By Dmitry Azarov, Itransition
Once a company decides to open a regional office overseas, it needs to consider hundreds of factors, from operational costs to added value. At Itransition, the debate over opening an office in the U.K. took quite a while. On the one hand, it was much easier to hop on a plane and get to a business meeting in just a few hours. On the other hand, our business has evolved, bringing considerable changes to the company’s goals, priorities, and ambitions.
Eventually, our regional office opened in Canary Wharf in London. Below, I will discuss different branch office modes we have tried over the years, the scheme we consider optimal at the moment, the offshore vs. local dilemma, as well as some considerations on the efficient mixed team approach.
A Test Drive Of Different Branch Office Modes
We have tried different options while setting up an office in London. As a legal entity, we had been working in the U.K. market for over a decade, with our sales representatives serving U.K. clients for almost the same period. However, a purely sales-based front office was not enough to bring real value to the company. In the US, for instance, our on-site team had always engaged local specialists, at least partly, to cover the production cycle. In the UK, though, it was much more cost-effective to send the necessary professionals there whenever needed.
For this reason, we practiced the semi-local delivery office model for some time. Our key specialists traveled to the U.K. regularly to build closer relationships with our clients, to better understand their business needs, and to establish confidence in our skills and capabilities, especially at the project’s launch and final delivery. Besides, our account managers worked on overcoming the concerns associated with offshore service providers as well as forming long-term relationships with our key clients.
As the company’s objectives evolved further, the transformation of our collaboration scheme became an indispensable step forward.
Further Infrastructure Updates
In pursuit of bringing our clients’ comfort to a completely new level, we took a step toward establishing our office as an integrated IT department. Naturally, it involved many modifications to our regional branch’s format.
Partnering with clients from innovative startups and large global brands alike, we realized that our current marketing channels and campaigns didn’t let us reach those businesses and domains we’d like to partner with most of all. To solve that issue, we reinforced the on-site sales team with solid presales expertise.
Furthermore, with the help of a unified key account management program, we standardized the business development interface for our new and existing clients to support long-term relationships and enhance escalation procedures.
On the production front, we repurposed the approach based on our experience in the US. This way, a dedicated team works with UK-based clients locally from our office in London. The focus is on the consulting and management parts as we find them most practical when done on-site, with as much of clients’ involvement as possible. At the same time, key development, quality assurance, and customer service expertise remains in Belarus, keeping our pricing strategy well-balanced.
We also continue to use the benefit of proximity between our European offices to bring in core team leaders on-site for the most important project stages, thus providing higher flexibility and productivity.
Offshore Vs. Local
The diversity of our engagement schemes isn’t limited by investments in regional offices. There are a lot of cases where our clients do not require our presence on-site. Smaller projects can be easily handled remotely and still bring highly satisfactory results at a lower cost.
At the same time, we acknowledge that local presence takes client relationships to a whole new level. For instance, when we start a collaboration with an enterprise-size client, our on-site sales team meets with the client’s representatives, demonstrates our company’s potential, and helps communicate a positive message to their stakeholders.
In most cases, a local team can effectively facilitate offshore development services, so we choose to pursue the balanced combination of both models.
Practicing The Mixed Team Approach
We have been shaping the mixed team approach for many years now, experimenting with various degrees of local involvement, development methodologies, and delivery schemes.
For example, we follow the double subordination model within our mixed teams, with an operational manager in the production center and a local manager in the regional office. Both work with the same account but have different responsibilities. The one coordinates the development team directly, manages daily routines, handles communication within the team and between various departments. The other supervises on-site activities, like the solution architecture setup or business analysis, and provides status updates and presentations while partly handling account management duties as well.
We also work hard on establishing smooth communication between in-house and offshore teams. Our account managers closely cooperate with the client’s management to set up the right tone from the very beginning. We encourage frequent on-site trips for offshore team members and hold daily stand-up meetings no matter where the team members are situated geographically.
Opening a regional office under an overseas expansion program is a logical next-best action for a growing and evolving company. To build long-term and rewarding relationships with clients, it’s important to establish efficient communication between regional and offshore teams as well as find the right balance of professional involvement (consulting, presales, management, etc.), particularly during critical stages such as the project start or final product delivery.
About The Author
CMO Dmitry Azarov is CMO at Itransition.