Farm-out: Combining a hybrid way of consultancy and project execution

Thursday 6 June 2024

People involved are convinced: Farm-out combines the best of two worlds. Henri Sormani, Director Farm-out & Consultancy, and Peter Barna, architect of a Farm-out team, tell us why.

A few years back, TOPIC decided to empower the TOPIC-collective by adding a new business line to service our clients. ‘Many of our colleagues were on individual consultancy assignments with clients’, says Henri. ‘This meant they were out of the office, being less connected to TOPIC. We thought; how could we work closer together as a TOPIC team, to enhance our strengths and have an even higher added value to the client?’

Hybrid way of working between consultancy and projects
It was the start of Farm-out: combining a hybrid way of consultancy with project execution. ‘Its foundation: working as a TOPIC team, integrated into the client’s development environment’, says Henri. ‘It provides more opportunities for personal development, ownership and responsibilities and high entanglement with our clients.’ The idea turned out to be spot-on: Farm-out has become an important business line, highly appreciated by clients and employees.

Client in the lead
The Farm-out teams collaborate closely with the client, in fact, the client remains in the lead. ‘From the client’s team a product owner and a lead/architect are our peers’, says Henri. ‘Our team consists of a scrum master, a lead engineer/architect and highly skilled team members.’ The teams work in an agile way, including a daily stand-up, retrospective and planning session. Generally getting together once a week at the customer’s office, twice a week at the TOPIC office and the rest at the home office.

The difference between our Projects organization is that in Farm-out the client always determines the priorities, says Henri. ‘A Farm-out project is integrated into the development environment of the customer. The client defines the scope, the work package and an overview including long-term planning, obviously in close collaboration with us. From there, we take responsibility for the project and its results. While closely collaborating, we can give feedback and suggest improvements from an outsider’s perspective.’

Challenging assignments
Farm-out teams work on assignments for a longer period of time. ‘We focus on incredibly challenging assignments, applying our experience with the newest technologies in multiple domains. The more challenging, the better.’ The feedback Henri receives from clients sometimes gives him goosebumps. ‘Clients tell us we are an outperforming supplier, with highly motivated and high performing teams. They appreciate our problem-solving capabilities, our experience and quality, with results they thought they could never achieve. Honestly, it makes me incredibly proud.’

Opportunity to grow
The teams are carefully selected based on skill level, roles, and personality. Henri: ‘We are well-aware that a team can only achieve great results when the dynamics are right.’ One of those team members is Peter, who has worked at TOPIC for 16 years and in Farm-out teams since 2018. ‘What I enjoy about Farm-out is the ownership you get and the opportunity to grow, for instance into an architecture role. Since our team works closely with our clients, you get the luxury of a familial company combined with high-quality high-tech projects. It is the best of both worlds’, Peter says.

Forefront technological innovation
As an architect, Peter is involved in the project’s planning, and organizing knowledge-sharing sessions for the teams. ‘At the same time, I still do design work and implementation’, he says. Working at the forefront of technological innovation offers exciting challenges. ‘The interdependencies between sub-systems and specialized teams create complex dependencies that make planning of work quite challenging. Moreover, we develop software targeted for hardware systems and modules that are still in development and often do not (yet) exist. This poses another challenge regarding testing and qualification of our products, which requires us to be creative.’

International expansion
Peter describes the dynamics within the team as ‘energetic’ and ‘proactive’. ‘We never have to ask twice for help. Someone is always ready to help you out straight away. At the same time, we challenge each other and we have fun. The same goes for the client: we are like one team.’ The ambition of Farm-out is to expand further internationally by doing more fully remote projects. Henri: ‘Farm-out is a proven concept by now and we are convinced that we can be a great asset to many more companies around the world!’   

Picture: Henri Sormani and Peter Barna  

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