Mar 17, 2015

The Outsourcing markers of failure

Author: Silviu Panait

In my previous article, we’ve looked at some of the most important things that need to be taken into account when outsourcing, in order to increase your chances of success. Today, we’re looking at those mindsets that, in my experience, are very likely to lead to failure – ‘temptations’ you should definitely avoid, for your project’s sake. Going beyond the obvious, which is avoiding to do the opposite of Outsourcing markers of success, I’ll attempt to create some client profiles, and describe the type of traits I’ve seen working against projects, on many occasions:

  • The ‘control-addict’

I’ve recently interacted with a client who, due to some previous bad outsourcing experiences, requested an interesting contract model. Among other eye-catching points, there was a paragraph demanding that ‘whenever we feel like you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing, we are going to cut the rates in half’. I cannot imagine how any company would agree to such an impossible-to-measure limitation, but these things are real – and, unfortunately, clients will sometimes have such an unreasonable mindset. I’m not rushing into blaming them – I’m sure their need to control every move spans from an unfortunate outsourcing collaboration. Still, the outsourcer can and should be your partner, not your enemy. Control points are mandatory, of course, but they have to be measurable and efficient, not a time-consuming, restrictive procedure the team ends-up spending more time on than they do with the actual work.

  • The ‘hippie’

This is the other end of the spectrum in regards to control. Some clients believe that they can outsource everything, along with the actual development work: the strategy, vision and direction of their own company. Such expectations are a bit over the top, and their belief that the outsourcer can complete the project 100%, without any involvement from their side, is more common than you’d imagine. Usually, poor planning before engaging in outsourcing is behind such a mindset, yet I can’t stress the importance of the planning stage enough – the client must have a perfect understanding of their project before even attempting to outsource it.

  • The ‘rate-card to rule them all’

Price is always important, but it’s not the main point that you should look into when outsourcing. This has been proven time and time again – look for competencies, look for industry expertise, look for the right procedures and working models, look for local and company culture compatibility, not just for the rate cards. There are many ways to make prices appear lower (junior teams, hidden overheads, etc.), and even though to a provider they are easy to spot, sometimes clients are so happy about the prospect of low prices that they choose to take the risk and go for the lowest bidder, disregarding other aspects that are crucial to the collaboration.

  • The ‘take the load off my shoulders, then we’ll play the blame-game’

I’ve saved the most counterproductive for last, since this is, in my opinion, a very common and hard to deal with type of mindset. Outsourcing without having clearly-defined requirements and measurable expectations is obviously never a good idea. Efficient knowledge transfer, especially in the first stages of the project, is vital. If the client expects their partner to develop something they only vaguely understand, without clear milestones and deliverables, inevitably, the never-ending cycle of debates on who’s to blame pans out. If you can’t clearly describe what you want, the chances you’ll get it are, naturally, pretty slim. Internal pressure or failure to deliver are the main factors that push companies to outsource projects that are not clearly defined and don’t meet their expectations, and this is something that should be identified by the outsourcing partner, and resolved before getting into anything else. Otherwise, you have the premises for a tedious, inefficient collaboration.

What type of counterproductive mindsets have you encountered? Please share your experience and help add to the list, so we can all enjoy a head-start with our outsourcing projects, and stay in touch with us through our RSS feed, for our weekly dose of outsourcing insights!

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