NEW YORK CITY — IT outsourcing service providers that want to work with major tech companies had better, in the immortal words of James Brown, “get up, get into it, and get involved.“
Representatives from several leading-edge sourcing buyers made it clear at a panel discussion here at the NASDAQ Building in Times Square last night that they’re looking for providers who aren’t just skilled developers but who also know how to engage as real partners in a project. Taking orders and typing code won’t be enough. Oh, and playing video games can also be important.
Risky Behavior Encouraged
Representatives from Google, Electronic Arts, global adverting giant JWT, and PR Newswire—all of them technology talent scouts—emphasized that above all they are looking for people who are innovative.
When looking for an IT services provider, Google looks for “people who will innovate with us,” said Patrick Chanezon, client and cloud advocacy team manager at Google. The company looks for a partner with a similar “Googley” culture: an environment that inspires original thinking, encourages people to take initiative, is guided by data and user experience, has a flat hierarchy (“not 10 levels to reach the CEO”), and shares the philosophy of “fail often, fail quickly, and learn,” he said.
The ideal partner is like an early adopter, someone who is willing to take risks and make an investment before things start rolling. “Risk-taking is at the heart of innovation,” Chanezon said.
Google found that partner in Argentina. While working on its Checkout e-commerce platform, the company enlisted Globant, a software developer headquartered in Buenos Aires, to test the API. “They came up with new, innovative tools to test our code and discovered security holes that otherwise might not have been found,” Chanezon said. On their next project together, the OpenSocial platform for social networking, the Globant staffers not only had the technical expertise and open-source chops to do the job; they were willing to invest time and start work before the project officially began, he said. Compare this approach to some of the big consulting practices that won’t type a line of code until they know the check is in the mail.
“Outsourcing is no longer a simple transaction,” said Jamie McClellan, CIO at JWT. “It demands input from the right side of the brain. Partners have to fit in culturally, socially, and generationally. They need to speak our language, understand our goals and objectives.” For a really successful relationship, the provider needs to engage as a partner and an innovator early in the process. “It’s not easy, but it does add considerable value,” he said.
McLellan compared classical outsourcing to “throwing work over a fence: There’s no transparency, and you don’t know where it’s going to be thrown back.” With the new approach, he said, “the fence is still there, but it’s more like a corral [with an open gate]. We invite people in.” The boundaries between in-house and the outsourcing partner have been blurred, he said.
“And while cost efficiency is important when looking for an outsourcing partner, “we look first for talent” says Pohontu.
Join the Evolution
All the parents out there who worry about their kids spending too much time at the videogame console, take heart. Game king Electronic Arts looks for outsourcing partners with developers who “have played games all their lives,” said Mihai Pohontu, EA’s general manager of central development services. “They need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of our games. More than technical expertise, we are looking for people who can contribute to the evolution of our games.”
And while cost efficiency is important when looking for an outsourcing partner, “we look first for talent,” Pohontu said.
All the companies participating in the discussion agreed they are finding innovative talent in the nearshore region. It’s not easy to meet their requirements—”they have to be able to innovate while developing,” said Kevin West, VP of operations at PRNewsire—but countries like Argentina and Brazil have a certain cultural affinity with North America that is giving them an edge over other destinations. You can find innovative IT people in many countries. But the knack for blending in with the client—that “blurring” that McClellan mentioned—is more likely found closer to home.
Last night’s IT Innovations conference was sponsored by Globant. Attending were journalists, analysts, outsourcing partners and a variety of other guests. Nearshore Americas’ Kirk Laughlin served as host and moderator.