An Introduction to Partnering with Intent

To advance the latest thinking about workforce management in the digital age, Rural Sourcing authored a breakthrough white paper entitled “Partnering with Intent: An innovation workforce model for the digital age.” A series of blog posts will highlight key takeaways from that white paper, as well as workforce management commentary from leading IT luminaries. This first post introduces the Partnering with Intent™ approach as a springboard to offering solutions to managing through today’s business transformations and the shortage of digitally prepared IT talent. Additional posts will explain how Partnering with Intent explores the importance of culture, encourages cultural alignment, and describes how transparency can help rebuild the trust lost during offshoring and why being a destination employer can offer a sustainable competitive advantage. READ THE FULL WHITE PAPER As changing customer demands hurtle toward businesses at warp speed, companies are counting on new ways of combining people, processes and technology to enable digital adaptation. In the quest to succeed, IT leaders see a lack of digital talent at the number one obstacle to achieving their business objectives. As a result, CIOs are exploring new partnership and workforce models to meet this talent shortage head on. No company can afford to keep on staff all the digitally prepared talent needed to maintain and expand its market position. For that reason, enhancing staff capabilities with contingency labor has become a way of life for IT organizations at companies of all sizes. However, the unintended consequences of offshoring, such as the degradation of trust between IT leaders and those in their employ have soured the relationship between those in staff positions and externally sourced talent. Yet, the heightened demands of customers and the speed at which change occurs in the digitally adapted workplace demand more collaboration – not less. That’s why the three key components digital workforce management are so important: Partnering with Intent A “flex” culture Transparency Partnering with Intent (PWI), a highly selective approach to sourcing specialized digital talent to enhance the IT staff, uses two radically different criteria to evaluate potential labor resources. Those two qualifiers – the presence of “soft skills” along with digital technology specialization and the ability of talent from partnered resources to support the company’s culture and values – have the power to redefine how IT companies choose their labor partners. “Soft skills” are defined as the ability to collaborate and communicate willingly and effectively, two capabilities that IT organizations competing in the digital age prize as much as technology prowess. Under the PWI model, labor partners earn value by being able to provide digital specialists that share their client’s mission and support the client’s culture. When these specialists from the outside blend seamlessly into the client’s organization and culture, everyone wins. In addition to PWI, today’s IT organizations need to build a “flex” culture to efficiently tackle the rapid rate of change that comes from digital. The “flex” framework enables IT organizations to source technologist specialists armed with the latest digital talents and the necessary soft skills as well. This holistic approach gives IT leaders a degree of workforce management latitude that was previously unattainable in the previous “hard-wired,” project-only orientation. With a flex approach, digital specialists can be combined with staff resources in a free-flowing, initiative-based agile team designed to accommodate shifting priorities and stimulate, not stifle, creativity. At its heart, the digitally optimized IT organization leverages teams’ cultural integration to respond to business-driven change. Transparency, the clear delineation of roles and responsibilities communicated openly, enables IT leaders to begin rebuilding the trust staff lost during offshoring. Composite teams depend on cultural integration and transparent leadership to feel more comfortable with their respective places in the IT organization and clearly understand how third-party labor resources contribute to organizational success. For IT leaders, trust and transparency have become a baseline requirement of the hyper-competitive digital age. In our next post, we will explain how to blur the delineation between internal talent and externally provided digital specialists, build high-functioning composite teams, and achieve the cultural integration necessary to digital adaptation success. NEED HELP? LET'S TALK.

