The Software Outsourcing Show, Episode 22: Accelerance Returns to Latin America

April 8, 2020

By Bobby Dewrell

The Accelerance travel team returned from their trip to Brazil and Argentina. The team consisted of  Ryan Schauer, Partner Success Manager and Rich Wanden, Senior Managing Director

Join Ryan and Rich to learn more about why onsite assessments are essential to the Accelerance Global Network verification process, best travel practices and what the travel team is most excited about on this upcoming partner trip. Plus, they provide insights as to why Latin America is the hot spot for outsourcing your software development projects and what it's like to travel amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Software Outsourcing Show is your #1 source for information, lessons learned, and exclusive insights into outsourcing. The show is produced by Accelerance, the leading consulting firm dedicated to helping companies reduce risk with software outsourcing. Make sure to follow the travel team on our next adventures via InstagramLinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter using the #softwaretravels.

Transcript: 

Bobby: You're listening to the "Software Outsourcing Show" brought to you by Accelerance, the global software outsourcing authority.

Bobby: Hello and welcome to the "Software Outsourcing Show." My name is Bobby Dewrell. And I am your host and happy to have you here on another episode of the "Software Outsourcing Show." You know, I know it's some interesting times that we're all in especially in the United States as the COVID concern has made its way westward and become more of a concern for us over the next few weeks. And we're going through the safety measures and safety precautions that a lot of our friends over in Asia and Europe have been through and are currently going through as well.

But it's been some interesting times for me, and as you may know, it did result in me canceling some travel down to Argentina and Brazil. I was looking forward to bringing back some of those experiences here on the show but what I do have is two guests in the studio today that were able to join me, that were actually abroad. They were traveling for Accelerance down again, Brazil and Argentina, and were there live as the concern for the virus and its contagiousness kind of made it into the Western hemisphere.

So they were making those travels and are gonna share some of those experiences with us from Latin America and just travel abroad during sort of a continuity crisis, you could call it, from a business operation standpoint. So joining me in the studio is Rich Wanden, he's a Senior Managing Director at Accelerance as of January 2020. Rich hails from New Zealand and spent 20 years in Australia before moving to the United States. He's got an extensive background in outsourcing and consulting sales, relationships and experiences. And Rich is just a great addition to the Accelerance team.

Now you've likely heard from Ryan Schauer, Accelerance's Partner Success Manager. Ryan has actually been on this show before and he has great insight into offshore partners and current global business conditions. Ryan has been with Accelerance for close to four years and has traveled the globe to research, vet, and engage with partners and prospects.

Hey, Rich, hey Ryan. Thanks for joining me in the studio today. Glad to have you guys here.

Rich: Thanks for having us, Bobby.

Ryan: Thanks, Bobby.

Bobby: I know it was a little bit of an adventure for you guys to get back in the States. I had mentioned on the last episode I was getting ready to go down to Argentina and Brazil, Argentina this week, Brazil next week. And, you know, just last week y'all kind of did the opposite of my travel, you went to Brazil first and then to Argentina and you guys kinda got caught out there with the COVID crisis is the way it moves, right?

Ryan: Yes. We stole all your beef and we drank all your wine, so you missed it, but yeah, unfortunately, you wouldn't be able to get down there. But, you know, we sort of rode the front wave of the virus scare. We were there from, what was it, March 8th I think through the 13th. So we got out really just in time before they started banning all the flights and everyone went into a panic to try to get home.

Bobby: So let's talk about that because you were really kind of there through that whole ramp up wave as it started moving over, I'll say to the Western hemisphere for the most part. And so, like I know going out, I made my flight reservations roughly around the same time y'all were making yours and getting down there, and I got read the warning that, "Hey, you know, this is a nonrefundable ticket, it's not gonna be refunded even if the Coronavirus comes around." But I mean, that was really kind of the only thing we had going in at the time of booking. I mean, what was it like when you were flying in and leaving and going out, did you notice any difference in the getting to Latin America, I'll say?

Ryan: A little bit, and then also I advise you to travel with Rich as he has all the power in the world because he's got a million miles. So we were able to adjust our flights fairly simple.

Bobby: That's the joy of being a Kiwi that was in Australia and came to the States a few times a year, right? Rich.

Rich: You get the rewards for that but, you know, I really feel for the airlines and the hospitality business what they're going through. We have a very different business exposure to what's going on here, but in all that we did, when we made the changes they happened very quickly. What I would say is things were moving on an hour by hour basis as this all happened. And it's like any, I guess, circumstance, if you were caught in bushfires in Australia or you were caught in a tsunami in a foreign country or something like that.

