Business colleagues working in team

A Small External Enterprise Development Team is Cheaper than Your Own

Business colleagues working in team

Time is money in the application development business. We have to get to market sooner so someone else does not gazump us, and pip us at the post. We increase the likelihood of this with every delay. Moreover, the longer your in-house team takes to get you through the swamp, the higher the project cost to you.

Of course, in theory this should not be the case. Why bring in a team from outside, and pay more to support their corporate structure? Even going for a contract micro team ought not to make financial sense, because we have to fund their mark-up and their profit taking. Our common sense tells us that this is crazy. But, hold that thought for a minute. What would you say if a small external enterprise development team was actually cheaper? To achieve that, they would have to work faster too.

The Case Against Having Your Own Internal Enterprise Development Team

Even if you were able to keep your own team fully occupied – which is unlikely in the long term – having your own digital talent pool works out expensive when you factor in the total cost. Your difficulties begin with the hiring process, especially if you do not fully understand the project topic, and have to subcontract the hiring task.

If you decide to attempt this yourself, your learning curve could push out the project completion date. Whichever way you decide to go, you are up for paying advertising, orientation training, technical upskilling, travel expenses, and salaries all of which are going to rob your time. Moreover, a wrong recruitment decision would cost three times the new employee’s annual salary, and there is no sign of that changing.

But that is not all, not all by far. If want your in-house team to keep their work files in the office, then you are going to have to buy them laptops, plus extra screens so they can keep track of what they are doing. Those laptops are going to need desks, and those employees, chairs to sit in. Plus, you are going to need expensive workspace with good security for your team’s base.

If we really wanted to lay it on, we would add software / cloud costs, telephony, internet access, and ongoing technical training to the growing pile. We did a quick scan on PayScale. The median salary of a computer programmer in Ireland is €38,000 per year and that is just the beginning. If you need a program manager for your computer software, their salary will be almost double that at €65,000 annually.

The Case for a Small External Enterprise Development Team

The case for a small externally sourced enterprise development team revolves around the opportunity cost – or loss to put in bluntly – of hiring your own specialist staff for projects. If you own a smaller business with up to 100 people, you are going to have to find work for idle digital fingers, after you roll out your in-house enterprise project. If you do not, you head down the road towards owning a dysfunctional team lacking a core, shared objective to drive them forward.

Compared to this potential extravagance, hiring a small external enterprise development team on an as-needed basis makes far more sense. Using a good service provider as a ‘convenience store’ drives enterprise development costs down through the floor, relative to having your own permanent team. Moreover, the major savings that arise are in your hands and free to deploy as opportunities arise. A successful business is quick and nimble, with cash flow on tap for R & D.

Which Services to Share?

It often makes sense to pool resources. Farmers have been doing so for decades by collectively owning expensive combine harvesters. France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain have successfully pooled their manufacturing power to take on Boeing with their Airbus. But does this mean that shared services are right in every situation?

The Main Reasons for Sharing

The primary argument is economies of scale. If the Airbus partners each made 25% of the engines their production lines would be shorter and they would collectively need more technicians and tools. The second line of reasoning is that shared processes are more efficient, because there are greater opportunities for standardisation.

Is This the Same as Outsourcing?

Definitely not! If France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain has decided to form a collective airline and asked Boeing to build their fleet of aircraft, then they would have outsourced airplane manufacture and lost a strategic industry. This is where the bigger picture comes into play.

The Downside of Sharing

Centralising activities can cause havoc with workflow, and implode decentralised structures that have evolved over time. The Airbus technology called for creative ways to move aircraft fuselages around. In the case of farmers, they had to learn to be patient and accept that they would not always harvest at the optimum time.

Things Best Not Shared

Core business is what brings in the money, and this should be tailor-made to its market. It is also what keeps the company afloat and therefore best kept on board. The core business of the French, German, United Kingdom and Spanish civilian aircraft industry is transporting passengers. This is why they are able to share an aircraft supply chain that spun off into a commercial success story.

Things Best Shared

It follows that activities that are neither core nor place bound – and can therefore happen anywhere – are the best targets for sharing. Anything processed on a computer can be processed on a remote computer. This is why automated accounting, stock control and human resources are the perfect services to share.

So Case Closed Then?

No, not quite.  Technology has yet to overtake our humanity, our desire to feel part of the process and our need to feel valued. When an employee, supplier or customer has a problem with our administration it’s just not good enough to abdicate and say ‘Oh, you have to speak to Dublin, they do it there’.

Call centres are a good example of abdication from stakeholder care. To an extent, these have ‘confiscated’ the right of customers to speak to speak directly to their providers. This has cost businesses more customers that they may wish to measure. Sharing services is not about relinquishing the duty to remain in touch. It is simply a more efficient way of managing routine matters.

Talk to Denizon about which services to share: contact us.

Shared Services – Are They A Good Idea

Things happen fast in business and we need to stay on top. It does not seem long ago that some enterprises were still hands-on traders or artisans with a few youngsters to help out. Folk like that did not do admin and their accounting was a matter of making sure there was enough money in the jar.

When Wal-Mart’s Sam Walton took over his first shop in 1945 things had moved on from there, although he did still deal directly with his customers. When he died his legacy was 380,000 jobs, and a business larger than most economies. So there’s plenty we can learn from how he grew his business.

One of Sam’s secrets was his capacity to centralise what needed gathering together, while empowering store managers to think independently when it came to local conditions. His regional warehouses had individual outlets clustered around them within one day’s drive each. This shared service eliminated 90% of safety stock and released capital for expansion.

Wal-Mart took sharing services a step further in February 2006, when it centralised accounts payable, accounts receivable, general accounting and human resources administration at Wal-Mart Stores and Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The objective was to bring costs down, while allowing local managers more time to focus on their business plans and other initiatives. As a further spin-off, Wal-Mart was able to integrate its data on a single SAP platform and eliminate significant roadblocks.

This is an excellent example of sharing services by creating own centres of excellence.  Of course, this is not the only business possibility. Other corporates have successfully completely outsourced their support activities, and Wal-Mart has no doubt had a variety of similar offers too. But, is the Wal-Mart picture entirely rosy, or is there a catch?

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has indicated that top talent may be the loser globally. This is because the Wal-Mart model removes many challenges through standardization, and offers less scope for internal promotion as a result. Language and cultural differences may also have a long-term detrimental effect on the way the departments work well together.

Local outsourcing – this is the business model where several firms engage a shared service provider independently- may hence prove to be a more malleable option for smaller companies. It often makes more sense to hunt down made-to-order services. Offerings such as the professional support we offer on this site: contact us.