The Hidden Risks of Nearshoring

While many companies usually have an understanding of some of the more common challenges of offshoring work such as potential language barriers and time differences, there are some hidden risks of nearshoring that may not be so obvious – but can have a detrimental effect on your bottom line. Things like political instability, economic uncertainty, and crime can have serious consequences and these geopolitical issues can have much larger ramifications on your business. There are many unknowns nearshoring to a foreign country that are not minor annoyances but can completely derail a project or partnership, which is usually not considered when working with a company in the United States. When you outsource your work to developing countries, these things that are seen on the news can have a direct effect on your life and business. If you are considering offshoring some of your business to Central or South America, it’s important to be aware of the political and economic landscape and how it may affect your business. Discover some of the risks of outsourcing to Latin America and how Rural Sourcing can help eliminate these risks. The Effect of Political Unrest on Nearshoring If you're considering outsourcing to Latin America, it’s important to understand the potential negative impact political instability can have on productivity, quality, and relationships. Countries in Central and South America are no strangers to governmental instability, and a military coup can have serious ramifications on the people and businesses there, potentially affecting your business if you offshore work there. Political instability can hurt everything from profits & operations to the working conditions of the employees. Political riots around elections can shut down cities and newly elected officials can dramatically change the political landscape overnight. While it may seem like politics are detached from other economic considerations, the reality is that no business can afford to ignore political factors that often shape the external environment of the business. SEE HOW WE CAN HELP How Can Economic Uncertainty Affect Outsourcing? While the economy in some Latin American countries is developing, growing pains can quickly become more serious and put entire industries and businesses in jeopardy. A country can swing drastically in just a matter of years from a developing region, to one where people are seeking asylum and refugee status in neighboring countries. As a result, your business could be wiped out of employees. For example, the Argentinian peso (the world's weakest currency for the past two years) continues to fall, and businesses and household finances in Argentina are feeling the strain. Right now, businesses are having a hard time giving quotes or financing amid the currency disorder. Inflation was above 30 percent in 2018, and thanks to an especially weakened peso, spiked above 50 percent in 2019. In Venezuela, inflation is out of control and the currency has become practically worthless. Locals – aka the people who would comprise your workforce - struggle to buy essentials, as a month’s wages will buy a loaf of bread, two liters of milk, and four cans of tuna fish. The United States, on the other hand, is not accustomed to economic swings this drastic in the modern era. There are many things to consider when working with countries whose future is unclear. For example, do you pay in local currency or USD? How will a sudden change in exchange rate affect your contract and your partnership? These types of situations prove to be a challenge when offshoring business efforts to regions with volatile economic climates. Crime and Danger Considerations Latin America has been dubbed the murder capital of the world. With just 8% of the world’s population, Latin America accounts for roughly a third of global murders, where lethal violence has grown steadily since 2000. To put that in perspective, nearly one in every four murders around the world takes place in just four countries: Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and Columbia. This has led Latin America to a crisis, costing the countries 3% of annual economic output. This is, on average, three times the level of developed countries. While many of the murders are gang/cartel related and less likely – but not impossible – to affect traveling business people, kidnapping is not uncommon for tourists perceived as “wealthy” to be held for ransom. Will it definitely happen? Of course not – but it's more likely in Rio than in Oklahoma City. Ongoing violence and petty crime in many countries can have near and long-term impact on your business, even if it's not politically motivated. Your business may be less inclined to send employees to these areas, reducing important local training and vendor management time. This adds risk to service delivery and long-term success that can otherwise be fostered by the cross-pollination of US clients and offshore providers. Petty crime, such as having a laptop or smartphone stolen, or being mugged, is a much more common threat for traveling business people. While not life-threatening, the technological security and general safety of employees is a definite concern. A Safe and Steady Alternative to Nearshoring While outsourcing to Latin American countries can seem cost-effective, there are many unique challenges. When looking to outsource your efforts, it’s important to consider these risks and how they'll affect your business. The liability and uncertainty of these countries can prove to be a crippling challenge for businesses who may not have ever considered these issues. Onshoring with Rural Sourcing Fortunately, there is another alternative to offshoring that provides a more stable partnership for everyone involved. Rural Sourcing has brought jobs back to the United States by offering a wide range of software services from our strategically located development centers. From agile software development, supporting enterprise applications, the provision of cloud solutions to business intelligence, and more - Rural Sourcing conquers the unique challenges associated with offshoring, while still being an affordable option for US companies. Our development centers are in smaller regions across the United States, where the cost of living is less expensive. Not only will you receive high-quality services, but you'll enjoy cost savings in comparison to larger metropolitan areas. NEED HELP? LEARN MORE.

Amazon HQ2 is Coming – How Will You Compete for Tech Talent?

Amazon’s plans for a second headquarters will create thousands of high paying jobs at a time when unemployment is low and finding tech talent is becoming increasingly difficult. While the cities are gearing up for the economic boom, businesses are left wondering how they will compete for tech talent in this hot and competitive industry. The Amazon HQ2 Effect on Tech Hiring & Retention At first glance, the Amazon expansion is an exciting new opportunity. The competition for the new Amazon HQ2 was incredibly fierce as cities competed in hopes of growing their local economy. In fact, over 238 cities threw their hats into the ring, while that list was narrowed to 20 potential cities earlier this year. The $5 billion project will be approximately the same size as the company’s Seattle headquarters and occupy over 8.1 million square feet of space, now across these markets. With the volume of employment, Amazon adds to the community comes an influx of demand for housing, schools, hospitals, infrastructure and more. And with that, comes a demand for more workers. However, as you dive deeper below the surface, you’ll see how it affects local businesses who are competing with Amazon for talent. Initially, Amazon will be seeking to hire skilled IT and developer staff with a wide range of backgrounds from the area near its new locations. This means if your business has staff with these skill sets or you are looking to hire new talent, the competition is going to be fierce not only for new hires but you will also be competing to retain your current workforce. So, the big question is: How can businesses be expected to recruit new hires and retain tech employees when the prospect of working for Amazon is so enticing? When Amazon announced its plans to open a new headquarters, it was said that the 50,000 new hires will make an average salary of $100,000. If you plan to retain or expand your local workforce, you’re going to have to keep up with not only increasing salaries and benefits requirements – but also compete with huge name recognition and prestige. However, there is another way to staff your tech team without having to participate in this escalating war for top tech talent and it is much better for your bottom line and budgets: domestic sourcing. Winning the Competitive Race for Tech Talent Creating a strategy for recruiting and retaining talent when a mega-corporation comes to town can seem downright daunting. Instead of competing with conglomerates who can offer high salaries with attractive benefit packages, why not assess your organizational needs to see if there are skills you can distribute? Domestic sourcing is a unique business model that is ideal for companies looking for outside resources but still want to keep work close to home. Onshoring your business efforts can give you a competitive advantage, especially for small to mid-size businesses located in a super competitive local market vying for top talent. Having a strategic partner on your side, like Rural Sourcing, means that you can tap into tech talent that may not be in your immediate vicinity while accomplishing your business goals and eliminating bottlenecks and headaches. Onshoring offers businesses a variety of advantages, providing firms with a way to focus on core competencies and build those skills while relying on partners to focus on their areas of expertise. It’s also a perfect way for businesses to save money, as companies do not have to compete with increasing salaries, and still get high-quality products. Along with benefitting from real-time collaboration, another great advantage of offshoring is that your partner can adapt to your needs, working with you when you have a big project and scaling back during slower periods. How Rural Sourcing Can Help Your Business Succeed Rural Sourcing’s development centers are located strategically in mid-size cities across the United States. Instead of trying to keep up with Amazon’s increasing salaries, you can get higher quality and more affordable services outside of this market while staying within the United States. Smaller areas like New Mexico and Georgia have a lower cost of living, so you can tap into established talent while getting a great delivered product at an affordable price. Not only is this a cost-effective solution for businesses located near Amazon, but it’s also a perfect way to eliminate the headaches of recruiting and retention. NEED HELP? LET'S TALK.

