In partnership with PGS Software
If you could go back in time and ask a CTO from 2001 what outsourcing IT is, you would probably hear that it’s about ordering software based on detailed specifications. Today, this approach is as archaic as Windows Millennium; however, some organisations still view outsourcing IT exactly as described above.
Newsflash: It’s not the right approach – it’s asking for trouble. And in this article, I’m going to explain why that is the case – and how you can order IT better.
Reason 1: You’re (probably) not writing specifications for a living, so don’t invest too much time and money creating them
As mentioned, developing software in accordance with client specifications was common practice 20 years ago. However, this cooperation model often resulted in spectacular failures. Why? First, writing specifications is difficult. Executives working at companies that don’t develop software may find it impossible to hit the nail on the head the first time around. And even if they somehow are sufficiently skilled to outline such a document, it’s easy to overlook key features or overly focus on technical elements that are not important from the business perspective.
Innovation over the last two decades shows better ways to order custom software – yet many companies still rely on the archaic approach. First, they prepare a technical specification of functionalities. Next, they show it to a few software providers before selecting the cheapest one. Responsible technical partners will decline such a cooperation idea, and instead, propose a modern path. But as you can imagine, there will always be someone who offers to do it for a bargain.
Now, this usually won’t end well. Best case scenario: the client gets exactly what was described – and it’s not very useful from the business perspective because the specification was flawed. Worst case scenario: the specification wasn’t even feasible, and the result is a Frankenstein monster.
If not specification-driven, then how?
The answer is simple (and I already spoiled it in the title): concentrate on the WHY. Leave the HOW to the technological partner.
If you’ve teamed up with a professional – and established – technology supplier, they will know what to do. You don’t have to explain to a professional software manufacturer how to do software. Instead, concentrate on explaining your challenges and goals.
In today’s IT reality, software houses not only employ software developers and/or engineers; they also rely on user experience designers, business analysts, or solution architects. These professionals specialise in finding the optimal solutions to customers’ problems and outlining the best possible concept. As a result, by not writing a specification on your own, you both save time and afford yourself the opportunity of getting a far better and technologically advanced solution than one specified in-house.
A metaphor to convince you
If you’re still not convinced that the problem-solving approach is superior to writing detailed specifications, I’d like to tell you a story…
Imagine you’re invited to a fancy black-tie charity fundraiser but none of your clothes are appropriate for the event. You go shopping looking for something nice, but nothing fits. Worse still, you haven’t even seen anything visually appealing. After a wasted afternoon, you see only one option – visiting a tailor, and ordering something made especially for you.
Now, what would probably happen now is: you describe to the tailor what you need the clothes for, what colours you like, and if you’re a regular or slim fit person; next, the tailor measures you, suggests some materials (adjusted to your budget) and designs something original; after a week or so, you visit the tailor to see the first results and try the new clothes on; if needed, further adjustments can be made.
However, if you’re not a tailor or fashion designer yourself, there’s one thing you will definitely not do: approach the tailor with a detailed project of your own idea, filled with technical descriptions and suggestions on how to complete your design. A respectable tailor probably wouldn’t even spend too much time looking at your draft; chances are, it won’t make any sense. So, why would you even think to apply a similar approach to ordering custom software?
Reason 2: The Market is Short on IT Specialists
The second reason why you should concentrate more on problem-solving than simply outsourcing IT specialists is of a practical nature.
For years now, the labour market has seen an ever-increasing tech talent shortage. IT was always short on specialists, but now the problem is bigger than ever. By 2020, the White House Administration’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology predicted a shortfall of almost one million tech professionals – the highest since 2008. The pandemic definitely didn’t help to solve this issue – quite the contrary. Already in 2020, 63% of Indian companies reported major talent shortages. In 2021, the Indian market – the world’s biggest offshoring location – is reported to have a shortage of over three million IT specialists.
How can problem-solving help?
As a result of these issues, old ways of working are no longer optimum. IT companies had to accommodate working with limited manpower, which has become the new normal. The changing landscape also forces companies looking to outsource, to adjust their mindset in terms of expectations.
So, if your goal is to have your own specified solution developed, body leasing may no longer be easy to obtain (or even available at all). If, however, you let the technology partner work on the concept of your digital product, they’ll be able to better plan the development and optimise the production – thus they’ll be able to allocate experts to your project.
IT specialist tend to cherry pick projects
What’s more, with such a market structure, IT specialists can choose the companies they work with, and the projects they work on. From their perspective, developing modern, top-notch technical concepts is far more appealing than working on something defined by executives not writing specifications for a living.
Remember – Embracing problem-solving is beneficial to YOU
It’s important to emphasise that from the perspective of both the aforementioned reasons, the result will be a better, technologically advanced solution that is tailored to your specific business needs and goals. IT partners are equipped with the knowledge, experience, and capacity to deliver the best possible solution. So, rather than focusing on a specific solution, let experts find the optimal solution for you – it’s a win-win situation!
If you’d like to learn more about outsourcing, I encourage you to read our Ultimate Guide to Outsourcing IT in 2021.
**This article is a summarised version of an earlier article entitled: “Don’t Write Detailed Specifications When Ordering Custom Software“. Read the original article here. **
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