When working with an outsourcing partner, innovation is often an afterthought to the day to day insights and challenges that come with developing software. However, with the amount of value innovation can add to a software development outsourcing engagement, you'd be remiss to allow innovation to take a less prominent role. Innovating can offer invaluable timely benefits in today's market, like increasing time to market and improving business value and rapport with customers.
Accelerating innovation in outsourcing means finding the right partner and creating a working environment that fosters innovation and makes it a key component of the engagement. It also works best when the outsourcing vendor is more of a partner than a vendor, allowing you to leverage their expertise. What follows is a selection of best practices for promoting innovation in nearshore outsourcing.
Encourage a meritocracy of ideas. True creativity and innovation are only possible if everyone speaks up. Working with an outsourcing partner that maintains a culture of openness and proactiveness is key to making this tip successful. Additionally, as the client, it is your responsibility to take direction and empower the outsourced team to bring forth their ideas and engage in the innovation process. Regular or somewhat frequent in-person visits can help with this, as can kickoffs, ideation or roadmapping workshops, and team building activities.
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Innovation is most beneficial for companies when it revolves around data. The software development lifecycle should be set up to ensure quick and consistent feedback loops from all stages, including development, QA, and operations, back to the business. You and your software development outsourcing partner must work together to ensure you are constantly learning from your product. Consider using techniques such as monitoring, UX validations, demos, UAT, and so on, to validate your KPIs and help highlight areas where innovation will add the most value.
When outsourcing, encourage both in-house and remote team members to explore different tools, technologies, and methodologies, even if it means making mistakes along the way. Exploration doesn't mean that those tools or technologies must be adopted or even tested, but it gives teams the push to stay up to date on cutting-edge advancements. It also helps identify ways to innovate, allowing team members to build a better understanding of the project and what it will take to add value while staying engaged and motivated to learn. Most importantly, don't let this be as far as it goes, create a POC and let the team try. Show them you trust them to experiment.
Make learning part of the team culture of your outsourced and in-house teams. As the expert in your field, define a list of key aspects to learn or research and share responsibility with your vendor. This gives your vendor a better idea of where to start and the key things you would like to explore, shaping the process for useful results. Another aspect of making innovation a key component of your outsourced projects is to schedule time with your outsourcing partner to talk about innovation. With a specific meeting and time spent preparing your vendor to understand where you want to innovate, you go a long way in setting the stage for a strong approach to innovation in outsourcing.
Deciding to test out something new can have lasting ramifications if not done responsibly. Consequently, well-defined scopes are essential for any POCs or experiments undertaken by the team. Constant spikes, POCs, and new activities can be a healthy approach to innovation, as long as it doesn't impact your ability to deliver. In that respect, agile methodologies, evolutionary architectures, and test automation can provide a stable foundation for small experiments that allow you to maintain confidence in the result. Who knows, you might just find that a POC provides the crucial missing piece to a project.
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