Bobby: Oh, I'd say it's like hurricanes here on the Gulf coast for us, or two inches of snow in Charlotte, right?

Rich: Yeah, exactly. But you've got to have your wits about you when it's happening and look after the people that you're with in terms of the team that you're with, the client and yourself, and make sure that you make the right calls on that. So, you know, what we did was on Wednesday night when it became apparent that places were beginning to question the movement of people through their borders and the safety of that, we made a call driving from the airport in Buenos Aires after we'd just landed from Sao Paulo to fly out, not on Friday night as scheduled, but to change it to Thursday. And that change was made absolutely, it wasn't a question about making the change, no fee, no nothing, American Airlines said, "No problem, you're booked on the flight," and off we went. So that was one thing in that circumstance that really made up making the call.

Ryan: And we were even hesitant about leaving Sao Paulo for Argentina, but we had...our partner was actually flying from New York to meet us in Buenos Aires with his team. And I was texting him like every 20 minutes, like, "Have you landed? What are you doing?" So I figured if he was able to get through it would be fine. So it's like, yeah, he got in like that Wednesday night and he basically...or that Wednesday afternoon in Argentina and he's like, "Yeah, we just had to sign a form basically detailing our last 14 days, where we sat on the plane, and if we were or were not sick. And we gave all of our personal information to the Argentinean government."

Rich: And also they wanted to know where we were going next, which was actually a really good thing because they were gonna follow us up if they needed to or so we felt, right?

Bobby: Right. Well, and, you know, I think that's a good thing to talk about. I know a lot of people are talking about the virus, about what's going on and about decisions made. And to me, yesterday or, well, the other day when we were talking on the other episode we were talking about the whole fact of having a continuity plan, right? And that that continuity plan has to be really kind of fluid at times, right? That you can say, these are the guiding principles, these are the things we're gonna do, this is what we must keep running, this is what we need to do and this is a bell and whistle, right?

And really if you kind of break down some of the decision making of where y'all were, it was almost that same type of principle that you were putting in play real-time as you're trying to move about, right? Like, you know, what must we do? Well, we must stay well and we must get home, right? That's probably the first must that we have there. And then, what should we do? "Well, hey, there's other people traveling, we're trying to catch up with them. Let's try to make it meet while we can but then when it becomes apparent, that's not the thing to do, right, we know how to get out and move on." And again, like you said, make the decision. I think that's what catches people sometimes when they're traveling is that not wanting to make the decision.

Rich: And an ounce of preparedness is better than a life of regret over not making a call. Bobby, one thing I would say, which is interesting, the very first thing that sort of switched it on to me was when we were in Brazil and we met with one of our partners, we actually had to meet off-site with the partner. And the reason for that was that the partner's client for one of their operations in Sao Paulo was saying that if anybody working on their client's site had met with someone who'd come from overseas in the last 14 days, that they were not to come onto the client site, that they were to self-quarantine, and they were making that call. So that was really the first sort of thing that got us thinking about, "Hey, the world is changing quite rapidly here." And, you know, that that's important.

And then as Ryan said, when we were going to Argentina, we were flying from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires on the Wednesday evening, we were beginning to hear stories about they were quarantining foreigners or they were turning people around and we couldn't find any evidence of that when we started looking on government websites. And so we began to sort of question, and I think there's rumor and there's fact and there's information getting put out very clearly on the CDC website or on state government websites, and we were looking at consular websites as well, we weren't finding anything. And sure enough, they let us in.

Ryan: And I was a little bit more nervous than Rich as I'm flying with a U.S. passport and he's flying with a New Zealand-Australian passport. So that was when it started to heat up in the U.S. and they were telling U.S. citizens that they had to leave or be quarantined. So nothing about Australians or New Zealanders, so [crosstalk 00:09:58].

Rich: Not at that stage. And luckily, we're in a part of the world where the incidence still even remains lower, they're further behind the curve in terms of the number of incidences that are tested and that are discovered.

Bobby: Right. Absolutely, and I think that's a good point too, you know, and like you were talking about when y'all were actually in Brazil. Brazil didn't really have...I mean from a governmental standpoint, didn't take much action really until their president got sick and then they kind of turned on that dime pretty quick.

Ryan: That Monday, I mean, we spent Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in Maringá, Brazil, which is about 400,000 people. I think they only had two cases at that time in the entire region of Brazil. So it was kind of sort of BAU, but we were discussing about their business contingency plans, and they have them in place. Everyone can work at home, work remotely, servers are all taken care of, they had been through that crisis before with the H1N1, which was I think a couple years ago.

