outside the box. Literally. External organizations can produce amazing results for your product and company if you have established the right model.
Check that each decision you make is with the purpose of accelerating product development. Did you go outside for the right reasons? Did you pick the right roadmap items? Did you build the right internal support model to make the “outside” teams successful?
Your goal should always be to enhance your teams and fill the gaps in your roadmap. If you can achieve accelerated product development, you can produce a product that can bring real value to your customers and your company.
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