Quality Doesn’t have to be an Afterthought

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outsourcing quality sacrificeThere once was a time when "settlers" were a hearty bunch. They were determined, adventurous folks who risked all to head out from their homes in the East to grab a piece of the unknown in the West on the premise of “what might be.”

In the business of IT in the 21st century, "settlers" are anything but adventurous. They pass along creative work to others – also known as outsourcing – and then they “settle” for whatever quality product comes back to them, reasoning that it has to be this way. With a shrug and a sigh, they "settle" for the diminished quality resulting from relinquished control as the price they must pay to get things cheaper and faster.

Reporting on InformationWeek’s second annual “State of IT Outsourcing Survey,” Michael Healy reports a significant increase in outsourcing for all phases of technology. He says,

Even as the economy improves, the reality of IT service delivery is less positive: We're not willing to fight to hire talent, opting instead to outsource more and more, yet not investing in vital management tools and skills.

Worse, quality is too often an afterthought.

Healy points out there are reasons for this:

In the past 32 months, we've been through brutal recession, uneasy recovery, and dramatic technology change. That's more than two and a half years of turmoil and transformation in your business. Not only have IT operations had to morph based on business realities, we've had to adapt to expanded virtualization options, data center convergence, increasing storage volumes, and the rise of mobile devices and consumerization, as well as shifting compliance standards for everything from credit card payments to Web security.

That’s an awful lot to swallow during a nearly three-year period when everybody was having to tighten their financial belts and try to do more with less. Healy adds that this pressure hasn’t exactly been good for the IT sector:

Given a whole new set of strategic variables plus fewer resources, it's no wonder IT is looking for help. But we're not figuring out how to apply outside talent as a means to deliver quality IT. We're still just chasing fast and cheap, and that's no way to excel.

He’s right, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Cultural Disconnect

Given different cultures, timetables and just ways of doing things in general, it may seem like there is a disconnect between outsourcing and software quality. It also may seem that this disconnect is the sacrifice businesses must make to reduce time to market. But is the sacrifice really necessary?

Unfortunately, most IT organizations have chosen to leave the technical compliance issues aside, due to either limited resources are scarce or a lack of the required skills. Instead, they often assume that tersely worded SLAs will be enough to protect them over time. In reality, while today’s SLAs routinely include financial penalty clauses, fines and legal battles simply do not actively assist managers on either side in preventing system failure.

In order to be successful, companies need to acquire and deploy software solutions that help manage these global partnerships by providing greater insight into the build process through real-time access to objective data. Employing a platform of automated analysis and measurement to assess the application as it is being built, for instance, affords transparency into the outsourced work, grants discipline into how information is handled and yields metrics to evaluate results.

Given that measure of real-time access and information into how a company’s software is being built or customized restores some of the control companies previously thought they had to give up in order to produce faster and cheaper. And with control restored, there is no reason to think that quality needs to be an afterthought. In fact, IT can be done faster, cheaper and with quality as a primary focus.

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Jonathan Bloom
Jonathan Bloom Technology Writer & Consultant
Jonathan Bloom has been a technology writer and consultant for over 20 years. During his career, Jon has written thousands of journal and magazine articles, blogs and other materials addressing various topics within the IT sector, including software development, enterprise software, mobile, database, security, BI, SaaS/cloud, Health Care IT and Sustainable Technology.
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