How to Outsource Your Applications: A Nine-Point Checklist

Critical to the success of any move to outsourcing is knowing which applications you can outsource and, perhaps more importantly, which ones you cannot. Prashant Kshirsagar, application management COE leader at Syntel, explains how to tell them apart.


Each year, corporations globally outsource an increasing number of complex types of IT engagements. While global IT outsourcing is a reality, achieving significant gains comes with one major limitation: Not every application is a fit. But making the decision about which application to outsource can be challenging. The human ownership component (i.e.: "My application is too critical to outsource. Use another department's")-can complicate critical and objective analysis of the decision.

Both experienced CIOs and outsourcing firms rely on scorecards and other tools to rate every IT application's suitability. A scorecard approach helps organizations gain a better glimpse into which applications make sense to outsource and which do not.

Below is a nine-point "outsourcing candidate" analysis based on Syntel's "Health Check Indicator Scorecard." To use this analysis, each factor should be assigned a level of importance based upon an objective measure of the IT department's goals, budgets, staffing and other resources. Analysis of each factor should also include a short explanation providing appropriate context.

Factor No. 1: Size of the Application

Larger applications are better suited than those which require less than two FTEs (full-time equivalents). This is especially true for applications intended for use in an on-site/offshore mix of resources.

Factor No. 2: Technology Platform

Applications that require a special technology skill, or those that stand alone within a portfolio, are harder to outsource. This is because of the higher costs required to provide back up resources and the effect on an on-site/offshore mix. This factor gains importance when you're grouping applications to reach a critical mass for outsourcing.

Factor No. 3: Stability of the Application

Stable applications (that is, those with fewer software problems) are easier to maintain and support than those that have a significant amount of problem tickets over a set period of time. The time to repair, conduct root-cause analysis and improve overall performance is directly proportional to the amount of support time required.

Factor No. 4: Volatility of the Application

This refers to the amount of change to the application over some set period of time. Applications that are highly volatile have a much greater chance for swings in the number of error conditions that must be addressed.

Factor No. 5: Candidate for Retirement

Applications scheduled for retirement in less than a year combine a high investment in knowledge acquisition and transition with a low return value. These are not good outsourcing candidates.

Factor No. 6: Required Business Knowledge

All applications require some business knowledge to ensure high productivity of support. However, some require a detailed understanding of the business rules and the complexity of the business process. Beware: Existing owners place a high value on this requirement-making this item one of the most difficult to quantify.

Factor No. 7: Complexity of the Application

This measures the relative complexity of the application including (but not limited to) complexity in processing logic, a high number of interfaces and multiple support platforms.

Factor No. 8: Development Phase

This metric defines whether the application is under development or enhancement, or whether or not it is nearing a milestone or cutover phase. An application in the final stages of testing would not be a good candidate.