That trip went off without a hitch but not your typical partner visit because I think we're both kind of thinking about it on an hourly basis as to, what are we gonna do tomorrow, what are we gonna do the next day, where should we go? So that kinda took the fun out of it but we were able to get all the information we wanted from our partner in Maringá. And like we said, we were gonna visit our partners in Sao Paulo, but we weren't able to on that Wednesday, so we ended up just having some nice Brazilian barbecue and enjoying just getting some updates from our partners there.

Bobby: And I think, you know, that's important too that they've flexed this muscle, they've kinda gone through this continuity plan before. And, you know, even without the government coming down and saying, "Hey, you're not gonna do this." You know, they have one client that says, "Hey, I don't want anybody coming in contact with anyone." You know, and so they have the ability and the means to kind of put that in place and make it enforceable, I think that's really good there.

And, you know, to that point, when you said it's not the typical partner visit, I did note that in some of the pictures I saw coming back from y'all. Usually, you take a picture with some of the people at the partner, it's everybody kind of crammed in, and not necessarily arms around one another but all standing in close. And, you know, this picture came back taken from like a football field away with a wide angle lens because everybody wanted like 4-feet in between each other.

Rich: There was definitely social distancing being practiced in Buenos Aires on the Thursday, everyone was quite concerned.

Ryan: And I was kind of like come on we've to get together and the guy taking the picture was like move in and I think we're all just kind of too nice, but we're all sort of like, [inaudible 00:12:50] you want to touch me? And so everyone was a foot and a half apart and the picture was awkward. So we gotta figure out how to Photoshop that. Again, being in Buenos Aires, we were there a couple months before but the purpose there was to get a lot more interviews and to meet more of the team. You know, and the strike too because majority of them were all working from home, our partner there has already developed their contingency plans and saying, "If you don't have to come in, if you have the means to work from home you should do so." But we didn't get to see their new...they'd built up a new floor so we got the tour of that area and got to meet some of the other teams, not everybody but most.

Bobby: Sure. And, you know, I think that's great, it's just kind of an example of how we can continue to move forward even with something like this going on. So now I know, Ryan, on the delivery side where I am I know, you know, we've changed some things, some stuff that we usually do in person and some of the workshops and some of the training and stuff like that, we've gone all remote. Are you kind of doing the same thing on the partner side? Is that a shift you guys are making?

Ryan: From our partners, are they working remote?

Bobby: Well, you know, from all the due diligence and the things like that that we do that we usually travel to and stuff like that?

Ryan: Right now we are planning on trips to, again, back to South America and Europe, those are really on hold right now, we're not stopping them, we're just waiting and seeing. But majority of the details we can do from an assessment can all be done virtually like we've done in the past. But to really get the feel for what your partner is about and what their capabilities are and how they manage their clients and their employees is to go down there and see it for yourself. Because, you know, clients would want to see like, what's the town like, what's the sort of way of life of the employees? And that really helps for retention and your employee happiness, so to speak, and how they develop great software for clients.

Bobby: And that's one of those things that will pick back up again once the concerns start to subside. And, Rich, you know, how about for your team and your group? I mean, I know that you guys tend to like to keep the road pretty warm, so to speak, so how are you adjusting?

Rich: So, Bobby, that's an interesting question. So we're in sales and sales is a contact business but we've always done a lot of it remotely and continuing to do so. And the great thing is, is that even the delivery of the services, we haven't really slowed down, in fact, we've been involved for the first time in doing an aligned process with a customer remotely, right?

Bobby: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Rich: Which we prefer to do on-site, we've always done them that way. But necessity being the mother of all invention has forced us to do this and it's working. You'll follow up with a visit with the customer and the partner later, but the getting things going and happening, we haven't noticed a bump in that in sales, which is good.

Bobby: Right. And I think that's a good point that both of you are making, right? Is that, while we're doing some things as a contingency, they're not necessarily the new normal, right? There's still value in face to face, there's still value in seeing and being there and making those social bonds that happen just outside of the daily work, we still have that. But, you know, we can definitely offset and rearrange a little bit if we need to, but never really replace, is that a fair way to say it?

Rich: Absolutely right. And we're just doing what we need to do to get by. And I've been very impressed with the resilience of the clients and the partners, the whole life cycle of talking. We're still having selling conversations with people where they've got requirements that they're gonna need fulfilled. Not every one of our customers is actually being impacted in a negative way by what's going on at all. In fact some of them are experiencing substantially increasing volumes of business as we speak just through this. So, you know, things go on, life goes on.

