Enterra Outsourcing: Tailor-Made Software Development
Siberia might not sound the most promising location for a software developer, but Enterra is part of a new wave of Russian outsourcing providers that threatens the dominance of India and China.
Software development firm Enterra is based in the Siberian city of Barnaul, in Russia. 'We have the ability to bring people with PhDs in computer science to the table,' says Paul Swengler, Enterra's COO and head of the US division, 'and still offer rates far lower than would be possible in the US.'
Founded in 2001 by computer sciences PhD, Dmitry Starostenkov, the company now employs over 30 people in Russia, and also has offices in the US and Germany.
In fact Russia has some of the brightest scientific talent in the world. The country ranks third globally in terms of the number of scientists and engineers per capita. According to RUSSOFT, Russia's main association of software companies, there are approximately 250,000 IT professionals in the country.
Despite the abundance of computing know-how, however, the software outsourcing market is still a highly competitive one. So where does the company get the competitive advantage that is driving its 100% annual growth rate?
Swengler explains with an analogy. 'When I was travelling in Asia, I looked for a tailor to make me a suit,' he says. 'Eventually I found a tailor I was comfortable with and had my suits made-to-measure. They cost about the same as getting a suit off of the peg in the US, but they fit much better. Our approach to software development is very similar. It is worth taking the time to find us, because we believe in a bespoke person-to-person approach, rather than a business-to-business approach.'
This personal approach is the key to Enterra's success and is evident in the way it deals with clients. 'We like to partner with out clients, and not in the sense of telling them how to make their software work,' says Swengler. 'It is partnering where we might ask, "do you want to consider these factors for the future, we recommend using this application, this language". It is always a dialogue, a two-way process - we participate in the software development with our clients.'
TALK TO THE EXPERTS
Underpinning this relationship is effective communication. 'Communication is critical,' says Swengler. 'In many cases the US offices act as a facilitator. If our clients want to talk to us we are here. But if they want to talk to our people in Russia, that's not a problem. We assign a project manager, and that project manager communicates with the client in English.'
That care with communication also builds trust, Swengler notes. 'Trust is essential. We have to earn our client's trust. When people come to us we are dealing with their hopes, their dreams, their ideas and ambitions,' he says.
Judging by the company's record, that trust is well founded. The company prides itself on delivering turnkey projects on time and on budget. The size of contracts varies from $5,000 to $250,000. Enterra can deliver a broad range of software applications, with specific expertise in a number of areas such as CRM, content management and wireless communications solutions.
Ultimately, however, perhaps the one thing that marks Enterra out is its personal approach to outsourcing. 'There are a number of important factors involved in obtaining a good outsourcing contract,' says Swengler. 'There is cost. There is core competency. But the thing that really makes the difference is the person-to-person relationship. As the client, how are you treated?'
Staff turnover is low, at around five per cent, which means continuity in programming. Customer renewal rates are high. Add in the quality of the technical staff and suddenly Siberia looks a tempting location after all.