Regionalisation Beats Globalisation After Election Surprises

IBA Group
Mark Hillary

There was an interesting analysis of the trend towards regionalisation published in business magazine Forbes just before the recent holiday season. It explored how the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as the US president might change business behaviour.

Politics went through something of a shock in 2016 and 2017 may hold further surprises in Europe with elections in the Netherlands, France, Norway, the Czech Republic, and Germany all coming soon…

But what does Forbes mean about a change in business attitudes and how does it affect those in the IT business?

The answer lies in the growing nationalism seen in the USA and many European countries. There is a growing desire to show that jobs are being created and managed close to home, or at least closer to home than before.

In European technology circles this is likely to manifest itself with less trust in technology suppliers from Asia – particularly China and India. Many of these companies are highly professional leaders in their industry, but as consumers start becoming more wary of strategies such as outsourcing and offshoring, it is likely that managers buying IT services will look closer to home. As Forbes suggests, the trend will be towards European regionalisation, not globalisation.

It is unlikely that markets such as the UK or Germany will create enough new technology professionals to ensure all work can be performed locally – and the cost would be prohibitive for most organisations anyway – but these consumer attitudes will favour technology companies in Eastern Europe.

The Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region has long marketed itself as a European alternative to China and India. Allowing European companies to work with partners that are close enough for a day trip to be possible. Now they will have an additional advantage, the growing political and social unrest about long distance offshoring.

It’s good news for European technology companies as Europe remains close – organisations in Europe buy 69% of their goods from other European companies. The USA may be a more complex scenario as President-elect Trump has already talked about scaling back drastically on the H1B visa that most foreign IT professionals use when working in the US.

Whatever happens with the politicians, the direction of travel is clearly towards nearshoring as a preferable solution. The era of the world being completely flat appears to be over. Welcome to an era of regionalisation.

Nearshoring Back On The European Outsourcing Agenda

IBA Group
Mark Hillary

The debate over nearshoring and more remote offshore outsourcing has rumbled on for years in Europe. The debate over voice contact centres was fairly conclusively resolved a while back, with it becoming clear that most clients prefer their contact centre to be closer to home, but the broader IT and IT services market has still embraced all kinds of outsourced model.

However in all the outsourcing predictions for 2016 I have seen the resurgence of the European offshoring model several times. For example, a recent report by the analyst Global Remote Services says:

“Nearshoring will continue to gain momentum in Eastern Europe – nearshoring is fast becoming an option which is seen as being more skill specific for businesses with a mixture of complex, high-end projects as they realise the value in keeping outsourced work close to where the business generally is. Nearshoring in Eastern Europe will continue to grow as it becomes attractive and competitive to the UK market, and also much ‘nearer-to-final-customer’ and ‘easier-to-manage’ versus far-shoring.”

We all know the typical arguments when comparing Eastern Europe to a more remote location, such as India, but I think it’s important than advisors are now focusing heavily on skills availability.

Outsourcing has long been considered a “lift and drop” business strategy, which is how it got the reputation for being all about saving cash. Let’s take a process, lift it out of the business and drop it completely into a supplier and get the same work done for less. That’s the old approach, but times have changed.

The boundary of organisations has become more blurred, particularly when expert skills are needed. Organisations are hired to provide those skills, but they work in the office of the client, with the client team. The client and supplier merge together to create a solution today, rather than the client firing an entire department and dropping those processes offshore.

Outsourcing has become a more mature business strategy and with a greater value placed today on skills and partnership, it’s no surprise that nearshoring is returning to the boardroom agenda.

German Outsourcing Association Research Promotes Eastern Europe

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

The Outsourcing Journal published a research paper last year focused entirely on the merits of ITO and BPO in central and Eastern Europe.

Organised by the German Outsourcing Association this is an interesting paper with contributions from across the CEE region, including those of particular interest to IBA, such as Belarus and the Czech Republic.

