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In Focus: Leveraging the global IT talent pool

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While economic uncertainty has become a popular topic of discussion in the news, many experts believe that one problem usually associated with flush economic times still prevails. According to SMB expert Jim Blasingame, a shrinking pool of skilled labor often confounds the expansion plans of many smaller companies. “The economists I talk to tell me there may be as many as two million jobs going wanting these days,” says the longtime host of The Small Business Advocate, a syndicated radio and Internet talk show.

The problem is particularly pronounced in IT, where a shortage of qualified technology professionals can thwart many business initiatives. However, for midsized companies relying on ever-more complex application portfolios to run their businesses, the scarcity of IT professionals to run those portfolios can be addressed through global sourcing. This flexible staffing model provides midsized companies with access to skilled and available specialists throughout the world, which can result in quick completion of IT initiatives that drive growth and speed new products to market. In this model, external IT resources concentrate on tactical delivery, while the business focuses on strategic initiatives.


Global sourcing reduces TCO

In The World is Flat, a groundbreaking book about the 21st century, author Thomas L. Friedman convincingly argues that a global marketplace makes traditional views about pairing location with IT skills fall, well, flat.

Friedman suggests that talent for IT projects can be found all over the globe. So, rather than create a new employee job function for specialized IT services, it often makes more sense to look at the pool of available talent, which may be found a few blocks or several times zones away.

This view is echoed by a number of industry analysts. According to recent research conducted by Gartner, the areas of operation where companies of all sizes now outsource IT management include data centers, business applications, desktop environments and network infrastructures.

The rise in adoption of global sourcing appears to stem from the economic realities of technology ownership. Recent research suggests that the average company now spends four out of five of its IT dollars to maintain existing applications, which leaves only 20% of the IT budget available for investments in new technologies that help companies grow and compete. And without access to these technologies, Midsized companies can be at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace. As Blasingame notes, “In the 21st century, even the smallest small business operates in a global economy.”


Long-term strategy defines sourcing requirements

As the IT sourcing industry matures, it has become apparent that there is no one-size-fits-all model for gaining access to outside skills. Just as certain IT professionals are appropriate for particular projects, each midsized company’s overall technology requirements will differ based on its business model.

So before engaging a vendor to provide these services, some of the questions savvy midsized companies consider include: How well do our existing in-house IT capabilities match proposed growth initiatives? Can I use skilled professionals from an external source to offload the daily management so I can use my internal resources for new initiatives that will help me grow?

Frequently the answers to these questions are discovered when the company realizes that a sourcing strategy is not a single decision, but instead a continuous process that aligns capabilities and services with evolving business requirements.


Some areas where midsized companies are leveraging global sourcing include:

Software development, testing and support. Many midsized companies need access to technology that solves unique problems, but employing full-time developers can be prohibitively expensive. Global sourced specialists can address highly specialized applications that can be vitally important to niche organizations.

Risk reduction and compliance. Healthcare and financial services aren’t the only information-driven industries that must navigate through complex regulations. As legislative mandates increase, midsized companies need to find ways to ensure that their  IT assets can deliver timely, accurate reporting, and this requires a level of application management reliability. Via global sourcing, companies can preclude the need to hire in-house staff for day-to-day management of report generation, similar to the way many companies retain law firms for contractual matters rather than hiring in-house counsel.

Help desk services. Companies of all sizes now understand that customers have more choices than ever before. That’s why more and more midsized companies are investigating IT help desk services so customers can find the answers to technical questions around the clock. For some midsized companies, this may simply mean contracting out to a specialist organization that answers phone calls and e-mails after hours from a company’s end users. For others, it may mean having an outside vendor take care of the most frequently asked questions and desk-side support, while leaving thornier issues to be answered by in-house staff.

So while there is no one-size-fits-all model, when a sourcing strategy is fused with overall business strategy, midsized companies can reduce day-to-day expense and deploy internal IT professionals to the most valuable projects that enhance competitive advantage.

Content copyrighted by IBM Corporation.

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