What Exactly is Nearshoring?

As organizations seek out solutions to save on overhead and labor costs while continuing to scale, outsourcing has grown in popularity. Outsourcing has been an effective model that allows companies the option to adjust their resources to improve productivity and efficiency while giving them the opportunity to focus on their core competencies. It allows businesses to save on direct and indirect recruiting and labor costs. While overseas companies used to be the preferred choice for outsourcing as it offered the lowest cost alternative, many organizations have started to realize the unique challenges associated with offshoring and have started looking for an option that saves money and cuts down on the headaches involved. One of the options many companies consider is nearshoring. Nearshoring is a type of offshoring that occurs when an organization decides to outsource work to companies that are geographically nearer (hence the word "near") to them than some of the previously popular countries in Asia and Eastern Europe. For example, instead of offshoring development work to India which is between 9-12 hours ahead of the US, a company might choose a company in Central America, thus cutting the time difference down so work can take place in relatively real time. However, although nearshoring allows two companies to be in more similar time zones, this doesn't solve all problems with overseas outsourcing – just one of them. Nearshoring still presents contextual, cultural, and language challenges as well as those of cybersecurity, IP protection, and political uncertainty. Companies need to be aware of these dangers before considering this option for outsourcing any projects. In this blog, we explore nearshoring in depth, including its benefits and drawbacks, and how it differs from other outsourcing models. Nearshoring vs. Offshoring As companies sought out solutions for reducing operating costs and gaining greater operational scalability, many organizations looked to other countries overseas such as India, China, and Russia to outsource their activities, otherwise known as offshoring. Offshoring takes place across national borders and can be a cost-effective solution as offshore companies are willing to set lower hourly rates that are more in line with their cost living. For example, India became popular for knowledge-based offshoring (the best example being technology related) as India combines a relatively educated workforce with low wages. China became popular for manufacturing types of offshoring, with a lower skilled workforce and an even lower incomes. However, although offshoring is a cheaper option, there are many drawbacks. Offshoring can present many communication issues, as language and cultural barriers can get in the way of effective communication and put a strain on the workforce. Plus, deadlines are often extended due to the large gap in time zones, making it difficult to collaborate, stay on schedule, and communicate in real time. Tomorrow can mean different things in different parts of the world. Combine these significant intangible hazards with the material presence of risks around cyber-security, IP protection and economic and political stability, and risk soon outweighs a perceived lower price with uncertain delivery. Many United States-based companies wanted quicker turnaround times, which is why they started looking for partners that were located a bit closer to home. The Nearshoring Advantage The biggest benefit of nearshoring is that the organizations are physically closer, reducing time zone discrepancies. Fewer time zones differences allow teams to make faster decisions to stay on schedule and reduce delays. Closer time-zone alignment greatly enables operational cohesion, effectiveness, and team camaraderie. The geographic proximity improves productivity in both teams as they will no longer have to shift their hours to accommodate the outsourced employee group. Finally, travel between locations is made much easier under the nearshore model, making team interaction and regular inspection much easier. READY TO TALK? WE CAN HELP. What are the Disadvantages of Nearshoring? As with any business model, it's important to be aware of the challenges associated with nearshoring. While nearshoring solves most time zone barriers, it doesn't quite answer all of the challenges that operating in an international context – usually with developing countries - presents. Different countries will have varying national holidays, languages, and cultural differences that can prove a challenge to efficient working and communications. For example, a US-based company that works with a Mexican or Central American company may run into some language barriers, which can make communication a challenge. National holidays can be different between US and Mexico-based companies, which can lengthen deadlines and delay turnaround time. Differences in work schedules can also prove to be a challenge, as typical work days may vary between countries. Furthermore, it's also important to consider any new laws and regulations you'll need to adhere to when working with a company in another country, which can prove to be a challenge. Finally, nearshoring does not inspire much more confidence around geopolitical balance, the threat of compromised IP, or the management of sensitive data. Frankly, nearshoring is illusory in its ability to solve the problems of delivering high-quality software, cost effectively, at the required speed with an acceptable amount of risk. Onshoring: An Alternative to Nearshoring While nearshoring brings two companies closer in proximity, this business model certainly isn't fool-proof. There are many language and cultural considerations that can lead to delays and problematic communication and navigating a nearshoring partnership - and the regulations associated with it - can be tricky. The real reason people opt for nearshore is nothing to do with the business conditions. It's just more fun, or at least less onerous, to travel "nearshore" to inspect their teams on a regular basis. Let's face it; most people would prefer a few days in Central, South America or The Caribbean than a quarterly 24-hour trek (maybe in coach) halfway around the world for a ten-day tour of duty inspecting your offshore resources in a far-flung country that feels as culturally uncomfortable as it is geographically remote. Fortunately, there is a solution that provides businesses with a cost-effective alternative to nearshoring and overcomes any apprehensions with cultural barriers and delays. Onshoring, also known as domestic sourcing, is when a firm seeks out services from a partner within the same country. For example, a company in Los Angeles may look to an IT group in New Mexico or Georgia for help with a project as the cost of living offers more affordable rates in these areas than Southern California. Onshoring cuts down on time zone concerns, language, and cultural barriers as well as preserving the rule of law over IP and data security. You can benefit from real-time collaboration and produce a high-quality product within budget, on schedule, and at the speed that modern business demands. With onshoring, you'll be less likely to encounter delays that would typically occur with cultural and language barriers associated with nearshoring so that you can get to market faster with a high-quality product at an affordable price. You'll also support jobs in your own country, so you can feel good about creating opportunities close to home. Rural Sourcing: The Leader of Remote Delivery IT Services Rural Sourcing is the leader in remote software development. To help companies lower their costs and create high-quality products, Rural Sourcing's innovative onshore model allows you to benefit from talented, qualified IT teams living in mid-sized and small cities across the United States. With our onshoring services, you'll eliminate time zones, language barriers, cultural differences, and delays to speed up deadlines and improve collaboration. If you think onshoring can benefit your organization, get in touch with our team today. NEED HELP? LET'S TALK.

