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When to Hire a Software Boutique

My company InfoStrat is a software boutique.  We're a small company that specializes in several related areas, especially on developing line of business solutions on the Microsoft platform.  I'm often asked why organizations should hire our company rather than a large systems integrator or a staffing company.

A boutique usually consists of permanent, fulltime employees who are organized in teams to tackle a project.  This is different from a staffing company that focuses on gathering resumes of qualified individuals and adding them to a team in another organization.  The team has worked together and knows each person's strengths and weaknesses.

Specialization allows boutiques to stay up to date with the latest technological advances in their area, and they often have more experience in their specialties than generalists. The advantage of a large systems integrator is that their staff covers a much wider set of skills and technologies than any boutique.

Boutiques often have higher hourly rates than staffing companies or global system integrators.  If you are looking for the lowest rate and do not need a team to conduct a project, offshore developers and staffing companies are usually the cheapest.  Global integrators have a wide range of rates, and tend to apply a larger number of hours and people to a task than would a boutique.

Staffing companies do not assume the risk for a project.  They provide people and you are responsible for rejecting them based on their performance.  Boutiques rely on referrals for new business, so they are the most zealous in making projects succeed. 

Here is a table that compares these options:


 
Global Systems Integrator
Staffing Company
Offshore Development
Boutique
Hourly rate
High
Medium
Low
High
Geographic reach
High
High
N/A
Low
Accountability
High
Low
Low
High
Deep pockets
Yes
Maybe
No
No
Specialized
No
No
No
Yes
Mature project processes
Yes
No
No
Yes
Invests in people
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Strong communication skills
Yes
Maybe
No
Yes

In many cases, the best solution is a team of companies that consists of large integrators and boutiques.  Some of our most successful collaborations have been with global systems integrators such as HP, SAIC, and Lockheed Martin.  The large integrators have broad skills that complement our specializations and their geographic reach is vital for large projects with multiple locations.

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