Challenges of outsourcing Banner Image
September 18, 2009

When do you really need outsourcing?
You are overloaded with your current assignments and need help from a company to offload some of your work to them. You want to make money from the project as well as ensure that your reputation is not dented in the process. You do not want to refuse the project, as it could be that one of your existing old clients is requesting some work and you do not want to turn him away or go to your competitor. What do you start doing? Search for some contacts that you may have established earlier – or hunt through the Internet and search for the right company to work with. Now that is not an easy job if this is the first time you are looking to outsource to a offshore vendor / company.

You finalize a couple of companies who you think could be a prospective match. Now the big challenge is that these are situated a 1000 mile away from where you are! So how are you going to make your decision? You definitely want to be on top of the things when you “outsource” to one of the companies you select – since it is your name and reputation that will be affected in case the job doesn’t go well.

Ok – lets start discussing the foremost criteria that you would like to be fulfilled in order to help you select the right company – viz

  • Capability
  • Quality
  • Communication
  • Reliability

Is the company capable enough to handle the job ?
Capability – This is probably the most important criterion that you need to decide when making your selection. Many times you need to be aware that while talking to the companies, it is always the sales team that deals with you. Well – then how can you make a decision because we all know that the sales team will sell it’s company portraying it to be the next best thing after IBM … Microsoft …Google.
Be wary – insist on talking to the technical team – discuss some parts of the project or try to throw a small technical problem if you can and gauge the approach they take in tackling the problem. Insist on reviewing their projects – if it is a relatively new company – they may try to avoid this – but then their rates will be much lower than the experienced players. The experienced players will have a lot to demonstrate – insist on understanding in what part of the project life cycle was their team involved in. This plays a vital role and definitely demonstrates to a certain extent what the company would be like to you.

Is the company Quality conscious?
Quality Conscious – Let us be very honest here and this may not sound music to your ears. You cannot have everything – low price, immaculate quality etc. There has to be a place where you will have to draw the line. Normally in the case of off shoring companies – you will generally not get a person with 15 years of experience working for you at a very low rate – that is not possible and that definitely has not contributed to the success of offshore outsourcing. Let’s face it – you want to make some money as well from the project – or rather you don’t want the project to fall in the hands of your competitor and so you want to make the most of the situation. Understand the quality process the company follows at their end – Quality can mean a lot of things to different companies –

  • User Interface
  • Less Bugs
  • Well maintained code
  • Execution Speed
  • Security

Identify what your project needs the most and then question the team / company based on your requirement.

Who will I be talking to ? Will I ever be understood ? How should I communicate ?
Communication- Let’s understand this right away – that the sales person dealing with you – will not talk to you throughout the project development life cycle. So don’t be lured into giving the project away based on your experience talking to the sales person. Insist on talking to the project manager and probably one of the lead developers on the project. If you can generate a good rapport with them – half your worries will be solved. Keep a fixed mode of communication – skype , chat or basecamp writeboards. Developers don’t like to be disturbed while they are working – because generally they are in the midst of a problem and you may only prove to be a hindrance rather than help solve the issue. Keep the channel open with the developers through email and insist on Skype if there are concerns over the issue at hand and you need to provide more explanation. Best would be to create videos of what you need and share them with the team. This gives them the opportunity to revisit the videos in case of doubts later as well.

Am I going to be swindled ? Will they run away with my money ? How do I know they are reliable ?
Relaibilty – Definitely you do not want to be in a situation where half your project is completed and the company at the other end of the world closes down or has some financial problems or there are other reasons (ofcourse not natural calamities- nobody can control those ). The best approach is to talk to the clients of the existing company and understand the reliability – you will need to pick up the right signals while talking to the references provided. But this is a very very important point that cannot be underestimated since if your project is critical you cannot afford any lapse. After all business is reputation and those who are serious about their business will take every care to protect their reputation.

Capability and Reliability should be considered separate – there are cases when a perfectly capable company was not reliable and a 100% reliable company did not have the capacity to handle the project.

Capability is more related to the skill set of the company / team and reliability is related with the business operations and management.

So overall what we have covered is that looking for the right off shoring partner – you need to understand and talk to the management (for reliability), developers and project managers (for communication and capability) and the QA team ( for quality aspects) .

So you cannot rush this process – remember while selecting an offshore partner it is important to get comfortable with the company before you take the plunge.