Outsourcing, Offshoring, Nearshoring and Onshoring: What’s the Difference?

One of the biggest challenges companies face is finding ways to scale while being as efficient and productive as possible. Perhaps a company is looking to launch a new app, enhance their business intelligence, or has another significant software project that needs to be completed, but they don't have the staff or resources in-house. Many leaders and executives find the idea of developing an in-house team to be too expensive, especially if they are in a major US city where salaries can be high and competition for top talent fierce. In addition to being costly, hiring new staff can be time-consuming, and companies may not even have the recruiting resources to find qualified candidates. In many cases, these companies end up turning to more cost-effective alternatives that provide flexibility and convenient solutions for their needs, one of which is outsourcing. There are many ways to outsource a project – such as onshoring, offshoring, and nearshoring - each with its benefits and challenges. While all three of these most popular types of outsourcing models are similar, they differ in a variety of ways. The Basics: What is Outsourcing Let's start with the "simplest" term, outsourcing, as it has set the foundation for onshoring, nearshoring, and offshoring. Outsourcing is when you find a third-party company or individual to complete a specific project or many projects instead of completing the work in-house. There may be many reasons a company looks for outside help. They may not have the capabilities, breadth of knowledge or experience, or are looking to manage costs and simplify the process from idea to completed product. Not only does this open the door to new opportunities and experts with a breadth of capabilities, but outsourcing also gives you the flexibility to work with an outside firm for a project under a specific period and then move on to completion of the project. For example, your company may need assistance on a huge project, like developing an app, but may not need the additional resources once the project is complete. Plus, it will cut down on the need to hire individual's in-house, minimizing recruitment and operational costs associated with finding qualified applicants in your area (or moving expenses if you need to recruit specialists from other parts of the country). One of the significant benefits of outsourcing is that you'll work with experienced vendors who specialize in a particular field allowing you to complete projects faster and with a better quality output. However, while there are many benefits of outsourcing, there are several drawbacks and unique considerations depending on where and how the work is outsourced. Your company may run into communication issues around domain experience. In other words, if your chosen outsourcer is less familiar with your industry, you should allow extra time for some education. Traditional outsourcing business like accounting and law have overcome this challenge by setting up practices that specialize in vertical industries. The most obvious example is that of the outsourced team working in a different time zone with a significant language barrier. These communication risks become real as we look to an example of outsourcing, like offshoring. What is Offshoring? It's a common misconception that outsourcing and offshoring are the same things. They are not. The primary differentiator between outsourcing and offshoring is that offshoring is a type of outsourcing. Offshoring is when a business hires a third-party firm to perform work in a nation other than one where the business primarily conducts its operations. This business model developed from outsourcing, as companies looked for cheaper alternatives to services overseas, usually in a developing country such as India, Bangladesh, or Eastern Europe. While there are many reasons companies look to offshore their services, it mainly comes down to lower costs. As we have said, some of the most popular countries to offshore IT solutions and software needs are India, China, and Eastern Europe, just because they offer lower production costs due to lower local salaries and less stringent labor laws. Unfortunately, offshoring poses many risks. Working in different time zones, language and cultural barriers, cyber-security threats, political instability and intellectual property concerns are all challenges when working with a company located in another country. This misalignment may require some adjustments on your internal team's schedule, especially with time zones that could be well over 12 hours. You'll likely have to lengthen deadlines as work can take much longer with a team in remote parts of the world. Plus unless you find people in other countries who speak your native language fluently, you may run into language and understanding barriers, which could end up costing your company in delays. SEE OUR VALUE AGAINST OFFSHORING How does Nearshoring Work? Nearshoring is a subset of offshoring with the main differentiator being that the outside company is located a little bit closer to you, but still in another country. For example, a company located in New York City may outsource their work to an agency in Mexico or South America. When referring to nearshoring, the third-party companies will be in a closer time zone so that communication can happen either in real time or your schedules may only have to be altered a few hours. Closer time zones can help when it comes to collaboration and can allow for identifying problems faster. However, it's important to note that nearshoring isn't fool-proof and cannot overcome all the challenges that offshoring your work can present. It only solves the time zone issue. Even if the country is in a similar time zone, there may still be differences in holidays, language struggles, cultural misunderstandings, and geopolitical risks. Can Onshoring Benefit My Company? First lets answer, what is onshoring? Onshoring is a unique outsourcing business model as it utilizes partners in the same country for increased efficiencies and productivity without the headaches of offshoring. As an advantageous and increasingly popular alternative to offshoring, onshoring is ideal for companies who are seeking outside resources but want the work produced closer to home enabling faster delivery of higher quality software. For example, a company in San Francisco may be looking for Sharepoint support but finds that a local provider's quotes are above their budget due to being located in such a high-priced area. To save money, they can onshore the work to a partner in a smaller city to produce a high-quality product without having to deal with the headaches, timeline issues, and questionable quality of offshore firms. Onshoring is beneficial for a variety of organizations as it breaks down barriers and hurdles that are typical of offshoring and nearshoring. As a result, companies can speed up deadlines and produce quality products – all while keeping costs lower than the resources in their local areas. Onshoring Advantages Companies that seek out onshoring realize the benefits of real-time collaboration and enjoy working with a scalable network of qualified professionals who possess a breadth of knowledge and capabilities. Additionally, it's easier to explain to your partners your business problems and challenges, so there are no misinterpreted requirements, and you can feel confident in your partner's capabilities. Onshoring vs. Offshoring Once it comes to finding the solution to streamline internal teams and save money, it comes down to whether you want to offshore your projects or onshore your projects and what is ultimately best for your business. In comparison to offshoring, it's easier to see why onshoring is the smarter choice:• Offers similar teams regarding language and cultural barriers along with the ability to understand complex business problems.• Minimizes time zone concerns for improved collaboration and problem-solving• Allows for faster response time so that you can reduce delays• Lowers travel costs• Supports jobs within your county• Provides you with access to professionals with years of experience and a breadth of capabilities which are all focused on helping your business succeed The Shift to Onshoring in Recent Years While offshoring to India, South America, and Eastern Europe was a method of saving on labor costs, the shift in recent years has favored onshoring. In addition to more businesses realizing onshoring as a viable solution for improving quality and convenience, wages in some of the top offshoring locations, are rising with a shortage of capable talent. This lowers the labor savings associated with offshoring and without the advantage of cost savings, the disadvantages of outsourcing at such a physical and cultural distance aren't worth the headaches, delays, and hassle. Digital business is unforgiving. Commerce moves fast and does not stop to grant second chances, so it's no wonder more people are choosing to reshore their operations back to the United States to improve quality and convenience while still saving money over in-house teams. Rural Sourcing: Your Source for Onshoring Support Rural Sourcing is the leader in onshoring within the United States. Whether you are looking to build a new application, enhance a product, or scale your business intelligence, our team can help. With development centers located across the United States, you can access a network of people for specific projects or areas of focus that are most important to your business' success. You'll get the results you desire at the cost you can afford with onshoring services from Rural Sourcing. Onshoring Capabilities at Rural Sourcing At Rural Sourcing, we aim to provide cost-effective and convenient solutions to our partners across a variety of focus areas:• Application Development• Business Intelligence & Analytics• Cloud Solutions• Enterprise Applications• QA & Testing What sets us apart from other onshoring companies is that our teams are experts in modern application development, and no one is more expert in remote software delivery. We work hard with our community partners in the selection of our center locations and in bringing jobs and a positive culture to those communities, our colleagues, and our customers. With our extensive network of brains' trusts and experienced professionals, you'll tap into a valuable resource across a multitude of IT industries. Along with having an experienced team with a deep understanding of your field, we utilize state-of-the-art technology to meet the ever-changing and ever-increasing market demands. Contact Rural Sourcing to Learn More About our Onshoring IT Solutions In today's fast-paced world, your company can benefit from the experience, knowledge, and capabilities of an onshore team. Not only is it a faster alternative to offshoring, onshoring breaks down time zone, language, and cultural barriers that can delay deadlines, lengthen problem-solving timelines, and hurt your overall bottom line. Tapping a firm that's closer to your organization will reduce response time and allow you to take your product to market faster, so you can achieve your overarching goals quick. If you're ready to see if onshoring is right for you, contact Rural Sourcing. We've helped clients across the United States achieve their strategic goals with our unique IT solutions. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help your business. NEED HELP? LET'S TALK.