Stephan Fricke, CEO of the German Outsourcing Association wrote about the future for outsourcing in the introduction to the paper: “The future looks bright for CEE IT and business process service providers. Why? Because, speaking for our home market Germany, the demand for IT skills and business process knowledge will not decrease. Quite the opposite is predicted, which is not difficult to explain. The current situation in Germany, where companies are unable to fill desperately needed positions in IT and higher qualified jobs as engineering is caused by failed educational policy and there are no signs that the government has efficient tools to manoeuvre against.”

Fricke went on to add: “So German companies will be forced to look outside their borders for IT-project support and the most accessible destination for that is the CEE region.”

Once again a major trade association has pointed out that far from sourcing being just a low-cost way of doing business, companies in Western Europe need to look beyond their own borders to grow quickly and expand. CEE-based companies like IBA are well placed to work with companies in countries such as Germany – to help them succeed as Europe enjoys economic growth once again.

Eastern Europe is becoming a tech hub

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

Several business magazines and journals have been focused on growth in Central and Eastern Europe over the past few months. The main angle of the observations is that the CEE region has moved far beyond the traditional role as a lower cost alternative to undertaking technology work in Western Europe and is now fostering a hub of talent that should be sought after by the world.

There are now a number of successful startup companies from the region that are dominating their own niche. Ustream from Hungary is a great example. People all over the world are using the Ustream app to live stream events direct from their phone to the Internet without ever questioning where the app came from.

And even in the more traditional IT service sector, the talent available is some of the best in the world. The CEE region regularly ranks at the top of the world for educational achievements in maths, science, and technology. In the 2013 Google Code Jam competition, 16 or the 24 finalists were from Eastern Europe.

The IT service sector is already strong and mature and the startup sector is growing. All the major European accelerators are now regularly visiting the CEE region and looking for companies to invest in. This growth in the innovative startup sector will only make the wider IT community stronger as the CEE region becomes a place that people want to include on their CV. Have you explored some of the opportunities available from companies working in the CEE region yet?

IBA Group Wins European Software Excellence Award 2012

On March 1, IT Europa announced the winners of the European Software Excellence Awards 2012 in Berlin, Germany. IBA was selected the winner in the category Database Solution.

IBA Group entered the contest for the fourth time and won for the second year in a row. In 2011, the award was in the Relationship Management category.

We were pleased to be in the same company with world IT leaders. The recepients of awards in other categories were Oracle, Fujitsu, and other reputable companies.

Watch a video clip of the award presentation.

IBA's Soupeev gets prize from sponsor - FujitsuYauheni Soupeev, IBA department headEuropean Software Excellence Award. IBA's trophyAward-winning IBA team

CEE is more attractive than ever as uncertainty looms

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

When the global financial crisis struck the world in 2008, many predicted that there would be a boom in offshore outsourcing. It didn’t really happen.

Why? Because at that time most companies slashed all project budgets and retrenched employees. It was a time when nobody was certain of what the future would bring and it costs money to run outsourcing projects – even if they can create longer-term savings. Nobody wanted to invest all that money in setting up in a remote location hoping for gains in the future.

We are once again in an uncertain time, but this time there is a far more mature option for sourcing in the central and eastern European (CEE) region. The setup costs for running a project in the CEE region are far lower than for a full-blown offshoring programme where work needs to be transferred to India or China.

So there is a much more credible alternative available if companies in western Europe are seeking to stabilise costs in the short-term and build a pan-European delivery model for the long-term.

The CEE region has never tried to compete head on with countries like India in terms of absolute labour cost, the advantage has always been the cultural compatibility with Europe, the expertise, and the ability to be close to the customer – it’s possible to make a day trip to a development team from any other place in Europe.

And now, with the economy looking uncertain once again in both the US and Europe it seems that the nearshoring option is looking far more attractive than the full offshore model, because much less initial investment is needed to make it happen.

We have been talking about the advantages of CEE for a long time on this blog, but it is interesting to see that the issues in the wider European economy are making it even more attractive to work with the region. Have you taken another look at how nearshoring compares recently?

IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years

On July 27, 2011, IBA Gomel, the second largest software development center of IBA Group, celebrated its 10th anniversary. Numerous guests gathered in the Belarus Railway Sports & Cultural Center to wish all the best to IBA Gomel management and employees.

Igor Khobnya, Director of IBA Gomel, opened the event, saying: “We are celebrating our anniversary with a big family. Today, they are all here – our employees, their families, our clients, and our partners. All of them together have been creating our company during these ten years.”

See video (Russian only)

Sergei Levteev, IBA Group President, went on to say: “We are all a unified team that works for the common cause to implement projects for our customers. That is why the today’s anniversary is not only a holiday for IBA Gomel. It is a holiday for all of us. I would like to congratulate you – us – on this anniversary and to wish your commander the same confidence that he had all these years and I am sure will have in the future, and to all of you, to your families health and prosperity.”

See video (Russian only)

Valentin Kazan, IBA Group Vice President, added: “In my view, to open a development center in Gomel was a great idea. It decorated the region, and made Gomel an interesting and attractive city for young people to work here, to get pleasure, to work with their families. We receive lots of positive references from customers and I see that there is a sort of competition between Gomel and Minsk teams, and Gomel never loses and in some cases performs even better than Minsk.”

See video (Russian only)

Matthias Karius, Supplier Relationship Manager at IBM Germany, recalled a project that was implemented for a Swiss customer. IBA Gomel was able to deploy a team of 50 people in a very short time. “Ten years? Looks like it was yesterday,” he said.

See video

Winners of the online Quiz (Викторина) received prizes.

IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years
IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years

Miss IBA was announced.

Miss IBA

Danish Journalist Speaks about Belarus

From February 17 to February 18, 2011 Karim Pedersen, Technical Editor of the Danish IT newspaper ComOn, visited IBA Minsk.

Karim was in Belarus for the first time in 2006. The visit resulted in a series of articles, including IT Giant in Belarus. This year, he came again to see what has changed and what is going on.

Karim concludes: ”The big lesson from my visit here is that we are very much the same and we are very much alike. We have the same dreams, we have the same aspirations and working hard is the way to get to that future”.

Karim shares his impressions in the video clip below:

View also at IBA Group’s Youtube channel.

We look forward to a new series of articles about Belarus by Karim and to his future visits to IBA.

About Karim Pedersen

Karim Pedersen is the founder of the largest IT news website in Denmark, ComON.dk, writing about technology and telecommunications for readers in Denmark. Founded 14 years ago, ComON has grown through a range of partnerships with other Danish news media, and today the articles are syndicated to a number of other media, reaching a broad segment of the Danish population. ComON has also for four years published a print newspaper for IT managers and is closely linked with other properties at the publishing house, Mediaprovider, such as the monthly gadget magazine Gear and the photography magazine Zoom. Before starting ComON, Karim has published more than 30 books on IT in Danish and worked freelance as a software developer and web designer. Karim has travelled extensively, both in his professional and private life. Writing about IT outsourcing and globalization for ComON, he visited India, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Belarus, and Russia.

IBA Group wins European IT Excellence Award 2011

On February 11, 2011 IT Europa, a leading European IT publisher and market intelligence organization, announced the winners of the European IT Excellence Awards 2011 – the pan-European awards event for IT and Telecoms channels. The winners and finalists were honoured at a celebration dinner at The London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London.

IBA Group became the winner in the category Relationship Management. Alexander Derkach, IBA Group representative, collected the prize.

See video:

Award-winning IBA team
Award-winning IBA team

Key outsourcing trends taking place in Great Britain in 2011

IBA Group

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

This blog usually explores opportunities in Eastern Europe, but given that it is the first month of 2011, it’s worth exploring some of the key trends taking place in the most mature European outsourcing market – the United Kingdom.

Outsourcing advisory firm Equaterra just published their key trends for the UK market in 2011, based on examining 650 outsourcing contracts with over 200 companies, worth around £14 billion. Given that so many UK contracts have been examined, it was possible for the Equaterra researchers to draw some conclusions about how Western European customers are behaving, and what they will want in 2011.

