Engagement Process in IT Outsourcing: How Does It Work? 

Shopping for products is simple. You check the model specs, compare prices, add the best-suited good to the cart, and head for the checkout. With services, however, matters are less straightforward. What’s included and what’s not? Does my service provider act within the agreed boundaries or do they fail to deliver on the contractual obligations? It’s hard to tell for sure when your engagement isn’t well-scoped. In fact, that’s the prime reason why many outsourcing projects go off the rails. 

IT outsourcing is a complex, multi-pronged process where deliverables may not always be immediately clear and obligations can get murky. But this shouldn’t be your case. In fact, the engagement process is specifically designed to address and rectify such issues. 

Why Some Outsourcing Partnerships Don’t Work

There’s a lot of talk about failed projects and outsourcing risks. But far fewer mentions of why IT outsourcing engagements may not work in some cases.

Deloitte, however, provides some good reasoning.

Organizations may fail to realize the benefits of outsourcing unless they follow these practices: 

  • Manage the outsourcing relationship effectively, maintaining the appropriate level of control and direction 
  • Establish, manage, and maintain an effective vendor/team governance process
  • Address, identify, and resolve the risks of outsourcing
  • Remain proactive and effective at the two crucial stages of the project engagement — transition to outsourcing and corporate transformations. 

At Edvantis, we also observed many first-time customers walking into an operational terra-incognito when it comes to collaborating with an outsourcing technology partner. 

Many operate with preconceived ideas that IT outsourcing is a “done for your deal” where little-to-no engagement is required on their end. Others don’t quite recognize their operational readiness levels for outsourcing or cannot establish proper expectations due to limited knowledge of what should happen next.

Thus, we took it as a goal to show that outsourcing IT is more transparent and straightforward than many think. 

  • First and foremost, outsourcing is a strategic partnership between two parties, each of whom has a varying level of responsibility.
  • Secondly, each new project follows a set of standard IT engagement steps, aimed at clarifying requirements, setting expectations, and gaining alignment on the outcome. 
  • Finally, IT engagement models are scoped and bounded, with a clear set of deliverables and commitments and both ends.

Let’s say you have shortlisted an IT outsourcing vendor. What happens next? How do you set the right direction for the outsourcing relationship? Let’s dwell on this. 

5 Standard Engagement Steps for New Outsourcing Clients 

On paper, the idea is simple. As a client, you have a project — a new payment integration for your ecommerce platform or extra data science experts to help you with new predictive analytics solutions. You also have several shortlisted vendors. Luck stroke and Edvantis is one of them. Here’s what happens after you get in touch with us. 

1. Pre-Engagement Discussion Sessions 

At this point, our goal is to gather preliminary information on your project, touch general bases, and develop preliminary assumptions. Typically, you’ll have a short call with one of our Account Manager or Executive Team members. 

If the circumstances permit, we are also all-in for in-person meetups. As one of our past clients, Alturos, mentioned: “[Edvantis was] the first resourcing company that wanted to meet in person.”

Be ready to talk about: 

  • Your project vision and goals
  • Technical requirements and potent contains
  • Pre-planning scope of work 
  • Past experience with outsourcing 
  • Overall expectations in regards to collaboration, operational alignment, etc. 

We use the provided information to analyze the project scope, identify potential risks and blockers, estimate your capacity needs and suggest the optimal service model. 

2. Customer Workshop 

For first-time buyers, we also offer to host an onboarding workshop. Typically, it’s a virtual or in-person event with our team of experts who’ll provide a detailed lowdown on:

  • IT outsourcing general best practices
  • Process readiness for outsourcing
  • Knowledge management for distributed teams
  • Billing and contractual obligations
  • Overall responsibilities of both parties 

Get ready to pose your questions too! Our goal is to make sure that you walk away with a comprehensive understanding of the follow-up steps and insights for optimizing your operational process for the upcoming collaboration. 

3. Preliminary Project Proposal 

In the meantime, our business analyst team does the background assessment of your business needs, project scope, and expected outcomes. Based on all the data, collected earlier, we prepare a formalized project proposal stipulating the following:

  • Our understanding of your domain, company needs, and project goals 
  • What value we can deliver and how 
  • The type of service model and team composition we recommend
  • Preliminary scope of work 
  • Estimated project timelines and budget estimates
  • Identified risks and mitigation plan 

At this point, we operate based on our assumptions and we are fully open to further discussions. In fact, that’s what we expect from you! How can we establish better synergy? What are the ways to achieve a better alignment? These are the points up for debate. 

