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Apr 21, 2015

How to free yourself from that bad outsourcing-relationship without losing your investment

Author: Silviu Panait

Changing outsourcing providers is a sensitive topic. That’s not necessarily because it has to be that complicated a process, but because many companies are afraid of such a transition. They’d rather bear with services they’re not happy with, than attempt to take their business elsewhere. They’re stuck into a business relationship that is underperforming, and many times will not even try and look into other options. Fear of pain is making you postpone your visit to the dentist, even though you know that putting it off will only cause you more pain in the long run. Let’s try and understand why such unhealthy clinches happen.

The mystical ritual

The most common circumstance I’ve come across revolves around knowledge-transfer: the client has no internal Project Manager or Team Leader involved with their Outsourcing provider’s work to pass vital information on to the new provider. They have no specific idea of what’s going on. They see the results, they measure and track, and know that their current provider is underperforming, they just don’t understand exactly why. This is because they’ve been kept or have kept themselves in the dark about the details of the project. Still, work has been done, meaning they’ve been billed for what has been accomplished so far. So nobody would want to risk letting their provider know that they want to transfer know-how to another supplier – and have the ex-vendor up and leave without sharing anything they know. That would make you have to start from scratch and throw all the time and money invested out the window, which is understandably scary.

Lack of access to project specifications, or at the very least to the actual code behind the application, is making the overall development process into a sort of mystical ritual, impossible to decipher, which can only be passed on through word-of-mouth.

The way into the light

Still, there is hope. You needn’t stay stuck into an Outsourcing relationship that’s clearly not working for you. There’s a time-honored 3-step system for making your way into the light.

1. Guided performance

First of all, your existing supplier temporarily remains the main Outsourcing entry-point, while your new provider engages in a shadowing and knowledge transfer mode.

2. Parallel performance

During this phase, your new supplier duplicates work done by the existing vendor. Thought this doubles the costs for a limited period of time, this step is mandatory in the calibration of new resources from your new vendor, as well as in understanding project specifics. It will be well-worth it in the long-run, when you’ll no longer have to pay for inadequate services.

3. Autonomous perform

Your new vendor gradually raises the autonomy of delivering work packages, while the previous supplier ramps down its team.

Transferring a project to a new Outsourcing partner, after you’ve been low on vital information, can be a bit tricky. But with the right procedures in place, and the experience to predict what can go wrong, it can and should be done. Nobody should endure paying for unsatisfactory high-end services. No matter how unpleasant the ‘visit to the dentist’ might be, the sooner you partner-up with a professional and get it done, the less painful it will prove in the long-run.

What are your thoughts on migrating an outsourced project? Have you had such an experience, or are you or someone in your network considering changing partners? Feel free to share your thoughts with me!

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