Outsourcing IT Projects with UK and USA: What are the Main Differences?

10.10.2018
5 min.
title

Itransition has long been on the software outsourcing market. With 1,000+ projects completed for more than 500 customers from over 30 countries, the company has delivered custom software development to ISVs and companies working in oil and gas, banking and finance, manufacturing, retail, legal services, media and entertainment, telecom, travel and hospitality, logistics, and so on.

With a portfolio as versatile as this, it would be a pity to miss the opportunity to sum up Itransition’s experience with clients from the UK and the US—probably, the two largest destinations for outsourcing services.

Now we’re going to take a closer look at how IT outsourcing UK clients differ from those in the US with the help of facts gained in Itransition’s real-life practice.

Disclaimer: This isn’t just a comparison for the sake of pitting two business cultures against each other. Itransition has been working with both the UK and the US since its foundation day. Knowing the difference between the American and British IT has helped us succeed as an outsourcing service provider by managing our clients’ expectations effectively. Hopefully, this little research will help our colleagues to sustain more long-term and beneficial business with both countries.

IT Projects Outsourcing Clients: USA vs. UK

  USA UK
Typical primary entry point of contact
Business owner or a member of the board Personal assistant or a functional manager
Average speed of communication
24-hour reply 48-72-hour reply
Typical client profile
Startups, high-tech companies, and multinational corporations Companies servicing the public sector, independent software vendors, multinational corporations
Project requirements: documentation completeness and clarity
Business needs are described the way the company owner sees them. The vision is broad. Requirements are more technical and issue-oriented. The goal is to solve a particular issue here and now: to automate a process, engineer some code, develop a module. The vision is narrower.
Attitude to long-term business relationship
A long-term relationship is the goal, but you have few chances to make mistakes. If you fail, you will part ways regardless of your successful track record. Barely any second chances. If you solve initial challenges effectively, then the relationship may become long-term. Your track record matters. You will be given a second chance if your performance so far has been otherwise excellent.
Speed of decision-making
Fast. 90 days from an inquiry to signing a deal Average. Up to 150 days from an inquiry to signing a deal
Attitude to outsourcing
Very positive—most companies have prior experience with outsourcing Positive, but representation is required. Provided there is a representative office in the UK and staff can visit the customer often, the attitude is positive. Otherwise, your chances for success in a long-term partnership are low.
Typical contract entry budgets
Large budgets. Ready to spend more right away Smaller budgets. The entire sum is broken down into installments

5 Key Takeaways

These insights wind down to the following tips that can help to alleviate cultural differences and make collaboration a walk in the park.

Give It More Time with British Projects

The UK clients need more time initially to sign a contract so you will have to wait for it. Apart from this, you might also have to set up either a representation office or a fully functional operational center in the United Kingdom.

Want to Reach High-level British Contacts? Be Patient

If you want to approach the ultimate decision-maker in the UK, you’ll need to prove your ability to deliver on your promises first. Only then you will have a decent chance to discuss your partnership with the business owners or members of the board.

Expect More Freedom and Responsibility on US Projects—and More Control in UK Deals

If you are working with US clients, you will probably get the money right away and only then start to figure out a necessary action plan to achieve the project goals. In the UK, you are bound to work with a smaller budget yet with a clear roadmap broken down into iterations.

Expect to Bring Your ‘A’ Game with US Partners

IT outsourcing USA projects are like sprint competitions. On the contrary, a British project is more of a marathon.

With US partners, you have to start very fast and spend a lot of energy initially with no sign of slowing down throughout the project. “You are as good as your last note,” Americans like to say, and they do business following this rule. In the US, you are treated more like a commodity rather than a partner, at least at the beginning of cooperation. No matter how well you perform, you may often feel you are replaceable so the pressure can get quite intense.

UK Loyalty Is Forever

Even though initially you have to prove yourself to UK partners in action, if you do gain their trust, you can be sure to continue the relationship and get more business as a long-term partner.

Afterword

It’s impossible to bottle the national peculiarities of the UK and US IT projects outsourcing into a single infographic or a blog post. Still, this brief comparative study is hopefully a good starting point for every software development vendor who wants to understand how to approach these two cultures most effectively through mutual understanding.