Mutiny Aboard: In-House Engineers vs Outsourcing Vendor Team

What would you think if your boss unexpectedly announced that a third-party contractor would start working on your project tomorrow? Oh no, am I working inefficiently? Will they take my job? Will I be laid off soon? Even if you were more optimistic, you would definitely ask yourself, How will the responsibilities be distributed and who will be responsible for the final results? 

Will I have to sort out the consequences of their actions? How should I personally determine the degree of transparency and the security boundaries while interacting with project participants outside of my company?

These and many other natural questions inevitably arise with your in-house team once you have decided to hire an outsourcer, and if unanswered, they can lead to open confrontation, severe conflicts, office bullying, and workplace sabotage. Although some may not see this as an issue, we have come across it many times and recognize its importance. As a software outsourcing provider with 27 years’ experience, we at Auriga have seen numerous different situations in our work, and some of them required all our patience, tact, and professionalism. Here are three typical scenarios we have faced while working on the client’s side.

Scenario 1 – “We are all equal; we are all important

When it comes to integrating the in-house engineers and newly joined external developers, the key role lies with the local manager, whose duty is to lower the anxiety level of the current team. It is vital to anticipate the questions employees might have and conduct a comprehensive communication program to familiarize them with new processes and requirements.

This was done perfectly by one of our long-term clients, a major international medical device manufacturer. The in-house manager reassured the local engineers that they were all protected and that nobody was going to be laid off. He told them (and continuously showed them in practice) that everyone was equally important doing their part of the job. The internal and external teams grew synchronously and proportionally, letting Auriga become a seamless extension of the existing engineering team.

Scenario 2 – “We are not going to take your job”

Sometimes, considering many factors while taking an outsourcing decision, from costs and time zones to providers’ technical excellence and reputation, managers just forget to clarify the new order of things to employees or simply withdraw when a conflict between in-house and third-party engineers emerges. Fortunately, today, we observe fewer such cases; they were more common at the dawn of outsourcing and dedicated teams. Nevertheless, we are always aware of such situations, and we know how to cope with them.

Consider the following illustrative scenario: our client, a leading provider in its field, hired Auriga to perform tasks postponed by the current team due to a lack of tech expertise. This was a sound business decision; however, nobody communicated the changes to the in-house engineers, and quite understandably, they were frustrated. We came across a malevolent attitude at an early stage and spent considerable time explaining that we were not going to deprive them of work. On the contrary, we helped them to make use of the latest technologies and implement new high-tech features. As soon as trust was achieved at the engineering level, all opposition disappeared.

Scenario 3 – “Stay professional in any situation”

We know from experience that the most complicated scenario is one in which the client asks us to take the responsibilities of the existing developers with the clear intention of disbanding the in-house team. Of course, that is not to say relationships with inside staff cannot be built. The main thing we always strive to do is to be professional and maintain smooth relationships with colleagues. It usually motivates in-house employees to behave professionally as well. All in all, by hiring an outside team, business owners stimulate the established system as a whole.

How do I play the best scenario?

Clearly, bringing in outside software developers causes change. It may not always be a problem, but if it is, team-to-team communication, collaboration, and the success of the entire project are at risk. So how can you integrate the inside and outside engineers and set them on the same path?

Outsource wisely. As a rule, companies outsource new solutions development, requiring a great deal of technological expertise, or routine tasks, such as maintenance of existing products, keeping all core activities in-house. Distribute responsibilities effectively among your staff and contractors.

Communicate the changes. Tell your engineers in advance that you are going to hire an external team. Inform them about new processes, interaction rules, and security requirements. Be prepared to answer their questions. Talk personally to the most anxious employees.

Accentuate the pluses. Put yourself in your engineers’ shoes to emphasize the advantages they (not the company) will gain from a successful outsourcing partnership. For example, they will get a great opportunity to share experiences and offload boring routine work.

Remember the one-year rule. One year is normally required to form and solidify personal and professional relationships in teams and achieve trust at the engineering level. Let your employees get used to the contractors and how they work. Let the contractors become a natural extension of your in-house team.