PART 4: Come on IT Companies – Let’s be disruptive! Understanding the differences.

In last week’s article I continued to explore the potential for large and small companies to work together for the greater good. In other words collaboration. I identified two of the issues i.e. finding the companies in the first place and then figuring out how to work together.

I speak with lots of companies large and small. Large companies are always looking for innovation. Small companies tend to be the breeding ground of innovation but how to work with them?  Some companies innovate and get the skills they need by acquisition. Others recruit staff and a few try to work with smaller companies.

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The latter is often the last resort because of the intrinsic differences between large and small companies. Small companies find it difficult working with a far more bureaucratic partner who may enforce contractual obligations which a smaller company doesn’t fully understand or has difficulty working within. Large companies will cite the difficulty they have in getting the smaller companies to scale up and understand the issues that a large companies faces with corporate roll outs of products and services.

So in essence there are legal and project management aspects of carrying out a piece of work. Both large and small companies have different issues that need to be addressed to create a harmonious working partnership. There is no reason why these cannot be surmountable and manageable if the issues are understood at the outset.

The first step for collaborating is recognising and accepting the inherent differences. This should not be difficult as there is plenty of recognition of the issues in both the academic and business world. The key is to get the managers who are responsible for delivering a project to understand the benefits the collaboration will bring to the organisations, and perhaps most importantly to want to work together.

Information Technology has many different disciplines which require very different skill sets and personalities. Projects can be hugely complicated with teams of diverse individuals which all have to find a way of working together. The IT industry is made up of many small companies. The majority are less than 10 people, and in Scotland 85% of IT companies have less than 20 people. This means that large organisations do not have a huge amount of companies in their own image that they can work with. There are a few large multinational IT companies, a handful of SMEs with 150+ people and all the rest are very small companies. This applies to the public sector too, and the government has set targets to increase the use of SMEs in the public sector. However if organisations find it difficult, or don’t want to work with the small IT companies then there is a very limited pool to choose from.

So the potential to work with small companies would considerably increase the options for large companies. Collaborative projects could open new doors for doing things, and can provide a blend of skills to deliver fantastic technology. The challenge is how to manage these projects. It needs each company involved to respect and accept the differences. There will be efficiencies and cost savings in some areas. Smaller companies don’t have the same overheads so their day rate can be lower.  However the management of a team across several companies needs a strong and experienced project manager who understands the potential pitfalls and can coax, cajole and coach his team towards great performance and delivery – not an easy task. So a healthy budget is needed to build and manage a cross company team. However the rewards could be immense: great technology, innovation, more talents and skills, variety in means of delivery as well as boosting the economy by helping to fuel small company growth!

 

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First published on Company Connecting November 2015

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