Since the dawn of the internet, the world has been moving to remote services and who you buy things from is becoming less relevant.  COVID has proved that a fully remote working approach to most services is perfectly acceptable, and in the same way your internal workforce can be flexible embedded consultants and your external workforce can be the same.  On this basis, can the location of your technology or IT supplier be irrelevant?


The Move Offshore & Embedded Consultants

Throughout the ‘90s and early 00’s, major corporates moved to offshoring as a model for their IT Services.  Using low-cost countries to deliver their knowledge-based services, they leveraged connectivity and the internet revolution to reduce their cost base.  The low-cost countries subsequently have invested heavily in developing their skills (unlike the UK….), and the resulting boost in offshore economies have built whole new tech based cities, with significant skills development pipelines and global connectivity.  

These services however are noticeably “different” to those provided by more local, onshore IT Suppliers.  Although a “developer is a developer”, the nuances of cultural alignment and stakeholder management can sometimes be lost when skills are sent offshore.  Many of the corporates who took this offshore path have revisited this decision and rebalanced their skills portfolio to bring the relationship / governance / management skills back into their own local organisations, but leverage the low cost services for more commoditised approaches.

This offshore approach also exposes companies to significant international risk.  In today’s climate, geo-political risk and foreign exchange risk are significantly more likely than historically.  With fluctuations in the Pound, labour shortages and political trade conflict, as well as actual war and conflict, the globalised economy comes with potential downsides that should be mitigated.


Benefits of Buying Local for Smaller Companies

But the offshoring industry really has been the preserve of the corporates.  For smaller companies, buying local also has benefits – even if this really means sourcing an IT supplier within their localised region (county / city) rather than further afield.

For technology physical equipment support, there are the obvious benefits of being local for speed of response.  Although the cloud has reduced the requirement for “onsite server visits” or “backup tape changes” at business premises, desktop support, printer support and telecoms comes with significant benefits where the engineer is local to the problem area or the business/shop is within a quick drive.  Ensuring local presence for these services is key to their success.


Building Relationships and Advantages of a Local IT Supplier

Less obvious, and relevant to pretty much all services, is the locality of Account Management to a business for the relationship.  No matter how “virtual” our meetings get, it is tough to build a relationship with your embedded consultants without meeting them face to face, and it’s even more difficult to address an issue across a video call.  Subtleties of body language, tone etc are key to a successful relationship, and the more face to face engagement a business can have with its suppliers the better the services are.

For example, if an IT supplier has two customers who are experiencing issues.  One is 4 hours drive, and one is 15 minutes drive – which one is the supplier account manager most likely to want to attend first?  Fundamentally people want to be productive and efficient, a 4 hour drive on a regular basis is not a good use of time, and relationships can be made or broken based on these basic instinctive decisions.

Similarly, relationships are based on common interests – and a really local supplier will be able to build relationships based on local common interests, inane conversation about local good restaurants, a shared love of a local football team, knowing the same people from the same school etc, all makes a big difference to the depth (and therefore success) of a relationship.

Finally, at an economic level, travel costs time and money.  Businesses make more money if their sales / account / support staff do not have to spend hours in cars visiting their clients, especially with the ever increasing cost of travel and time.  Local businesses working with local businesses makes sense on every level.

In conclusion, using location as a key attribute to search for a technology or IT supplier may feel a bit old fashioned, but it still has its place – which is why it is one of the key attributes within Embedded Intelligence.