South African tech companies have all the skills and experience to hold their own against the best on the international stage. Traditionally we have been held back by a pervasive mindset that we simply don’t match up to the global players. However, this is changing fast, and the growing confidence of local IT service providers is setting us up for great things in future.
Stephan Pienaar, chief operating officer of Cape Town – based software development company Framework One adds that international clients generally look for a proven track record, with a focus on what we’ve done on scale.
“Despite South Africa often being seen as an immature market, we are easily on par with the best in the world. We’re increasingly seeing international companies investigate South African companies as viable outsourced software development and services suppliers.”
According to the New Computer Technology research report from Business Monitor International, South African IT services sales is set to grow to R38.4bn in 2014, with business process outsourcing services as one of the key drivers.
Pienaar says there are great benefits for their international clients in working with a South African software development company.
“The exchange rate is quite favourable and development is less costly than in more developed markets. Cape Town also has a great pool of top quality developers. Technology solutions enable us to service clients around the world, so the need for face to face contact is minimal as long as the agreed development methodology and process is followed. This also enables us to consistently deliver working software that meets our clients’ expectations.”
He adds that modern tech tools enable constant, seamless communication between their Cape Town office and clients that are located predominantly in Europe. “Cloud based project management tools provide clients with complete transparency on the status of their projects. We also use online source code repositories, mind mapping tools, to-do lists and chat tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts to keep in touch with clients. We are a cloud-based service provider so it’s important that we also adopt the technologies that we offer to clients. And since the services are scalable, we only need to pay for what we use, which keeps costs down.”
There are some challenging aspects to servicing clients in other parts of the world. “In many cases you simply can’t beat local knowledge. For example, the credit check process on a loan application in Ireland is vastly different to that in South Africa, so you need to make sure you collect data and build your knowledge of the regions where you’re doing business. Communication can be a challenge when you’re operating across different time zones and service clients where English is not a first language, but generally we find these to be minor issues. The tools we use provide such transparency that clients are generally comfortable to let us get on with the work.”
Pienaar cautions local tech companies that there is a big threat to their continued success.
“There’s a massive shortage of developers at the moment. Finding and retaining quality talent is fast becoming our number one concern. Big international players such as Amazon and Google also scoop up a lot of the top developers, so we need to be smart about how we retain staff. Ideally, you want to create an environment where staff can develop and craft their skills. Most modern workers only stay at a company for two to three years, and as an employer you have to make the most of that. Ultimately, passionate and talented developers will make or break our success on the international stage. Put your people first, and make sure you have the proper processes in place to ensure seamless delivery to clients. The rest will follow naturally.”