Bobby: I wish I had bought a little stock in video conferencing services, any of those things because they're definitely on the uptick. And you know, that was one thing that we were talking about within our last episode too, with business continuity planning is, you know, just because you have a plan, just because you have a way to do it, you've got to flex that muscle, you got to exercise it, you gotta do it on a regular basis to kind of keep it up and running. And, you know, Ryan, I know we talk to our partners about business continuity plans, but have we seen any disruption in any of their services, any of their abilities to operate or anything like that?

Ryan: No. I mean, we've had conversations with all partners and a lot of our partners with active Accelerance clients, and some were just...you know, in the beginning it was like, "No, we're fine, right? You know, we're in this country, within Latin America, we're not impacted." Now people are coming back saying, "No, everyone is...you know, we're working from home, we're still, having meetings, having our standups, pushing software out to production." So things are going as planned.

You know, one of the parts of our certification is just that, talking about their contingency planning and what is it. A lot of people talk about, "Hey, we have it." Okay, well, where is it? What does it look like and do you practice it? But a lot of our partners have been through it before. We have partners in Puerto Rico that have gone through the hurricane with generators, some with, you know, like I said before, the H1N1 and other areas of issues that they've pushed through. So, you know, going through one, going through an issue like this is the best way to test it but all of our partners are...they have the abilities to execute anywhere in the world.

Bobby: Cool. Rich, any parting thoughts as we kind of wrap up? I mean, you know, from what you saw and just in general about the partners down there and response?

Rich: Well, I was very impressed with how people were just trying to keep on working in a safe way and in a considerate way, which was, you know, we're all in this humanity thing together, there was no cross-cultural difference here or anything like that, it was like we were all focused on making sure people were safe and that things were working still if they needed to. And where they weren't people were being very, very sane about saying, "Well, let's just stop doing things, let's stop being around people," which was good. So very impressed with that and gives me a lot of hope for the future.

Bobby: Well, good. That's great to hear, right? And it is true, when things like this come through, it's amazing how quickly all those cultural differences drop and we all...we're just suddenly all human, right? And that's the only thing that really matters. And, you know, smart people are everywhere and everyone who wants to help everyone else, that's really what it comes down to. Ryan, any parting thoughts for anyone as we go through?

Ryan: No, just, you know, we had a good trip and I think this will pass as other things have prior to this and we should be fine.

Bobby: And for the record, I this entire time have been monitoring whether or not you guys are sweating. If I hear either one of you complain about being cold, I'm calling someone.

Ryan: There is no coughing, no one's coughed, no one is aching. We should be fine. I'm not sure how my kids are gonna be, but...

Rich: We're all good.

Bobby: Hey, it's, you know, so far from like all the stats that I keep seeing it's like the kids are totally immune to this thing, it's not even budging them.

Ryan: They're not at school and we're working from home and they're running around like crazy people, so they might not survive this week.

Bobby: Yes. We have that down here in Florida too with the kids home now by edict of the governor until the 15th of April. And it's becoming interesting, we're gonna have two summers this year it looks like. Although the State of Florida did come out and announce that we were going to a new online model that would be starting on the 30th of March to make sure that students could stay educated. So I'm interested to see how that works out and what happens there. So maybe that'll be another episode we can talk about is education and outsourcing, so.

Well, listen, guys, I really appreciate y'all joining me today and we'll wrap it up. It was great to talk to you about where things were with the Latin American outsourcing state, and that it really does sound like it's just business as usual. And you know, kudos to you guys for the adventure of international travel during a pandemic, I think that's an Accelerance's first, so hats off to you there. And glad you all made it back safe, no fevers, no chills, or anything there.

For everyone else, hey, thanks for listening to us on the "Software Outsourcing Show." As always, you can find our latest episodes on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play, and you can always find episodes and show notes at softwareoutsourcingshow.com. Hey, thanks a lot guys and have a good rest of your week.

Bobby: Thank you for listening to the "Software Outsourcing Show" brought to you by Accelerance, the global software outsourcing authority. Do you have a topic you'd like covered in a future show? Then send us an email at podcast@softwareoutsourcingshow.com, podcast@softwareoutsourcingshow.com. Show notes, links, and materials discussed on today's show may be found on our website at softwareoutsourcingshow.com, that's softwareoutsourcingshow.com.

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