Financial Turmoil Driving Innovation

At a time when banks are being forced to deliver more but spend less, good technical skills are seemingly impossible to come by and management are stretched to the limits, Weatherby’s the Private Bank and administers of Horse Racing (on behalf of the BHA) have discovered innovation and investment around supplier management is paying dividends.

When Group IT Director Ian Moody joined Weatherby’s in 2010, the horseracing side of the business was in the process of renegotiating its contract with the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA), and as part of the new contractual agreement it needed to rewrite the 18-year-old racing administration system.

Insourcing wasn’t an option; a protracted trawl through potential UK candidates yielded neither the quantity nor quality of software developers that Moody required to handle the rewrite. So somewhat nervously, he embarked on an Outsourced Offshore arrangement with NashTech.

He explains: “In a previous job I had offshored to India, and we got our fingers burnt. I thought a short contract with NashTech would allow them to demonstrate their capability, at low risk to us.” He knew it wouldn’t be easy. As he says: “Not only did we have no tried and tested ‘model’ to follow, but British Horseracing, with its web of different structures and rules, is very complicated too.” As he anticipated, there were teething problems with communication, with consistency of test data, with ‘environments’, and with connectivity. “It was nobody’s fault, but there were lots of logistical things we could have done better at the outset.” As a result, the initial engagement took longer than anticipated, but Moody was pragmatic. “Both parties had made a commitment and a substantial investment in time, and we both are working very hard to get it right. You have to go into these things with your eyes open, know what you want to achieve and accept that you have to work together to achieve it. With a team 6,000 miles away things will inevitably be more complicated.”

Throughout the relationship, Moody has been impressed by NashTech’s responsiveness to emerging problems. “One of the things I like most about the NashTech team is their honesty and realism about what is achievable and what is and isn’t working. I am trying to move from a customer / supplier relationship to a partnership in which we work together to continuously improve things.”

Weatherbys has now moved to an on-going Offshore Development Centre (ODC) arrangement, with software releases scheduled for delivery until at least the end of 2014.

The essence of success is investing time and money in developing and maintaining strong business relationships at all levels, believes Moody. He explains: “Software really is a commodity, so if your process is robust there is no reason not to bundle the development work up and give it to someone else to do. But for it to work, you need the right level of interaction between the UK and your offshore team, and while you can do much of that via phone calls, Skype and Facetime, there is no substitute for face-to-face contact.”

He first visited Ho Chi Minh City early in the offshoring relationship with NashTech and a number of key players from his 65-strong UK team have already followed in his footsteps. In addition, there is generally at least one member of the Vietnamese team at Weatherbys UK office at any one time. “Face-to-face relationships lead to friendships, which, in turn, lead to different behaviours,” says Moody. “It’s about more than just processes. We’ve invested a lot of time and money in making the relationship work on a personal level. Despite this, the ODC is still much cheaper than delivering the work purely from the UK.