Outsourcing – Who Does it and Why?

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There has long been a question in business about insourcing and outsourcing. Each strategy has its fans and proponents, but one thing is extremely clear, a single company, no matter how large, cannot do it all. There are many companies that outsource, and they have come to realize that there are significant benefits available to them in doing so.

Is Outsourcing the Right Strategy for Your Business?

These organizations have understood a fundamental truth – namely, by focusing internally on their core business and outsourcing non-core functions, they can not only be more efficient and effective; they can also save money. Outsourcing happens around the world, and with businesses of all sizes; some of whom you might recognize. Some examples of companies that outsource include:

Google

When talking about the internet and technology, this is a company that everyone knows. Google started as a simple search engine but has since become a massive organization offering hardware and software services in addition to its advertising services with employees distributed around the world. Today Google is almost a proverb for the internet itself, and its name has become a verb used by everyone when talking about searching online.

While Google’s creed of “Don’t be evil” is no longer part of its code of conduct, it is a company with exceptional business practices and policies. Google is a technology company – that is, its strength and the heart of its business. This is something that Google has realized also. They are one of the major companies that outsource and have been outsourcing non-core functions like admin and IT work for years.

However, Google also understands that even with its size, it cannot do it all. To that end, they have also been outsourcing development work, email support for products like AdWords, and more. Google is expanding this even further and in addition to email support, also offering phone support with support staff around the world. These individuals are seamlessly blended into their inhouse support team, providing clients with improved response times at a reasonable cost.

Lessons to Learn –

Google understood that size is irrelevant when it comes to outsourcing. By understanding what work can be outsourced and what work needs to stay inhouse, Google was able to maximize its budget utilization.

Alibaba

When talking about online eCommerce firms, several names come to mind. You have Amazon and eBay, of course, but a company that has quickly come to the fore is Alibaba. Alibaba is another example of companies that outsource, but unlike Amazon and eBay, Alibaba is based in China, which makes the challenges of outsourcing somewhat different.

In most cases, companies that outsource do so based on cost. Often this is to lower-cost countries like India, China, and the Far East. However, when the company itself is based in that region, the paradigm shifts. Alibaba understood that while they could keep their manufacturing and resource costs low locally, the skills they needed to grow were not available at scale in their region.

With this in mind, Alibaba started looking for partners and outsourcers early in their development across a host of different projects and found many of the skills they needed in the US. By outsourcing web development to the US, the site flourished and grew at an astronomical pace.

Lessons to Learn –

The main point to pick up on here is that you need to have an understanding of your requirements. By knowing what skills were lacking in their region, Alibaba was quickly able to find resources elsewhere able to accomplish the tasks they needed to get done.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a well-known name when it comes to communication. It’s being used globally by millions and has recently started making forays into online payments to benefit customers further. However, WhatsApp did not start out as the company you see before you today.

When thinking about companies that outsource, WhatsApp has been doing it from the start. As early as 2012, WhatsApp was a small organization with only 30 full-time employees and five part-timers. Based out of Mountain View California, they understood that if they wanted to grow, they needed to keep costs down. For WhatsApp, Russia was the answer, and they sourced development resources from Russia for a small fraction of what they would have had to pay in the US.

Lessons to Learn –

The WhatsApp team understood that geography should not be a boundary. To that end, they identified what they needed to grow and then looked globally for where they could gain access to those skills cost-effectively.

Basecamp

For project managers and others interested in a tool to keep tasks on target, Basecamp is really well known. Basecamp started out small, and while they are prevalent in the project management field, they maintained a small footprint of inhouse resources.

Basecamp actually understood that trying to do everything by themselves was not the right strategy for their organization. They saw that while their tool was being used by others to manage projects and work, they were having problems internally with organization and client work. To resolve this situation, Basecamp decided to outsource some essential functions so that their internal teams were able to focus.

With Basecamp, improving the app was a task that needed to get done, but Basecamp understood that others could also perform that task. By using remote developers, Basecamp was able to continue driving improvements into the product, which helped it grow. Simultaneously, internal staff were able to focus on internal processes and organization, which ensured the company thrived.

Lessons to Learn –

The critical point to understand with Basecamp is that companies need to know where their problems are. In Basecamps case, it was not with development or skills, but rather their own internal business operations and time. By outsourcing work to others, Basecamp was better able to focus on running their own organization.

Skype

Skype was a precursor and leader in the online video field. With software clients that work across smartphones and PCs almost everyone has used or knows what Skype is. Skype, like WhatsApp, realized that product development was not the key to its success. Instead, Skype needed to find the right talent and skills at a cost point that made sense so they could continue to develop the software while keeping costs low.

Skype is another major company that outsources, and they picked Estonia as a source of talent and brought on several developers to work on the product. As time progressed, and these developers demonstrated success, Skype brought them in as partners further cementing the relationship. The strategy worked for Skype as Microsoft bought them for $8.5 billion in 2011.

Lessons to Learn –

Skype demonstrates a similar experience to WhatsApp with its focus on finding talent globally. Both organizations have shown that the most critical requirement is the skills available and not just their geography.

Slack

Slack has completely revolutionized the way companies work and changed collaboration as we know it. In many cases, Slack has perhaps done too much to improve communication as employees sitting beside each other will often just slack between themselves instead of conversing in person!

Started in 2013, Slack has quickly become the defacto standard within high tech organizations for internal communication. With its simple to use interface and its integration capabilities, it’s a definite winner, but this success didn’t happen by itself.