A 3 Step Process to Quality

In today’s digitally charged environment, executives leading software development companies consistently walk a tightrope as they balance two very different interpretations of the word, “quality.” Users’ perception of quality focuses on software that meets business requirements, while development teams concentrate on building programs and applications that satisfy product and system requirements. These diametrically opposed perspectives put software executives in the crosshairs of a heated debate as both sides attempt to evaluate quality. In reality, business requirements spring from the minds of customers and stakeholders who seek a software solution to a conceptual business challenge. Business requirements, which refer to the “what” of software development, do not translate smoothly into product requirements. In most, if not all, cases, several technology-based solutions can resolve the stated business problem. To select the most technically appropriate and efficient path to resolution, business requirements must be broken down into detailed capabilities, or “hows,” that align with business needs. The tightness of that alignment produces value for the end user customer. Loosely aligned technical capabilities are seen as less valuable by customers, often eroding the software’s price point and damaging the development company’s reputation. To protect the bottom line and reputation of a software development operations, company executives can take a three-pronged approach to extend quality assurance across the entire development process. This three-step methodology, which embraces a universal definition of quality as contrasted to value, incorporates best practices associated with a “right the first time” development approach, and calls for a cultural shift to reward the early identification and resolution of issues, is particularly relevant in today’s fast-paced marketplace. First: define quality, value For software company executives navigating this tightrope of conflicting expectations, it would be useful to distinguish between the concept of quality and its value in the marketplace. Conceptually, quality is a measurable outcome of development. The amount of quality associated with any software development project is constrained by available resources and the business priorities of a software development company. One approach to evaluating software quality uses three dimensions: Quality of design – the functions, capabilities and performance levels required by stakeholders. Quality of conformance – how a software product conforms to design, leverages appropriate standards and is completed on time and on budget. Quality of performance – how the software functions post-delivery, especially as it meets user needs, functions as intended, manages its workload, and is supported and maintained over time. While most customers will agree that some degree of quality is a baseline expectation, it is critical to understand that a high degree of quality may or may not be perceived as valuable in the marketplace. Customers perceive quality as driving value, and value is relative when compared to the software’s cost. For example, a customer’s limited budget can eliminate a high-value software solution from consideration when company finds a lower quality product acceptable because of its price. Second: Implement ‘fail fast’ In the digital world, customer expectations change on a dime, which can force development teams to pivot frequently. This rapidly changing environment, which has increased pressure on development companies to deliver software faster and at more competitive price points, calls for a new approach such as “fail fast” and “continuous integration.” However, misdirected emphasis has muddied the perception and value of the widely held fail fast principle. More than a few people place importance on the first word, “fail,” when it’s the second that matters. The success of a failing fast development initiative hinges on identifying issues, bugs and errors early in development, the sooner the better. To support failing fast, taking a “continuous integration” approach can help software development companies increase quality and keep costs in line. In this agile development practice, developers integrate their current work into a shared depository several times each day. Automated builds verify each integration, flagging problems and assuring immediate correction. As a result, the software stabilizes at a faster rate. Additionally, many software development companies share software in development with intended users at regular intervals in development. For example, presenting in-development software to users after major agile iterations can be another way to implement the fail fast approach. These frequent releases to end users brings defects to the surface faster than waiting until the development team is deep into the project to find issues. Three: Shift culture to reward early detection, correction Often, implementing a fail fast approach requires a culture shift in the software development organization. The importance of this cultural shift cannot be overemphasized. In the fail fast environment, quality assurance spans the entire development process rather than being an exercise that takes place at the end of development. When developers understand that identifying and resolving bugs early in the development cycle is rewarded, improves productivity, boosts quality and saves money, the organizational emphasis continuous improvement will begin to resonate. In the digital environment, customer expectations change frequently, and development teams must pivot quickly to maintain the tight alignment between technical capabilities and business requirements. Applying the fail fast and continuous improvement tenets to the software development process can increase the velocity of response to evolving customer requirements.