The purpose of this step is to jointly arrive at the optimal engagement plan and guide you towards selecting the optimal service model. So that you could gain more benefits from outsourcing, rather than getting the job done in one way or another. 

Our position is simple: we try to manage the customers’ expectations before placing them in a rigid contract. We proactively acknowledge risks, known constraints, and feasibility of delivering on the set demands, rather than letting these slip into the later stages of the project (and compromise the success rates). 

4. Discovery 

Discovery in IT is a supplementary pre-engagement stage. In most cases, discovery happens organically during the previous engagement steps when we discuss and formalize your project.

This stage is skippable for clients with a well-defined project vision, scope of work, and a clear list of project requirements, detailing the solution scope, boundaries, tech stack, and team composition.

In most cases, we advise doing a discovery session for all managed projects — fixed-price engagements where we commit to delivering a software product, based on the provided specs, budget, and timeline. 

Why do we insist on formal discovery for end-to-end IT outsourcing projects?

Because this step helps us ensure that we have all the knowledge we need to successfully deliver your project and achieve a better alignment with your company. So that we could achieve better results together. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what our client, Kardex, has to say about our approach to discovery:

“Compared to other companies involved, we got very fast feedback from Edvantis, and their documentation was higher-quality. They were very proactive in the workshops and asked the right questions. Edvantis gave the impression that they were engaged and wanted to solve our problems. They were also very reactive and fast in providing documents and inputs.”

Robert Tingaud, Kardex.

You can learn more about the discovery phase in IT from our previous post. 

5. Formal Proposal

The talks are done. All points are discussed. We make our final move and forward you a formal work proposal — a document explaining at lengths how the engagement will go. 

The standard project proposal includes:

  • Executive summary 
  • Problem statement and solution 
  • Scope of work (SOW)
  • Team composition 
  • Assumptions and limitations
  • List of deliverables
  • Project schedule 
  • Billing information and payment schedule 
  • Ownership rights
  • The acceptance (project sign-off)

The formal proposal details all the earlier discussed aspects of cooperation in concrete terms. It sets proper expectations and detailed responsibilities at both ends. 

A formal proposal also serves as a blueprint for follow-up legal contracts that we draft and send over separately. Only the signage of the formal proposal and subsequent legal documents will signify the engagement kick-off — the actual delivery of the outlined services. 

What is an Engagement Model in IT Outsourcing?

The engagement process is often confused with the engagement model. Hence, this warrants further explanation. 

An engagement model is a framework that defines the type and scope of the relationship between an IT outsourcing vendor and the client.

At Edvantis, we prefer the term “service models” to engagement models as it’s more universally understood and acts as a better describer for denoting the scope and terms of an engagement.

Three Types of IT Engagement Models 

An engagement (service) model denotes:

  • The scope of the engagement — what’s included and what’s not. 
  • Cooperation terms — what is delivered, how, and when. 
  • Responsibilities of each party — what do we do and what’s on you. 
  • Fair and transparent pricing. 

Based on the above we worked out three distinctive service models: 

  • Staff augmentation: extend your in-house software development teams with extra expertise, recruited by Edvantis and managed directly by you. As a client, you are responsible for onboarding your new team members, planning their workload, and supervising their performance. We support you with administrative and operational issues. 
  • Managed team: the premises are similar to staff augmentation, but the difference is that you onboard an entire team, well-accustomed to working together and managed by Edvantis for effective performance. Work allocation and planning still remains your core responsibility, but we facilitate integrating the team into your SDLC and provide proactive operational and managerial support. 
  • Managed project: best suited for time-bound, small-scale projects with a clear set of deliverables. Under this engagement scenario, we take on the full scope of responsibilities and risks of delivering a complete software product, based on your specifications per provided timeline and budget.

To Conclude 

The IT engagement process may appear elusive at first. But at its core, everything that happens between you and the vendor at this stage is proactive knowledge discovery. 

Outsourcing is a partnership. We need to know how we can fit into your operations to deliver the most value. During all the steps of the engagement process we collect information to better understand your current problem, operational maturity in regards to outsourcing, operational and/or technological constraints, potential risks, and the ultimate set of jobs-to-be-done. Then we feed back this information to you and jointly align on the scope, terms, and direction of the upcoming working relationship.

Still have questions left? Contact us. You already know what happens when you reach out to your team. 

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