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Outsourcing, retainers and long-term development partnerships

One of our original goals for BSL was to offer research and development services to established organizations. After all, it’s not always straightforward for even large companies to create cutting edge development teams, as their core business may not be related to IT. Moreover, even when IT is a significant part of their business – such as within a bank – there is frequently a wide gap between delivering core services and innovating with new technologies.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing development and system maintenance has been a trend for many years now. One motivation in the past has been the possible cost reduction if you outsource your development work and system maintenance to low-income territories such as Eastern Europe or India. However, what may look fantastic in a spreadsheet doesn’t look so impressive once you consider language and cultural differences, communication problems, the cost of working in multiple time zones, and the complexities of working under differing legal regimes. As a result, what appears cost-effective can become a considerable headache. So, unsurprisingly, we’ve seen several clients gradually pull back from outsourcing overseas.

Outsourcing locally

There are alternatives. One bank has gradually moved its outsourced Indian development teams to the Netherlands. Naturally, if you have the resources to subcontract to third parties and then relocate them to the Netherlands, this resolves some issues. Time zones are no longer an issue, and communication becomes more manageable. But many of the financial advantages are lost due to the cost of workspace, housing, and paperwork. After all, outsourcing to a local development partner offers the same benefits but with lower risk and near-zero investment costs!

BSL as an outsourcing partner

We’ve considerable experience in developing and maintaining custom software used by large international corporations and local companies. For example, our development partnership with ABN AMRO (working on SRS) has been in place for more than 20 years. We have a similar relationship with PwC, developing, maintaining and hosting their Pulse software. Despite the small size of BSL, we focus exclusively on software development and employ highly skilled web developers and software engineers. We deliver considerable added value due to these skills, and we are fleet of foot, meaning we can be flexible, move quickly, and innovate. Attributes that contribute to us becoming a global PwC development partner, something of which we are very proud.

We’ve been equally successful in supporting demanding clients here in the Netherlands. So, over more than 20 years, we have developed numerous products for NBD Biblion. These developments include their central Media Information Production system, Multimedia Content Management, Commercial web applications, touchscreen kiosk software, and many interfaces to third-party library systems and services. In addition, we’ve created API’s that help NBD Biblion to share their information with many different business partners, such as the recent AI and Machine learning integrations.

Sharing a client’s priorities – and the risk

In all these cases, a client’s needs and the quality of our work are our sole priorities. After all, their success helps BSL. And the benefits to the clients are that we take full responsibility for developing, and maintaining their software, usually for a fixed annual cost. In addition, we research new technologies, and we assist with the adoption of new platforms, such as Cloud services. We meet the innovation costs and actively recruit new talent and offer fixed cost, fixed date solutions. Effectively, we take away all the risks from our clients, allowing them to focus on their core business.

What more can we offer?

We work with a monthly retainer with several of our customers. When we agree on a retainer fee, we naturally first work with them to define a realistic estimate of the development work and support they need each year. On this basis, we agree on a monthly budget and tariffs for different types of work.

Once a retainer agreement is in place, we can carry out multiple assignments under the agreement, often providing an estimate for each project but without the need for a time-consuming quotation and approval process each time. This approach means that projects start more quickly. It also allows us to adopt Agile techniques, with frequent incremental deliveries, providing the client with many opportunities for feedback. An ideal opportunity for them to ensure the end-product meets all their needs.

How does a retainer work?

For example, we recently designed and developed a new corporate website for one of our customers under a retainer agreement. We then wrote content, produced videos, and employed SEO specialists to help create a successful website. While almost none of this additional work was part of the original project, the flexibility of a retainer agreement meant we could quickly deliver the contents and leave the client to focus on their business. Even after completing the site, we’ve continued to create blogs, videos and infographics, all within the scope of a monthly retainer. Each month we provide an overview of the work done. Sometimes this exceeds the estimate, and at other times it’s lower than the estimate. Once a quarter or once every six months, we calculate and resolve any differences. By trusting each other, we create a win-win situation for both parties. Best of all, we can deliver quickly!

Can we advise you further?

If – like BSL – you’ve been working as a developer for more than 25 years for various customers, large and small, then you know how to find a technical solution for most situations. Together with the customer, we learn to understand their business, with little or no focus on short-term gains. We believe that a long-term partnership with trust on both sides is much more valuable to both parties.

Do you also want advice and would like to learn more about retainers, or how a long-term software development partnership can help your business? Then let’s get around the table and see if we can be of service to each other.

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