Synergy lays outsourcing groundwork

As ITANZ assembles next week for its first executive meeting of the year, new president David Irving says the industry has a full agenda. "A whole heap of things" are on the go, says the chief executive of Synergy International.

As ITANZ assembles next week for its first executive meeting of the year, new president David Irving says the industry has a full agenda. “A whole heap of things” are on the go, says the chief executive of Synergy International, including opportunities which could set the industry on a new course. But time is of the essence.

Chiefly, he’s talking about the creation of a New Zealand outsourcing business. He reckons there’s an opening of a year to 18 months for this country to grab a slice of Europe and the UK’s outsourcing work.

Synergy has set the ball rolling on assessing New Zealand’s suitability as an outsourcing destination and now Irving is keen to hand the project over to ITANZ, the body that represents New Zealand’s IT vendors.

Here’s the story so far. Synergy has had an office in the UK for 18 months, long enough to discover that the rewards are high but the business is hard to secure. Long enough, also, to observe how other countries are going about finding themselves outsourcing work. Whereas Synergy has attended outsourcing conferences in London as the sole New Zealand representative, swathes of exhibition space have been occupied by Asian and Eastern European companies, advertising their services under their national flags. The company figured New Zealand needed to adopt the same approach.

It engineered a visit to New Zealand by a Gartner outsourcing analyst, who was whisked around a number of organisations, including Weta Digital, and met numerous people, one of whom was economic development minister Jim Anderton. Next, it persuaded Trade and Enterprise New Zealand to cough up for Gartner to carry out a capability assessment, that pits our outsourcing suitibility against other countries in an outsourcing index.

How did we do?

All will be revealed in April, London’s outsourcing conference season. Irving is anxious that the industry gear up to show its readiness to deal with any interest that follows Gartner's London presentation. Specifically, he believes a website – he suggests, along the same lines as India and others -- advertising New Zealand’s outsourcing capabilities needs to be created; and a delegation assembled to man a stand at the Gartner event.

New Zealand might be comparatively late to the outsourcing party but Irving says Gartner discovered plenty to suggest we have a unique opportunity. And, helpfully, he says the analyst found nothing significant to hold us back. But it's an opportunity with a finite life -- a year and a half.

In our favour is a track record of creativity and innovation – exemplified by Weta Digital – which sets us apart from those countries – India, the Philippines, China -- which have large pools of people to handle high-volume projects, cheaply. Rather than attempt to compete on price, New Zealand should pursue projects that command a price premium for inspired solutions, for customers in the UK and Europe (the US market is comparatively mature, and content with the services of the high-volume outsourcers).

It sounds like a worthy venture, in tune with the government’s HiGrowth Project, with its aim of creating 100 $100 million IT companies by 2012. The domestic market isn’t going to keep those busy, so a determined effort to win business offshore will be essential to hit the target.

Synergy has been the catalyst; now ITANZ – and its members – should seize the opportunity.

Doesburg is Computerworld’s editor. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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