The Hi-Tech industry has witnessed a truly global adoption model when it comes to expansion of its tech product usage and implementations. This calls for executives to plan rapid scaling of engineering and services teams to address the growing market demands. While many Hi-Tech companies have embarked on point projects with external services partners, others have established dedicated Global In-house Centers (GIC) with chosen vendor partners, for flexible and long-term scale.
Mphasis has been on the forefront of providing various engagement models for our clients. Through 20+ years of experience, we have created best practices around GICs to provide clients with product development, sustenance, innovation and digital transformation services.
Mphasis advises clients to consider the following guiding principles in this space to achieve their business goals.
• Addressing short to medium term initiatives may be critical for several technology executives. However, it is recommended to plan GICs for the long-term – say 3 or 5 years, to ensure the key investments are made ahead, infrastructure and tools are setup, continuous and robust workload plan is created, and detailed KPIs are executed and tracked effectively. You could use the GIC for new product development, digital transformation, sustenance, or innovation programs that require rapid scale and diverse talent. A long-term vision enables both parties to reap the benefits of core team building and its stabilization. This means sharing the product/application transformation roadmap with your partner and co-planning on team allocation or specialist hiring strategies.
• As you plan for the engagement, it is imperative to communicate your preferred model of engagement with the GIC partner. Most partners offer fully managed services, co-managed or staff augmentation services. As the technology services buyer, you decide on the best model for your company after considering your product/application release plans and the level of involvement required from your own team and the partner team. Fully managed services provide the best option if you are looking to derive most value from the GIC partner’s best practices, tools, solution accelerators and more. You can delegate whole portions of your product development with key measurement criteria for tracking the outcomes. Co-managed teams mean both parties have equal responsibility in the release outcome. They collaborate daily with HQ/core teams on the product plans with a key leader, often a Director, from HQ leading the collaboration effort. Staff augmentation can be a starter approach some executives take to test the waters for some programs within the GIC construct. This helps understand the capabilities, challenges and make any adjustments prior to transitioning to a managed services model.
• Classifying the workloads to be shared with the GICs is extremely important – specialist partners address critical product development experiences faster and better than generic IT services partners. Identifying such product development partners is important to ensure they imbibe your own product development goals, processes, release cycles, tools and more. At the same time, IT services partners with domain expertise may hold the key when it comes to successful business transformation or digital transformation initiatives. It is also definitely worthwhile to understand the in-house solutions or accelerators that the partner brings – this could result in some product extensions, faster delivery, and cost savings
• Identify GIC partners who match your own software development or people development culture. This makes translation of product goals and outcomes much easier to communicate. It is important to consider the GIC teams as an extension of your own HQ team. Give them the time to ramp-up their product knowledge and hold them accountable like your own team. It is critical to include them in core or contextual engineering work and avoid sending them work that your team would not do. Encourage open conversations in stand-up or review meetings to foster sharing creative or critical inputs.
• GIC partners provide you with the flexibility to assemble a team in almost all major global locations. However, their experience in a specific location of your choice directly translates to their ability to allocate their existing teams or hire afresh specifically for your requirement. Talent retention mechanisms are critical in various competitive and advanced technology locations. You can inquire about the GIC partner’s talent retention methods and share your own practices for the future. Often, due to the scale of their operations, GIC partners have attractive methods to retain critical talent. This could include salary upgrades, career paths, college study options, bonuses, rewards, and recognition. Several technology companies include the GIC partner teams in their hackathons, or rewards and recognition programs. This motivates the GIC teams to perform even better and introduces stickiness.
• GICs often provide avenues to scale quickly based on your business needs. You must plan on scaling the GIC as you would do for your own FTE teams at HQ/satellite locations. Reasonable scale planning provides the partner with adequate timeframes to address the needs timely. Some partners are specialists in certain domains or technologies, and it is important to identify and contract with partners who can bring the scale on skills and has a breadth in their various offerings to drive efficiencies for you.
• It is important to understand the flexibility of the GIC partners during the identification and contracting process. Have an open dialog in advance with your chosen partner around the flexibility expected if you encounter spikes in product releases or unplanned projects. If possible, have the flexibility needs defined in the teaming agreement. Most GIC partners will be flexible on terms but, you must be aware of any costs related to that flexibility. Look for partners who can flex with your needs and skills and can stick with you long-term. It is recommended to avoid abrupt changes in team structure or size. Plan for flexibility discussions ahead, based on your HQ business or product goals.
• Very often GIC partners have team members ready to be deployed as core teams. Effective training and knowledge management programs on your product, application, processes, tools and more is required to ensure the lead-off and long-term success. GIC partners like Mphasis promote a strong learning culture and an effective training during client onboarding. Mphasis also follows a Client University model that adopts client knowledge and certifications to ensure future team members are aware of expectations and delivery is green. Extending HQ knowledge management resources to GIC teams is also be an effective way to ensure currency on tools and processes.
• With global onsite/offshore/nearshore/remote workforce, GIC partners can provide for time-zone coverage that meets your needs. In most instances, it is an overlap of a few hours with your engineering or IT teams to provide updates on the completed and in-flight items affecting your next release. In rare cases, clients also require full overlap with HQ hours for a few core team members. GIC partners are adept at providing that capability but at a higher cost related to late shifts ate GIC locations.
• GICs often mimic the client’s HQ/satellite location setup or infrastructure. There are one-time activities to ensure the physical, security and infrastructure setup of the GIC location are same as that at your location. Co-planning on this aspect with your own IT and CISO is extremely important; share those plans with the partner’s IT/CISO org. Discuss these during contracting stage, and have your partner sign up for safeguards that meet or exceed your own in terms of access controlled physical location and secure networks with access to on-premise or cloud.
• Security controls must be in place from day one of your GIC operation. Co-opt your GIC partner on the security plans and have an effective DR plan as well. The controls must ensure that your product information and related data are secure within the GIC data center or cloud. Ensure your GIC partner understands your business goals and takes measures that protect your investments with care. Audit the GIC partner’s security posture, tools, DR plans and more.
• The key to a successful GIC partnership is the establishment of a robust delivery assurance framework that addresses daily business-as-usual operations as well as those arising from business exigencies or business continuity plans, similar to those activated due to the COVID-19 crisis. GIC providers with experiences in multi-year engagements excel in mobilizing countermeasures quickly using digital delivery parameters like environment simulation for remote staff with data security as prime factor, remote collaboration & knowledge management, service quality reliability, innovation, and employee wellness. They often have pre-tested tools & frameworks that review monthly health checks, provides early risk identification and implements mitigation processes quickly.
• A practice you must institute is a regular governance cadence with key stakeholders at multiple levels of both parties, as this promotes accountability and transparency – through quarterly/monthly/annual reviews and surveys. Governance meetings have also proven to be a rich source of product/process improvements or innovation ideas from both teams and is greatly useful for all stakeholders.
Working with Mphasis, our clients take advantage of our holistic learnings, best practices and flexibility derived from delivering 1000s of successful product and application releases over the last several decades. Our engagement and delivery methodologies are metrics-driven and transparent for you as a Client to review and suggest modifications. As always, it is critical to adjust your GIC strategy based on the learnings and progress towards outcomes.