Mar 03, 2015

The Outsourcing markers of success

Author: Silviu Panait

There are many things to look out for when starting your outsourcing adventure, and it would be pretty much impossible to cover all of them, but here are a few points that always require attention. In spite of the many Outsourcing legends and horror stories, some common success indicators stand out from the broad perspective I’ve gathered over the years:

1. Goals and skills: it’s of the upmost importance to have a good understanding of your current situation and to be able to translate that into requirements for your outsourcing partner. Being able to define your project goals, milestones and processes, as well as having complete job descriptions for the key people you are looking for, is crucial and will save you a lot of hassle along the way. Unclear deliverables and insufficient perspective are the main reason behind project delays.

2. Vendor selection: this is another crucial point that is often rushed into – because choosing your partner solely based on pricing seems like such a simple and straightforward way of going about things, the rest of the variables are often ignored. But in reality this approach is way too flimsy. Most of the outsourcing advisors will tell you to discard the lowest and the highest bidder and look for the most balanced offer, that encompasses competitive pricing and high quality. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that low quality and/or huge cultural differences will end-up costing you more than a suitable vendor would have.

3. Start small: if you’re completely new to outsourcing working models, it’s always a good approach to start your partnership with a small project, to help you figure out what best works for you. This way you get the feel of your collaboration, understand the strength and weaknesses that might appear, solve them, and then ramp up if the base is solid, on a foundation of mutual trust and efficient collaboration. You keep the time and money invested at a lower level, while at the same time getting a good feel of the future and how things might progress.

4. Focus on the team: don’t start with the misconception of “us” and “them”. Instead, treat your outsourced resources as you would your own employees. Attempt to motivate them and keep them engaged in their work, and consider sending them cards on Christmas as you would for any other employee. It’s crucial to create a team at the outsourcer’s site that is well integrated and understands your company’s culture, habits and vision – and this cannot be achieved without proper communication and a right attitude towards it. Try to aim for long-term partnerships and build, rather than just take advantage of low costs, forgetting about what’s going on “there”, while expecting good results.

5. Understand the culture: this topic comes up a lot in outsourcing discussions, and for a good reason – it is highly important to understand the culture of the people you’re working with. Being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your partner makes a huge difference when dealing with the plethora of unexpected issues that might pop up in your projects. What works in your country is not necessarily a rule of thumb with other cultures – you may need to change your attitude a bit, to have a more straightforward communication, or the polar opposite, to be polite and not jump straight into facts, figures and actions. As with any relationship, it’s the little things that matter, and outsourcing makes no exception.

If these are the basic success guidelines with outsourcing projects, are there some failure markers, some things to avoid at all cost when engaging such business relationships? Keep in touch via our RSS feed and find out, as I’ll be exploring the Outsourcing don’ts in my next issue.

Until next time, feel free to share your thoughts through a comment or email. Have you anything to add to this list? Is checking these items enough to guarantee efficiency?

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