Understanding the risks of offshoring in today’s digital marketplace

Offshoring, the approach many U.S-based companies take to secure IT talent, has lost much of its original appeal. In the past, U.S. companies sent IT jobs overseas for one key reason: to capitalize on inexpensive labor. In many cases, offshore vendors claimed hourly rates that were 80% less expensive.  IT leaders, originally seduced by offshoring’s attractive bottom-line savings, quickly found out that offshoring’s challenges and risks often increased project costs, eroding the much anticipated savings. A few of these risks include: Time zone differencesLanguage compatibilityCultural barriersDomain expertiseEmployee turnoverGeopolitical risk IT leaders, now familiar with the risks associated with offshoring and its eroding potential savings, are replacing offshoring with a proven alternative to talent acquisition: domestic sourcing or onshore outsourcing. Domestic sourcing taps into talent inside the United States to deliver the speed to market and responsiveness IT organizations require in today’s digital marketplace. In addition, it leverages a deep familiarity of complex business problems, a depth and breadth of capabilities, access to a scalable brain trust, efficient collaboration, and attention to quality. However, determining the value of domestic sourcing has been difficult to illustrate. Today, companies can utilize the Rural Sourcing TCO Calculator, a robust tool that enables the customization of six distinct and commonly accepted productivity factors to a company’s current situation. This allows for a more accurate assessment of their total cost of ownership of outsourcing needs. A key advantage to domestic sourcing however, is its ability to deliver the agility needed to pivot IT priorities in response to changing customer expectations. It allows companies operating in this hyper-responsive digital environment to add and recast IT talent as needed. For example, this agility was recently demonstrated when one of our FinTech software clients asked Rural Sourcing to refocus our existing team and add a second scrum team to meet the regulatory demands of one of their largest clients. Taking a flexible approach allows IT teams to adjust project priorities and delivery timelines on the fly – based on the actionable recommendations that come from real-time analysis of customer expectations. NEED HELP? LET'S TALK.

3 Key Ways to Manage Speed to Market

Today’s age of digital adaptation mandates innovation and quality – at great speed. Way back in 2000, Jack Welch, in GE’s Annual Report, warned us, “If the rate of change inside an institution is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight.” For some companies, delivering innovation and quality simultaneously is exhilarating, while, for others, it’s a fast path to disaster. Consider these pivotal questions: Why is it that some companies can marry methods, such as Agile and DevOps, to continuously deliver successfully, while others struggle? What puts some companies at the forefront of market demand, while others strain to keep pace with the pack? Success, it seems, often comes down to the ability to unleash technology’s inherent productivity. ". . . companies have been early adopters of these capabilities and have reaped the benefits. Amazon, for instance, can release code every ten seconds or so, update 10,000 servers at a time, and rollback website changes with a single system command," as Satty Bhens, Ling Lau and Shar Markovitch of McKinsey point out. While most companies' leaders would love to bask in the reflected glory of these technology icons, the reality is most of us are not Amazon or Google. But, we can all learn from these market innovators that speed is an important factor in their success. They are constantly adapting and striving to be first to market. To meet the speed-to-market demands digital adaptation presents, executives should consider: Building collaborative development organizations to expand market capabilities. Empowering a cross-functional mindset that bridges internal and external resources. Creating partnerships that flex and reflect the need for speed. Collaboration is one of the keys to delivering software at speed in your business and getting it right the first time. For example, traditional brick and mortar financial institutions, under siege from digital-only startups, tapped internal development resources to create their own digital products and services – often carving out a competitive advantage for themselves in the process. Marcus, an online lending platform from Goldman Sachs is an example of how digital disruption re-energized collaborative internal development to expand the firm’s footprint in an underserved market segment. Originally begun as a way for retail clients to refinance credit card debt, Marcus leverages Goldman Sachs’ technology expertise to appeal to its smaller segment of retail clients. Smaller banks have little incentive to help retail clients refinance debt, which was the driving factor behind Goldman Sachs effort to build the Marcus platform specifically for that purpose in 2016. Having a cross-functional mindset helped Goldman Sachs identify an untapped market opportunity and quickly develop a solution to meet that need. Today, Marcus has expanded from a one-product platform to a multi-product business, which has created a competitive advantage for Goldman Sachs. Finally, consider combining internal skills with partner capabilities. With the precipitous growth of niche skills, the expense of hiring and retaining these resources on staff may not be feasible for the long term. Looking to partners for these skills allows you to flex your staffing as you grow and keep pace with market demands. In addition, supplementing internal resources with assistance from a partner can enable you to deliver to the marketplace a high-quality product quickly -- likely ahead of your competition. Today’s rate of marketplace change requires innovation and speed to market – a tough order for most companies to fulfill. However, taking a collaborative approach that unites internal and external resources behind shared goals can build the sustainable competitive advantage needed to prevail.