Slack had a core team of only four developers that built the product and took it to market. However, this group knew that for their product to be successful, they needed to ensure that it looked good and worked flawlessly. To that end, Slack engaged an outsourced design firm for beta testing. This feedback about what worked and what did not with the product helped Slack build a solution that businesses embraced.

Lessons to Learn –

Slack understood that design elements and product beta testing were beyond their skillset. They knew that, like any good author, editing your own work is often the most laborious and challenging task. By using a trustworthy third party, Slack was able to gain valuable insight into what worked from a customer’s point of view.

GitHub

For developers and coders, GitHub is one of the most important tools and resources available. Launched in 2008, it quickly became a “go-to” repository for developers looking to document, share, and host private code. While GitHub promptly became one of the best ways of sharing details on entire projects, it was not really suitable for smaller code snippets.

This was when Gist was born as an idea. After identifying what they wanted to do and how they wanted it to look, the question was who would build it. The founders of GitHub did not have enough financial capital to do the work themselves, so their solution was hiring an outsourced developer as a Git contractor.

Lessons to Learn –

With over 56 million projects and more than 600 employees, GitHub has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Its success is purely down to an understanding of what to focus on internally and what can be better done through the use of outside resources. This is a prime example of a company that outsources based on capacity.

Opera

While Chrome is perhaps the most well-known browser on the market at the current time, that was not always the situation. The browser wars between Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera were hard-fought. Internet Explorer is no longer relevant with Microsoft’s move to Edge, and while Firefox is still around its market share is stagnant. Opera, however, has had some fervent fans for many years, and for a good reason.

As an extremely lightweight web browser, Opera is straightforward to use and continues to offer cutting edge features that users need. Launched at the dawn of the internet era in 1995, Opera was initially a side project inside Telenor – one of Norway’s largest telecommunications companies. Opera eventually began as a separate company outside Telenor’s umbrella, but Oracle Software ultimately acquired it.

Lessons to Learn –

While initial funding for Opera was provided by its parent company when Opera became its own entity, resources were limited. Understanding these limitations was a critical decision as it helped influence Opera’s use of outsourced development resources. Opera used developers around the world based on skills and abilities.

MySQL

MySQL has been around for a while, and right from its inception, it was just that little bit different in comparison to its competitors. MySQL understood that success for them was through a GNU General Public Licence linked with an outsourcing strategy from day one.

This strategy paid immediate dividends for the company and saw its growth skyrocket. With an almost fully outsourced development team along with operational staff distributed around the world, MySQL is used by millions of organizations globally.

Lessons to Learn –

MySQL knew and understood that to compete, they needed to be different from their competitors. They took this strategy to heart and built a plan that included outsourcing to maintain costs at very low levels.

Apple

When discussing revolutionary technology companies, Apple’s name needs to be at the top of everyone’s list. This company that started with the humble desktop became one of the key innovators and then completely changed the world of music and mobile phone technology. The initial iPod demolished its competitors and changed how we listen to and enjoy music. In a similar vein, Motorola and Nokia’s dominance of the mobile phone market and Blackberries dominance of the smaller smartphone field were all shattered with Apple’s launch of the iPhone. Currently valued at over $1.3 trillion, Apple is nothing if not innovative, and millions of consumers swear by its products and ecosystem.

However, while Apple designs excellent products, it does not make or manufacture them all by itself. Apple is another example of a company that outsources, and it depends on multiple partners in the US, Asia, and the Far East for producing hardware and services. In some cases, these relationships go back decades. By outsourcing their supply chain and manufacturing facilities, Apple is able to focus on its core strength – designing great products that people like to use.

This relationship benefits both parties, though. Apple gains the ability to focus on their strengths. The partners also gain as they know that Apple is always innovating and changing. For these organizations, they know that Apple will be launching new products on a regular cycle. Products that consumers will want to purchase.

Lessons to Learn –

Apple has understood their strengths well. Also, Apple has recognized that outsourcing is about building relationships and ensuring that both parties benefit. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that Apple has been able to navigate successfully and it’s a relationship that has benefited all of us also.

Why Do Companies Outsource?

As you can see, there are many different reasons why companies outsource. The list of companies that outsource we have provided you with is only the tip of the iceberg.

Is Outsourcing the Right Strategy for Your Business?

A study from Deloitte highlighted that two of the most common reasons for outsourcing include a greater focus on core business services and using outsourcing services as a way to reduce costs. The study also highlighted other reasons to outsource, including improving quality, increasing capacity, and improved skills.

In many cases, there is no one single reason for why outsourcing makes sense. Many different reasons might apply based on where a business is in its growth. In many cases, it might be a combination of factors – skill and cost, or capacity and time to market. One fact is clear, though – outsourcing, when done right, can help companies become significantly more efficient and effective.

Conclusion

Today the question about whether or not your business should outsource is almost irrelevant. Companies that want to compete on a global scale need to look for the most cost-effective and useful strategies possible, and outsourcing is high up on that list. It is clear that regardless of the size of the business and its services, there are benefits that can be realized by outsourcing. Companies around the world have started to understand this concept to an ever greater degree. They have recognized and grasp the fact that by outsourcing non-core functions, they are better able to focus on what their business was founded to do.

At NIX, we have been helping provide outsourced software development services for companies worldwide for over 25 years. Our team of engineers and analysts can work with you to understand how outsourcing can benefit your organization. We can build a plan that makes sense and helps you realize benefits in cost and efficiencies. Contact us to find out how we can help.