Africa's IT homecoming revolution
Written by Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manager at RDB Consulting
South Africans have long held the perception that overseas is better, when it comes to goods, services, even qualifications. This, along with the attractive pricing structures offered by destinations such as India, led to a trend of outsourcing to global companies or offshoring services to foreign destinations. However, recently this trend has begun to reverse, and companies are once again bringing their outsourced services back to local shores. The reality is that South Africa has a unique culture, both in terms of personality and of doing business, which no foreign provider can fully understand. This, along with other factors, has lead organisations to once again seek local outsource partners, particularly for critical IT services.
The main reason that companies look at outsourcing options has always been cost, augmented by a need to access specialised skills. With the ongoing economic crisis and a definite skills shortage in South Africa, outsourcing has become an increasingly attractive option, but this has not necessarily been good news for local outsourcing providers. Amongst IT particularly a perception exists that it is more cost effective to offshore certain IT functions to specific destinations, which has driven a large migration of services to foreign shores. There is also a perception that international qualifications are of a higher standard and therefore overseas outsourcing providers can deliver better services, which has also pushed a lot of outsourcing business to other countries.
However, this is not always the case, and often the truth is very far from this perceived reality. South Africa is a unique culture, with its own business practices and idiosyncrasies, which are very different from those of India, America, and even from other African countries. To deliver appropriate services to local companies, it is typically best to have a local outsourcing provider who will understand this culture and way of doing business and thus will deliver better quality of service. Added to this, while the skills shortage is a reality, this is not a purely South African issue but a global trend, and the skills needed in the majority of IT scenarios do exist locally. Pulling in an overseas outsourcing provider to obtain these skills could as a result end up being far more expensive than obtaining these skills locally.
When it comes to offshoring, you generally get exactly what you pay for, and the service levels may not live up to business needs or expectations. If providers are overseas it can also prove challenging to support and deal with issues quickly. The offshoring model may appear cost effective at the outset, but if problems occur someone will typically have to travel to the offshoring country to resolve these problems, which results in unnecessary travel expensive and long downtime, which for certain mission critical IT areas such as the database is not acceptable and could cripple the business.
"To deliver appropriate services to local companies, it is typically best to have a local outsourcing provider who will understand this culture and way of doing business and thus will deliver better quality of service" Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manager at RDB Consulting
As a result of these and other factors, the overseas outsourcing and offshoring trend has started to reverse, and organisations are once again looking for local outsource providers to deliver, particularly with regard to mission critical IT services such as database and operating system support. Local providers understand local conditions, needs and ways of doing business, and have a cultural affinity that makes doing business a far smoother process.
+MORE from African Business Review
- How South Africa's carbon tax may affect businesses
- Kenya's economy is up and down
- Putting the backbone into communication networks
Having a local provider also ensures that onsite support can take place for faster response and more effective problem resolution. As much as technology has evolved, a face-to-face presence makes achieving clarity on problems and issues far easier, and these onsite resources can also be involved in projects from the start, from architecture through to support and maintenance, ultimately delivering superior service levels.
For local outsourcing providers, the best way to ensure customer retention and prevent clients from migrating overseas or offshore is to differentiate services. Pricing is important, but guaranteed uptime, proactive services and effective problem resolution are also vital. For organisations looking at outsourcing services, it pays to do your research. Offshoring and overseas outsourcing may seem like attractive options, particularly in terms of price, but the reality is often that a local provider will deliver better service for a very similar price, if not for less.
IT is the heart of modern business, so to ensure maximum productivity and profitability it is vital to ensure IT services deliver as expected. Before shipping services overseas, make sure you know the true cost, taking into account more than just the immediate price. Local is lekker, and you will often get better service while supporting the economy if you contract the services of a local outsourcing provider.
About RDB Consulting
Established in 1995, RDB Consulting is an outsource and consulting company that specialises in five areas: Relational databases, Operating Systems, Database Security, Monitoring and Enterprise Resource Planning. The organisation also offers project management, solutions architecture, on-going maintenance and support. Our services are designed to provide businesses with access to expert outsourcing and consulting services whether full time, part time, co-managed or via remote administration. This allows our clients’ to focus on their ‘core’ business and leave their ICT issues to the experts.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”