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

13.05.2015
3 min.
title

I know what everyone is going to think: this is one of those holy war comparisons of UK vs. USA that polarizes people and seems overly subjective. I am willing to get caught in that crossfire, however, and state that the ideas expressed in this blog are my opinion.

But if I say that, it won’t be entirely correct. The truth of the matter is, my company Itransition and I have successfully completed over a 1000 projects with more than 500 customers from over 30 countries. The industries we have excelled at are ISVs, oil & gas, banking & finance, manufacturing, retail, legal, media & entertainment, public sector, telecom, travel & hospitality, logistics, and so on.

And now I am using hard facts, discovered during those software service projects, to draw the conclusions in this post.

This isn’t just a comparison for the sake of pitting two business cultures against each other. Itransition has been working with both UK and USA since the day of its foundation and understands both markets, expertly addressing their differences. Knowing the difference between American and British IT has helped us succeed as an outsourcer, understand our clients better and manage expectations effectively. And I know that it may help the readers as well, allowing them to do more long-term, lucrative business with both countries.

Result of our analysis

  USA UK
Typical primary entry point of contact
Business owner or member or the board. Personal Assistant or functional manager.
Speed of communication
24 hours reply. 48-72 hours reply.
Typical client profile
Startups, high tech companies and multinational corporations. Companies servicing the gover- ment sector, independent software vendors, multinational corporations.
Project requirements: documentation completeness and clarity
Information is given from the business needs are described the way the owner sees them. The vision is board. Requirements are more technical and issue oriented. The goal is to solve a particular issue here and now: automate a process, engineer code, develop a module. The vision is more narrow.
Attitude to long-term business relationship
A long-term relationship is the goal but you have very few chances to make mistakes. If you fail, you will part ways regadless of your successful track records. Barely no second chances If you solve incoming issues effec- tively, then the relationship may become long-term. The track record matters. You will be given a second chanceif your perfomance so far has been otherwise excellent.
Speed of decision making
Fast. From an inquiry to singing a deal — 90 days. Average. From an inquiry to signing a deal — up to 150 days.
Attitude to outsourcing
Very positive — most companies have had experience with outsourcing. Positive only with reprasentation. Provided there is a representative office and staff can visit and report often, the attitude is positive. Otherwise, your chances for success in a long-term partner- ship are lower.
Typical entry contract budgets
Large budgets. Readiness to spend more money right away. Smaller budgets. The sun is broken down into iterations.

To use this information in practice, try following five tips below:

Give it more time with British projects

Working with the UK, you need more initial time to get the client to sign a contract. Besides a more significant initial span to start work, representation either in the UK or as a local office could be a must. Also, remember that initial contract sums will be lower.

Want to hang out with important British guys? Have patience

Gather some patience if you want to approach the ultimate decision maker in the UK. First, you have to prove that you can deliver on your promises and only then you have a decent chance to discuss a more global partnership with company owners or members of the board.

Expect more freedom and responsibility on American projects and more control in UK deals

If you are working with the USA, you will probably get the money right away and can go ahead with a necessary action plan to achieve project goals. In the UK, you work with a smaller budget but a clear road map broken down into iterations instructing you to do things a certain way.

Expect to bring your ‘A’ game with US partners

Working with the US, you are competing in a sprint. A British project is more of a marathon. With American partners, you have to start very fast and spend a lot of energy initially. “You are as good as your last note”, Americans like to say, and they do business following this rule. In the US, you are more of a commodity, a boxed product, rather than a partner, at least at the start of cooperation. No matter how well you do, you may often feel you are replaceable and always under pressure.

UK loyalty is forever

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

It’s impossible to bottle national peculiarities of UK and US IT sectors into an infographic or a blog post. But I hope these tips can be a starting point for everyone who wants to understand how to approach these two different cultures most effectively in order to achieve mutual understanding and fast gain.

What is your experience of working on these two markets? Would love to hear your opinion!