Offshore Outsourcing: Bridging the Gap

By Faisal Hoque

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This past year, we've heard story after story about the huge cost savings that can be realized from outsourcing IT overseas. Although the trend is on a non-stop course, with 80% of CIOs expected to take some IT offshore by next year, we have also begun to hear about its hidden costs, management complexities and communication challenges.

Companies that embark on an outsourcing strategy, whether it be on-shore or off, would do well to first establish a structured approach to closing the gap that often exists between business and technology -- a gap that lies at the heart of most failed initiatives.

After all, outsourcing will merely compound the difficulties most companies already experience internally.

although there are many, one such approach is business technology management (BTM). BTM offers the structure companies need to align business objectives with technology requirements, as it provides a repeatable management process for the CIO, who needs to be accountable on a near real-time basis.

It combines the cross-functional creation and reuse of an enterprise model with portfolio and program management techniques to give CIOs on-demand visibility into the costs, risks, and resources involved in initiatives.

By providing a traceable, back and forth link between the business goals, supporting processes, and technology architectures, the enterprise model ensures that IT project teams successfully develop and communicate requirements and make effective decisions about the applications and systems that will help meet their project's goals.

When working with an outsourcing partner, the use of an end-to-end enterprise model to communicate requirements helps to mitigate risk by forcing project stakeholders to collaborate and flesh out details that can be crucial to realizing projected cost savings.

Once the project has moved from the design stage to the execution stage, the model continues to act as a reference point to orient ongoing work and to help guide last-minute modifications should unforeseen challenges and opportunities arise.

Because of their highly visual nature, models are compelling communication tools, both for IT team members communicating with non-technical project stakeholders, or for team members working with remote vendors.

At the end of the project, the enterprise model helps companies retain important intellectual capital regarding their business and technology architectures, and develop and enforce technology standards.

Different vendors have different practices and formats for the documentation they provide customers at the end of a project, and it can be difficult to integrate this information into an existing enterprise architecture. By providing outsourcing partners with models developed in-house, companies can communicate technology standards and ensure that vendors have the most current business and technology architectures at all times.

An approach such as BTM is critical to keeping technology initiatives on course, and even more critical when those initiatives extend beyond a company's borders. BTM can help CIOs realize the promised benefits of outsourcing by maintaining alignment across heavily-siloed business and technology groups both internally and externally.

Faisal Hoque is the CEO of Enamics, and the author of the book "The Alignment Effect", which advances BTM. The book is currently being used in graduate schools across the country and the concepts of the book have become the basis of the nonprofit BTM Institute, which brings together leading CIOs and practitioners to advance a management science for aligning business and technology. He has written articles in publications including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Best's Review. You can find his bio at