Year 2000 work has cemented a relationship between United Glass and Indian software developer Infosys, allowing the user to save up to 60% of the cost of ongoing software development.
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After making savings on date change work, United Glass now wants to extend its partnership with Infosys. This bucks a trend among users wary of going offshore.
While offshore development offers financial benefits, many UK users remain reluctant to trust business systems development to a distant third-party suppliers.
"A lot of companies talked about outsourcing to India, but few actually did it," said Roland Imi, information systems manager at United Glass. Imi took the opportunity to go out to India in 1998 and vet companies himself.
Some of the prospects were "unashamedly coding sweatshops", he explained, but of Bangalore-based Infosys he said, "It is a fully mature business of 3,000 employees with a knowledge base and methodology that you could never have in an in-house IT department in a medium-sized business."
United Glass estimates that Infosys saved half the cost of completing year 2000 work in-house and three-quarters of the cost of contracting the work out in the UK.
Imi now believes that by entrusting his systems development to the Indian company he will achieve cost savings of 30%-60% over having the work done locally. "But cost is only one small bit, it is more about value for money," he added.
United Glass is asking Infosys to evaluate a strategy to help it to migrate its custom manufacturing-based applications from an IBM mainframe, with green-screen terminals, to another platform, maybe RS/6000 or AS/400.
Infosys will also develop Web-based interfaces to the applications based on NT. "[Some] 80%-90% of our applications are on the mainframe," Imi said. "We're looking at the systems we've got and thinking about moving them to modern technology."
Many ideas behind the strategy were generated through suggestions from Infosys, as it was doing the year 2000 project.
United Glass is no stranger to outsourcing. The mainframe systems in place today are run by UK-based Axis Resources and the bottle manufacturer's accounting systems are run on RS/6000 servers at the US parent company.
Nor is Imi concerned about the geographical distance between the UK and India. He has a project co-ordinator based at Infosys in the UK and, if needed, Infosys will put a person on site.
Imi pointed out that there is no difference between dealing with India and dealing with people in the US time zones, five hours difference from GMT in the opposite direction.