Trend 1: Economic conditions are still tough, forcing companies to consider more offshore outsourcing. Eighty-seven per cent of companies will continue offshoring at present or higher levels, but sixty-one per cent will increase offshoring.

Trend 2: Cost reduction continues to be the key driver for offshoring, but financial flexibility is becoming far more important – up fifteen per cent on the previous year.

Trend 3: Global sourcing of services is far more accepted – with over seventy-five per cent of all companies using outsourcing applying some kind of offshore delivery model.

Trend 4: Multisourcing is increasing – with large-scale single-supplier contracts usually linked to low satisfaction with the contract.

Lee Ayling, EquaTerra’s Managing Director, IT Advisory UK, commented: “As in previous years, the 2010 study provides deep insights into the changing dynamics of the UK outsourcing market. One of the many points of note is that outsourcing contracts which deliver cost savings alone do not lead to higher client satisfaction. But successfully delivering cost savings plus another driver, such as access to skills or time to market, does positively impact general satisfaction – highlighting that both end users and service providers should not focus on price alone before and during an outsourcing relationship.”

For the European supplier community, the message is clear, cost remains important, but flexibility is the key. If outsourcing can create more flexible service levels and improve cash flow through more flexible financial models then it will be regarded a success.

CEE Countries Included in Gartner’s Top 30

IBA Group

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

The analyst firm Gartner has just published new research on the top locations for offshore services in 2010, based on their analysis of the past year watching the offshoring market. The top thirty countries for offshore services were rated according to 10 criteria that will help determine which locations are right for individual organisations. The 10 criteria were: language, government support, labour pool, infrastructure, educational system, cost, political and economic environment, cultural compatibility, global and legal maturity, and data and intellectual property security and privacy. The rating scale was “poor”, “fair”, “good”, “very good” and “excellent”.

So, with five possible scores across ten criteria the results are fairly comprehensive, and so it’s interesting to note that only fast-growing developing economies feature in the top thirty:

Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

Asia/Pacific: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA): Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, Mauritius, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey and Ukraine.

Seven highly developed countries have moved out of the top thirty this year – Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore and Spain. Clearly these locations remain important as nearshoring destinations, but their value compared to other regions is fast declining.

Another interesting fact is that almost a third of all the top thirty countries in the Gartner list are from the Central and Eastern European region – demonstrating that this region is not only important as a nearshoring destination, but is also developing the expertise to sell services to the world.

Additional information is available in the report entitled “Gartner’s 30 Leading Locations for Offshore Services, 2010-2011”.

New Opportunities Open for Outsourcing in the Government Sector

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

I found myself featured recently in the pages of the Financial Times talking about offshoring to various locations, particularly when the British government is the client.

Naturally enough, as the government is undergoing a large-scale austerity programme and working hard on cost reduction across all services, the offshore outsourcing of services such as IT is being discussed far more than it was a year ago.

There are several dynamics at play in the British example. The emphasis on cost reduction rather than service innovation, a need to focus on security and risk of delivery failure, and a potential emphasis on the EU being the location of choice for many services.

The government CIO, John Suffolk, recently tendered his resignation and a replacement has yet to be announced. Suffolk was focused on changing government IT services to be more like the Apple App store, more like a cloud of public sector services. Many in government felt that these conceptual ideas for IT services would never work on such a grand scale in the public sector, and his resignation is a surprise to those who thought he was now in a strong position to change IT across the entire government.

It’s clear that the emphasis of the politicians is certainly on cost reduction for the foreseeable future and many analysts have commented that there is distaste for many of the usual suppliers, seen as bloated and too expensive. With a new vista of opportunity and a readiness to explore new partners, but a requirement to almost certainly only engage with services delivered from within the EU, this surely opens a new range of possibilities for the technology firms from Eastern Europe. If they can build the right relationships in the UK then they will find a rich seam of opportunity awaits them.