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Demystifying Engineering VP’s Dilemma of What to Outsource: Core Vs Context

Posted on: 13 April '17
Ramachandran Ramakrishnan
Ramachandran Ramakrishnan
Senior Vice President, Enterprise Software Products and Media

I had an interesting line of conversations with the Vice President (VP, Engineering) of a client firm, an enterprise software product company. He had just joined and was heading an existing product line and heard good things about Mindtree. He said, “I keep hearing from my peers about leveraging offshore and the work you do for them. However, I do not know if I could use your services as I am responsible for core IP development and that should be done in-house!”

Being in the outsourced product development space for nearly two decades, I was bit puzzled by his talk. I thought about it and realized that IP is core to a product company and there are certain parts of the work that has to absolutely remain and be managed by the in-house team. Is it possible to do everything in-house today? And is it necessary? The key focus for a VP will always be to:

  • Build smarter, leaner and better software
  • Bring the product to market much ahead of competition
  • Build the product cost effectively (Who has an unlimited budget?)

The above goals can be easily and efficiently achieved by leveraging a capable partner ecosystem. Identifying what is “core” and what is “context” to product development could be an approach that can help resolve the challenge of categorizing the areas that can be outsourced.

Core Vs Context

Core is something that delivers competitive advantage by leveraging relative internal capability that the team brings. Everything else could be considered as context; some may even be important and highly valued but could be considered context if it does not create differentiation or competitive advantage. The above model can help determine if a track, work stream or project is core or context. By identifying the Business Criticality and Internal capability, one can determine if the work has to be performed in-house or outsourced.

Some examples (not exhaustive) that could be considered context and better delivered by leveraging a partner – Interoperability/ platform proliferation, performance engineering, penetration and security testing, test automation, tools and utilities built around the product, tech debt, legacy product sustenance/ EOL management, specific product features, user experience design and validation.

What is core to one company could be context for others. By smartly leveraging partner ecosystems, we can bring great products to the market on time, every time!

Ram is one of the pioneers in outsourced product development and has a deep understanding of the enterprise software product space. He has helped many early stage product companies to realize their product vision by leveraging product engineering expertise of Mindtree. He also designed product ownership models in outsourcing for mature and EOL products for the large enterprise ISVs to leverage partners like Mindtree efficiently. He has demonstrated leadership in Engineering, Delivery and Business Management and has over 25 years of experience in the industry. In his current role as SVP & Global Head of Enterprise Hitech, Ram manages P&L of a large business. His group leverages Mindtree’s expertise and supports the Enterprise ISVs in Product Development, Testing, Infrastructure Management, Digital Transformation and IT Services.

  • Nagesh Rangappan

    Hi Ram,

    Good one. I would like to view this from a Startup angle, where IP is everything and Outsourcing is not heard off and not feasible ( Unless you are JIO)
    I found a good model of Multiple SMEs and integration happens at the startup. Times are tough and new ways of doing business is the need.


  • Sivaram Krishna

    Hi Ram

    With due respect, I think your perspective of Core v Context wrt to product outsourcing is a red herring. My views on this topic : @

    Sivaram Karuturi