If you take things like large scale package implementations, many CIOs have become comfortable with things like traditional development and data cleansing being done offshore. Some unit testing is also a natural fit. But the real prize is to get more of the upfront design and configuration done offshore. India is recognising that different skills are needed for this type of work which interacts directly with the business client. Lots of issues still abound, but some real ground-breaking projects now exist in the SAP and Oracle space. Think about it - if you are doing a global roll-out of an SAP template, housing the core model in India, then some distance between the core team and the local politics can be beneficial in maintaining the integrity of the core model.
Dave Harris, director of IT solutions at luxury fashion company Burberry, has made extensive use of offshore for both support and development as the company rolls out its new SAP solution across the world. He says: “Like all companies, we’re under pressure to make best use of our IT budget, and offshoring has enabled us to achieve levels of service we simply couldn’t have afforded with a 100% onshore operation. The key to making it work is to get the right balance between onshore and offshore, locating certain key people from the offshore provider right here within our businesses in the UK and our deployment locations around the world.”
Why pay 40% more?
Data security is clearly a very hot topic at the moment, and the movement of sensitive data offshore is still seen by many as a non-starter, especially in the public sector. However, as Salil Parekh of Capgemini India told a UK public sector conference recently, this can mean that taxpayers are paying up to 40 per cent more than necessary for IT development. As a result, it is not surprising that people are now looking hard at solving the data security challenge that offshore could pose. There are many ways around the security issues. Testing using artificial data has now moved from the experimental to the proven. Increasingly close attention is being paid to EC Directives for the safeguarding of personal data. Moreover, personnel security measures in India, following the events of last November, are now starting to match and even exceed those commonly used in the UK.
The best Indian practitioners appreciate that ‘application security’ is a critical business requirement, and check for vulnerabilities at every stage – from design to support. For example, once development has been completed offshore – and before UK go-live - source code can be subjected to a comprehensive (and independent) security review.
So if you are feeling the credit crunch, perhaps it’s time for a fresh look at what India has to offer, and to update yourself on what India has been doing to address issues such as security and agile development.
As always, our jobs come down to balancing risk on one side and cost/value on the other. Revisiting your offshoring strategy, however, could be one way of putting more days back into that stretched IT budget, especially if you are willing to take a fresh, unblinkered look at what is on offer.
Liz Benison is VP Technology Services at www.uk.capgemini.com