Is your outsourced partner matching the right skills to your project requirements?


12 December 2008

Embarking on an Information Communication Technology (ICT) project such as developing a data warehouse can be daunting. Outsourcing is thus gaining popularity, providing relief from the ICT skills shortage and ensuring the project is delivered and then maintained with built-in service level agreements. However, it is important for businesses to derive the utmost value from these projects. One way to do so is to ensure that the appropriate skills are deployed in the various stages of the project.

This is according to Mark Robinson, Service Delivery Manager at RDB Consulting, a company established in 1995 that offers professional database and operating system support, consulting, project management, solutions architecture and more.

He says: “A challenge for businesses and outsourcing companies is to ensure the appropriate skill is deployed for the appropriate level of work on a project. It is not uncommon to hear of a highly skilled engineer handling mid-level work and, less often, a mid-skilled person handling a high-level task. Either way, the customer suffers. They may be paying a higher rate for skills they don’t need, while the second scenario usually spells trouble.”

To understand why it is important to deploy the appropriate skills in an outsourced project, insight is required. There are five levels of technical skills that are generally acknowledged by outsourcers. They include:

  • Trainee engineers – resources that have completed their studies and understand the concepts, implementation and support issues of databases, open systems, Business Intelligence (BI) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). However, beyond the ‘paperwork’ behind their names, they require ‘hands on’ experience. This level of engineer starts off by observing and then handling basic tasks. Approximately within 4 months, he/she should be adding value to the project. Junior engineer – a resource that has gained 20% knowledge and is handling 80% of the day to day operations. This level of engineer handles backups, administration, security and monitoring of outputs. At this point the resource is still learning about best practice and standards.
  • Intermediate consultant – a resource that has had approximately 3 – 5 years experience and has gained some significant knowledge. These resources are comfortable with all aspects of running an ‘operation’ and attending to the issues that arise. They are not necessarily regarded as experts but are competent.
  • Senior consultant – a resource with approximately 6 years’ plus experience that introduces new projects and specialised applications. At this point, a Senior consultant will be ‘certified’ and have received (and passed) formal training from vendors such as Oracle and Microsoft. His/her role is to conceptualise what needs to be done, undertake scoping, planning of resources, budgeting of time, provide advice, allocating tasks and leading the team. At this level, the consultant will have specialised in certain fields, such as real application clusters (RAC) and perhaps performance tuning with Operating Systems (OS), and have a working knowledge of grid networking, asset management, BI and data warehousing, for example.
  • Principle consultant – this resource will feature a minimum of 10 years’ experience and would have completed certifications such as Oracle Certified Professional (OCP). This level of consultant is largely involved in an advisory capacity with issues such as trouble shooting. He/she will set up industry standards, best practises, policies and develop document-sets. Of which the team members will follow. He/she will assist with Enterprise Resource Diagrams (ERD) and develop procedures and standards, as well as work closely with the technical director to develop or expand on the strategic business unit.

Adds Gerrit-Jan Albers, Business Intelligence Consultant at RDB Consulting: “When reviewing these levels of skills, it is easy to understand why it is crucial to appoint the appropriate skills at various stages of the outsourced project.”

Appropriately matching skills with the tasks at hand is not the only challenge, however. Mentoring lower level engineers is a key ‘success’ factor. Coaching a Trainee or Junior engineer delivers the added benefit of resource development through skills transfer. These Juniors are then perpetually challenged within the work environment and can ‘grow’ with the project.

Albers adds: “We have seen clients specifically request a resource that started out on the project as a trainee engineer. These resources have the advantage of having gained intrinsic knowledge of the company and, as they increase their skills, the benefit is passed onto the client.”

“However,” he warns, “it is paramount for outsource organisations to ensure this process is monitored carefully as it might be enticing to allocate a ‘cheaper’ resource to a fairly high level task, where the customer is paying the premium yet the cost of the resource is significantly lower.”

About RDB Consulting

Established in 1995, RDB Consulting is a Database and Operating Systemoutsourcing and consulting company that also offers project management,solutions architecture and more. Our services are designed to providebusinesses access to expert technical resources whether full time, parttime, co-managed or via remote administration. We worry about your database systems so that you can focus on your core business.

For further information contact:

Mark Robinson
Service Delivery Manager
RDB Consulting
Tel: 011-8077663
Cell: 082 893 0925