Friday, July 23, 2010


The Secret Relationship between Enterprise Architecture and Outsourcing: Part One

Many believe that enterprise architecture is all about strategy & planning where outsourcing tends to focus on software development and/or operations. This level of abstraction hides many considerations. The touchpoints are much deeper than the handoffs as you transition into the software development lifecycle...

The vast majority of enterprise architects have never thought deeply about how they can make their employer more successful in outsourcing work to other countries. In my experience, outsourcing fails because there may not be an adequate feedback loop into future strategy and planning.

Many enterprise architects grew up in a time where all of the IT talent was local. Interactions between different members of the team could occur in formal meetings, in hallway conversations and sometimes even on the soccer field as coworkers and their children may meet in various social settings.

Outsourcing destroys this type of interaction. No longer can an enterprise architecture team solely rely on the notion of face to face communication in order to ensure that all parties involved have a deep understanding of the enterprise goals.

For every organization that has attempted to outsource and has failed, I bet I can show you a culture that uses facetime as a crutch. Cultures that take on outsourcing and fail tend to be the same cultures that have a risk aversion to allowing their own employees to do remote work. Some companies attempt the "hybrid" model where they hope to support two different interactions; one with the business that is face time driven and one with their outsourcing partner. Can anyone tell me the odds of success in supporting two different cultures/work styles/etc in one organization striving to achieve one goal?

Enterprise architecture needs to embrace modern social methods for interaction and not just rely on the human voice. Let's ignore more obvious reasons why enterprise architecture organizations should evangelize telecommuting beyond economic factors such as saving on real estate, providing more work/life balance for employees, business resiliency in not having all your employees in a given location if a disaster strikes or even the ability to recruit better talent regardless of where they live instead of solely relying on local talent, but focus on what the interaction model needs to feel like in a unified way.

Have you ever read the likes of Jeremiah Oywang, Charlene Li or Ray Wang of Altimeter? If not, you should. They are promoting a concept known as social CRM where they acknowledge that the new generation of consumers may want to leverage social media to interact with your organization.

Industry analyst Nick Selby pinged me on Twitter one day asking for help dealing with my organization. He knew what role I played in the organization and rightfully didn't care. He did know he needed help and that I might have a clue as to whom could help him regardless of my current job responsibilities. So, this begs several interesting questions but the one I think relevant to this conversation is if your younger generation customers are going to connect to you in this manner and the people whom you outsource work to in India may also come from this generation and prefer similar interactions, why are you forcing legacy communication models on both parties?

A thoughtful strategy on outsourcing requires not only the people in India to adjust to the workstyle of your organization, but also for the organization itself to adjust to more modern methods of communication. If you have ever read my blogs or follow me on Twitter, you probably have had deeper interactions with me virtually than you would in an hour meeting and if that is the case, why would you prefer the less efficient method for communicating?

Bill Gates wrote a wonderful book entitled Business at the Speed of Thought. An enterprise should always ask themselves how can they increase response times not just with customers but throughout the pipeline. If time is money, then why would you want to waste time waiting for several weeks to get on my calendar to have a half-hour conversation, when you could in many scenarios, simply ask a few questions via email where the odds of response time may only be a couple of hours?

For any organization that learns to become social through modern means I guarantee that it will pay dividends not only for outsourcing but in terms of better interactions with customers. If social media is important to your customers, why isn't it important to you?

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