Four Trends Redefining the Workforce Model

As digital adaptation takes hold, four over-arching shifts are converging to change the way organizations build and evolve their workforces. 1. Access to Evolving Skills In this era of digital adaptation, organizations’ staffing needs change on a dime as they respond to evolving customer requirements. To react quickly, today’s workforce models need to combine in-house candidate identification, recruitment, and more thoughtful retention with precision-driven third-party staffing utilization. External staffing resources will need to meet the needs for specific technology domain expertise, industry experience, creative workforce models, innovative engagement structures, technical innovation and creativity, and much more. Hiring organizations will prefer third-party partners that can deliver on these increasingly complex staffing requirements while adding value in new and unexpected ways. 2. Need for Skill over Scale In the past, IT demands preferred scale above all else. That’s because the type of project being staffed required rote repetition of key tasks – an assignment perfectly suited to offshoring. Today’s technology projects demand a wider range of skills in smaller quantities, as well as a heightened need for collaboration and communication. The once-dominant waterfall approach to software development has been replaced with a more relevant Agile Methodology popularized by digital adaptation’s ebbing and flowing needs. Today, the skilled project team – one that has been created and staffed for a particular assignment able to cover everything from User Experience to backend database demands – dominates the workforce landscape. Agile teams are smaller, command a wider variety of technology skills, and require broader “soft” skills such as communication, real-time creative problem solving and collaboration. 3. Demand for Innovation, Collaboration Collaboration leads to better outcomes, and that’s true across all industries and markets. In acknowledgement of this widely held belief, market-leaders such as IBM and Yahoo are moving remote workers back into corporate offices. Why? It’s certainly not the opportunity to pay sky-high rent on urban offices. It’s an effort to reclaim the creativity and innovation that comes from sharing close quarters. While not every company can make such a significant investment in expensive office space, many companies are taking time to reevaluate and rebalance their approach to workforce building. Partners with innovative staffing delivery capabilities and those that adopt the latest communications tools and platforms to encourage collaboration are winning favor as hiring organizations seek expert help in balancing cost against the need for quality output, a chief motivator behind the “rehoming” trend. 4. Push to Expand Talent Pools Although the US technology-based talent pool dwindled as offshoring started to grow after 2001, efforts to promote STEM-based education have picked up in recent years. Despite that push, the slight uptick in STEM-based hiring that happened in 2016 came about because of foreign-born STEM-educated candidates. While STEM-based hiring is on the upswing, demand for technology skills continues to far outstrip supply. Today, public and private sector hiring organizations are competing with contracting firms, staff augmentation firms, and offshore companies for a limited number of STEM specialists. To rectify that imbalance, hiring organizations are partnering with high schools and universities to foster interest in and pursuit of STEM-based careers for US students. To learn more about how organizations in the midst of digital reinvention utilize workforce partners to build out their staffs, download our white paper, "An Introduction to Digital Adaptation.”

Amazon in “Your Town”: Awesome or Apprehensive?

How Will You Compete for Tech Talent? Most people’s first response to the prospect of Amazon coming to "Your Town" is awesome. Amazon is considering twenty top-tier cities as the site of its HQ2, which will inject 50,000 high paying tech jobs into the local market. The construction of offices, facilities, and infrastructure can be expected to provide more jobs. Finally, the projected growth in support businesses results in, guess what? Yes, even more, jobs. The question for established companies already operating in the community is this: How are you going to recruit new hires and retain tech employees when they're all flocking to Amazon? For employers in all industries, the war for talent, especially technology talent, is difficult – considering as US employment continues to grow with payroll employment up by 261,000 in October alone. According to UPP Technology, the high-tech employment rate in the US is approximately 97%. This information is not new news for most. There's a shortage of high tech talent and has been for some time. The prospect of Amazon showing up in your town seems intuitively attractive. Everyone wants to get behind it – at least publicly. So much so that 238 cities submitted proposals to become the next Amazon HQ2. Now that 20 cities have made Amazon’s short list, fear and trepidation about hiring in a new competitive landscape have begun to set in. Corporate headquarters already located in the 20 cities under consideration are reevaluating their hiring plans, knowing that they will be competing head-to-head with a new corporate citizen with as many as 50,000 six-figure jobs to fill. Employers are asking, “What are the unintended consequences of the inevitable imbalance of that much demand on a local technology labor market?” As Amazon contemplates its potential HQ2 sites, the local availability of talent is a critical factor driving site selection. Amazon may be a pioneering retailer, but it is not alone in this strategy to chase the talent pool. Companies, such as McDonald's, Aetna, GE, and Marriott, are abandoning their suburban offices in favor of millennial-friendly locations in large urban centers as market leaders embrace this relocation trend. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed to technology’s growing influence on nearly every industry as the driving force behind urban offices. Highly sought-after technology-skilled employees often prefer the convenience of a live/work/play environment in or near an urban center to a time-consuming and expensive commute. The appeal of urban offices signals a reversal of company executives’ previous preference for offices located near their homes. Today, the ease of recruiting and retaining technology workers is driving top-level corporate decisions. "It used to be the IT division was in a back office somewhere," Emanuel said. "The IT division and software, computer and data mining, et cetera, is now (located) next to the CEO. Otherwise, that company is gone." While Emanuel’s words are strong, we get the point. Long ago, many organizations paused their on-campus recruiting of Computer Science majors in favor of outsourcing their technology work overseas. These companies now realize that re-engaging that corporate recruiting muscle is easier said than done particularly when targeting highly discerning millennials who are as interested in what you stand for as what you pay. The pervasive digital adaptation of business means that not all companies will compete and win in the war for technology talent. Once you add to this uber-competitive race for tech talent the allure of Amazon’s 50,000 positions, then the competitive landscape becomes downright daunting. To increase your company’s chances of prevailing in this complex hiring environment, consider enacting some or all of the following recommendations: Implement effective strategies to reactivate your on-campus recruitment program. Consider bringing recruitment back in-house or taking a more “hands-on” approach rather than delegating this important function to an outside recruiting firm. Closely examine your retention rate. It'll take more than increasing a few salaries and throwing in a ping-pong table to win the talent retention war. Take a long, hard look at what your competitors are doing and consider doing more than matching them step-for-step. Survey your current employees to understand why they stay and interview millennials to understand how they make their employment decisions. Look at the models you can use to manage the risks of an overheating local labor market better. Understand which skills you absolutely, positively, must keep close to the center and which you can distribute. Take a critical look at those remote or dispersed models such as remote onshore development. Can you manage remote software development yourself or do you need an expert partner who might not be in the building but is situated in-country? To learn more on how you can create mitigating strategies for tech talent in a highly competitive market, contact us today.

