Blog / Event: Digital leaders discover the 'new rules' of outsourcing - Agile Teams session

October 27, 2014

October saw our ‘New Rules of Outsourcing’ event take place at Skills Matter in Central London, to answer the question that was on all of our minds: 'What are the new rules of outsourcing?’

Unboxed Friends and Family, as well as our extended network, attended this half-day session to discover these ‘new rules’, hearing from a diverse selection of digital leaders, including Channel 5, Plymouth University and Notonthehighstreet.

The morning began with a delicious breakfast (with many, many chocolate croissants – a personal favourite for Claire!), which gave us the perfect opportunity to meet, chat and dry off from the outside downpour!

The session began with a fantastic pairing activity. Each person was given a card with one half of a famous pair, with the aim to find their other half from around the room:

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Carrie and Paul Westmore matched as Mario and Luigi, making a perfect plumbing/hero partnership.

The first pairing activity then paved the way for the second, the origami challenge… Each pair was required to produce an origami piece of art by working in partnership.

Here is the “fox” from my partnership…

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So with the partnership activities complete, it was time for Dom to introduce the agenda:

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James Tatam, Digital Media Director at Channel 5, was first to share his experience with us. James spoke of his philosophy on outsourcing:

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“Our motto at Five is 'if you can outsource it, do’. We want low overheads and the best possible talent on each project.”

“Put as much effort into the engagement and project from your side as you would expect your outsourced partner to. You need to have excellent people to manage relationships with partners for full value.”

Paul Westmore, Interim CIO of Plymouth University, delivered a content-rich presentation on the key issues across all outsourcing relationships:

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“The Product Owner is the person who makes the decisions day-to-day and is the walking/talking requirements specification. This person needs the authority to make those decisions and the knowledge of the detail to make them well.”

“We use great tools – Trello, Pivotaltracker, Basecamp BUT there is no substitute for people talking face to face and going out for a beer after work.“

Yoann Martin, Technical Director of Notonthehighstreet, shared what makes a successful outsourced partnership:

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"If you outsource, put the effort into building the relationship instead of building the process.”

“Outsourcing provides the power to scale up and down creates diversity which is an amazing thing! More debate. More innovation.”

Our very own Richard and Steve then concluded the session with:
• What to outsource and when
• Understanding cost
• Why ‘just recruiting’ isn’t that simple
• How to build a super productive relationship with your partner
• The right and wrong ways to ‘do contacts’

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“A great team looks like a sausage machine where you put in the requirements at the top and produce great working software out of the bottom. It’s hard to create this very well oiled team from scratch. Takes 2-3 years.”
- Richard Stobart

“Rent, don’t buy. Bite off a small chunk. Agree a way of working. Protect it lightly with a contract created by people who are delivering the project.”
- Steve Lennon

A quick Q&A then finished the session.

Overall, I found this to be such an insightful event. It was inspiring to hear how each internal and external team worked in partnership, as an integrated team, to reach a project goal. It was also credible to hear these experiences directly from those who overviewed each project, including any issues which arose; this really painted a realistic picture of how each partnership worked.