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Build-Operate-Transfer: the Operate stage

Andrew Radcliffe

Co-founder and CEO of Spyrosoft Ltd.

In the last instalment of my Build Operate Transfer blog series, I talked about the details and the challenges of the initial, Build stage. This time, I’d like to decipher the second phase of the model – the Operate stage.  

If you need a refresher on what BOT is, what are its benefits and why it may be an ideal partnership model for the current time, visit this first article in the series: Capability as a Service: What is the Build-Operate-Transfer Model, and Why It May Be Right for You in the 2020 Crisis? 

What is the Operate Stage? 

After discussing the Build stage, let’s dive into the Operate Stage. What is it and what are the best ways of approaching it?  

You could say that the Operate stage is the core of the Build Operate Transfer engagement model. This is where the real work happens, it’s also the crucial stage of the collaboration.  

So, what tasks does this stage include? 

  • Expanding the team if and when necessary 
  • Process implementation to ensure the technical abilities of the team and the project’s business maturity 
  • Towards the end of this phase, the transfer of the lead programmers and team leaders into the partner’s company may also happen

The goal here is achieving stability and a fully operational development process. This will be crucial down the line, when you move to the Transfer stage and will make it smoother. 

One of the most important parts of the Operate stage is communication. By making sure that you connect with your business partner and the team with daily catchups, weekly or bi-weekly retros and monthly all-hands meetups, you keep all of the teams aligned and working in unison rather than as separate groups. 

Benefits of the Operate stage 

Cost efficiency 

As it is the case with the BOT engagement model in general, reducing costs is one of the obvious advantages of the Operate stage. When using this model, you’re immune to any market changes and can experiment and test your initial project ideas. Even if they don’t turn into a fully-fledged product or service, the risk is definitely lower than if you were to develop them on your own, with the support of your external partner. 

Ability to rapidly scale 

Whether you need to quickly onboard new members to your team or scale it down, in the Operate phase you can quickly change the number of collaborators. Because they’re employed by your business partner, they’re also able to handle the documentation and move them to other internal or external projects if needed. You partner will also help you find ideal candidates if your project enters the growth phase and you need more people working on it. 

Shorter time to market 

Having an external partner is not just about quickly building up your team. One of the biggest advantages of the BOT partnership model that’s not often mentioned, is that you gain access to one of the most important business assets: the knowledge base. The companies that tend to operate in this model hire experienced specialists that bring their unique skills and expertise to your project. That’s why with BOT, your time to market will be much shorter than if you’d started building on your own. 

State-of-the-art technologies 

As I’ve mentioned above, being able to use your partner’s know-how to scale up your project is one of the benefits of the Build Operate Transfer collaboration. Another aspect of it is that they can help you with picking the right technology for what you’re trying to achieve. Even if you don’t have an IT/technology team of your own, your external partner will be able to decide on the exact tools – including both hardware and software – that are not only ideal for developing your project, but are also currently used as a standard in the industry or domain you’re planning to enter. 

Who will the Operate phase suit? 

Of course, you cannot get to the Operate stage without going through the Build stage first. Let’s imagine that you’ve completed it and now it’s time to get into the detail. Depending on the maturity of your business, you can use this phase to quickly develop a ready-to-use solution or to learn the technicalities/specifics of product and project management. With help for your external partner, either or both options are possible.  

How it works in practice 

At Spyrosoft, we’ve been using the BOT engagement model for the past few years with multiple clients. In the Operate phase we usually run teams for the customer and for their product/service development. It’s important to note that this phase of the process may take 1 – 2 years to ensure the quality of the project. In our case, we always leave it to our partner to decide when they want to switch to operating the team and the project on their own, so the exact timeline depends on their needs and abilities. 

Wrapping up 

The Operate stage is the longest phase of BOT and to work out the details of the collaboration you need clear and frequent communication on both sides. This is how you’ll achieve enough stability and project maturity to move on to the final, Transfer stage. I’ll explain what it is and how to get it done in the next part of this blog series. 

Do you have any questions about how any of the BOT stages work in more details? Would you like to know how they can help your project? Let me know on LinkedIn and let’s discuss it some more.