3 Essential Software Development Skills I Learned on My Own

While an undergraduate computer science degree may be a good starting place for learning how to be a successful developer, it’s the real-life application of these skills that will set you apart from a typical graduate. Although I don’t expect the university setting to be able to teach everything, there are still some areas that I found my education to be lacking. Here are three skills that I consider fundamental to software development that I ended up teaching myself outside of the classroom. Debugging If you’ve ever worked with C++, you know that trying to track down a segmentation fault without debugging tools is much like trying to find a needle in a haystack. As an undergraduate, I spent countless hours commenting and uncommenting regions of code and writing variables to the console when simply loading the binary into gdb and entering the correct series of commands would have pointed me to the exact line where my error was. With a little direction, students could save hours of time and learn valuable debugging skills by using modern visual debuggers. Testing Not surprisingly, when students don’t learn how to debug their code they rarely know how to test it. I didn’t start writing out test cases myself until I was a teacher’s assistant in grad school. It was out of necessity rather than convenience; a reliable way to grade homework assignments from students who used the phrases “it works” and “it compiled” interchangeably. If agile patterns like Test Driven Development are to gain a foothold, it is imperative that developers learn testing as a cornerstone of their curriculum. Version Control Tools like Git and Subversion are wonderful for working on teams, but I hadn’t even heard the word “Git” in university until explaining to an instructor how I’d lost a project to a hard drive failure. When I started an internship at RSI, one of my first fumbles was to commit merge conflicts into my mark-up, but thankfully the commit was easily reversed. Considering how I pieced together group projects with copy and paste, I’m disappointed these tools weren’t taught as an alternative. Overall, I’m very happy with the knowledge that I obtained as part of my undergraduate education, but I encourage those in school now to take the opportunity to be open to beyond what they hear in lectures and labs and continue to learn outside the classroom. NEED HELP? LET'S TALK.

A Few of My Favorite Things (As a Systems Developer)

My job as a developer at Rural Sourcing goes beyond code on a computer screen. There are so many exciting and rewarding things about it, like: Developing a solution that stands the test of time makes my job that much more worthwhile. Years back, I developed some reports for a client company, and then I found out they were still using them a few years later! This means the technology matched their business need and the solution was relevant for a decent amount of time. I like helping the business user define requirements and how the solution might be implemented. A lot of times, I’m able to help users think of specific details, related situations, and/or other requirements that might have been left out. Depending on the requirements, different technical designs will be used. If all of the requirements aren’t known and all the “what-ifs” not accounted for, the wrong technical design might be selected. If that happens, there could be two results. Either the solution won’t match what the customer really needs or the project will have to be reorganized during development and probably end up costing a lot more. So, it’s best to form a partnership up-front while requirements are defined and the solution is designed. I like creating prototypes for our clients. A prototype could be as simple as a PowerPoint presentation that shows how a screen might look. It could be a diagram that shows relationships between different screens. A more advanced prototype could use the technology that will be used to implement the solution to show the basic solution including screen layout and navigation. Sometimes a prototype will demonstrate that the technology works for the business need. Sometimes, it will show technical challenges where “work-arounds” are needed. It could even show that the technology originally selected is not the best one to work with! That’s not necessarily bad news… It’s best to know that all kind of stuff up-front as much as possible. Many times, upon seeing a prototype, users will come up with more ideas for their application. It’s good to get those ideas up-front also. When I participate in helping to define the requirements as part of designing the solution, then I learn more about the users’ real needs. It gives me more depth that I can draw upon when making those countless small technical decisions that need to be made when doing actual development. Sometimes I get to work with more people; in that case it helps me know who to ask when questions come up in the future. I also like to automate routine tasks. I like to provide the user with immediate access to more combinations of information. Providing computer software to do this helps people and it helps the business. Good software frees up users to exercise their brain power in creative ways. It helps them use time more effectively. It empowers users to respond to the needs of internal and external customers better. NEED HELP? LET'S TALK