Outsourcing for the first time? Here are your top 10 challenges

Outsourcing has benefits! There’s all the data in the world to prove it. It saves heck of a cost if done correctly, not to mention the technological prowess a great offshore team can bring to your business. The greatest question however that surrounds the concept of outsourcing is ‘How to make it work’. As with all great things in life, there’s a darker, hidden side to outsourcing too which needs to be carefully watched over and made to work to your advantage. So here’s a list of challenges we have put together which you may face, particularly as a first-time client trying to make outsourcing work for your business.

1) Communication gaps. Quite often what you want is not communicated crisply enough for the team on the other side to understand and vice versa. Sometimes when working with freelancing agencies, a layer of middle management comes in between adding more communication gaps. Keep just one or two people in the team accountable for project delivery and communication while the rest of the team revolves around him/her.

2) Cultural differences. People from different areas of the world approach a problem or a topic from their personal or local experience which is greatly a factor of where and how they were brought up so e.g. how workers in the US speak up about their views on something vs. how a worker from India expresses his opinions about it. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory is one example how experts have tried to address these differences when simulating a cross-cultural environment in organizations.

3) Poaching/Plagiarism : It is common for inexperienced freelancers to copy/lift proprietary code from sources without respecting the underlying licenses and modify it to suit their needs. There’s also a possibility of your code floating on the internet. Test your code with plagiarism checker tools before you approve/pay for it. Put an NDA in place and thoroughly vet your freelancers before offering them a position. Ask for solid references and steps they have in place to ensure safety of your IP.

4) Time Zone difference: Many freelancers work at a time zone different than their clients. One of the parties need to make an adjustment to ensure proper and constant communication.

5) Micro-Management: No matter how qualified or experienced the hire, as a client you will always end up doing some level of micro-management. In any case the management rule of “Delegate and Forget” doesn’t work that well with most freelancers.

6) Costing: Never go for a cheap freelancer/agency trying to save money. Be frugal but not miser or else it will all come back to you to as software debt hurting your business in the long run.

7) Prioritization of outsourcing assignments: Delegate only non-critical assignments first and after you have judged the capabilities and punctuality of the freelancer, you can move to bigger, time-critical tasks.

8) Interviewing: Sometimes you may be overwhelmed with the sheer number of freelancers who will apply to your job or claim to do it. Keep it cool and take your sweet time to hire the best. Don’t hurry into it. Time spent here will save you from lot of troubles later on.

9) Vetting: This is not the same as interviewing and requires a special mention. Do a thorough online background check on the freelancer before you hire. Many freelancers/agencies sub-let their work to other subordinate/satellite agencies but do not reveal it to you. Keep a check on quality + keep asking counter questions like “How did you begin writing this code? What was going through your mind? Why did you put these specific test in your code etc.”, This will keep the freelancer on his toes and you always stand a chance of discovering if the freelancer did not actually write the code and is lying about it.

10) Backing up: Always have a back-up plan. Keep your options open until you find a team which is just right for you. Don’t hesitate keeping by your side a trusted techie peer/friend of yours who can play CTO role for your business when sifting through applications to your job and interviewing/assessing coding capabilities of an offshore team.

Outsourcing can be a double-edged sword. While its potential is virtually limitless, but so are its perils if done incorrectly.
If you are looking for a trusted adviser on this complex topic, feel free to reach out to us. KIS has helped clients, small and big, over the years to turn their outsourcing efforts into meaningful endeavors.

Project on-boarding checklist for offshoring customers

Ok, so you have just hired a great dev/design team and are thrilled with the anticipation of seeing your app/product in action. The programmers you hired are raring to go and the design team is cracking its knuckles, itching to throw in some amazing designs. But wait! What about project and delivery management? Quite often the case, design/dev agencies including clients are found rushing into getting things “done” instead of thinking them through before a project begins, invariably in the name of Agile (just one of the things that brings Agile a bad rep).
While WE love Agile too and follow it ourselves at KIS, here’s a word of caution before one goes religious with the Agile manifesto of “Deliver small, deliver often”
“No matter how fast your developers churn out the code and deliver the MVP, if the foundation of your delivery management isn’t solid, chances are ‘rework’ is on the cards. “
So we have put together a quick checklist aka “Questions to ask” of your (offshore/onshore) design/dev team before they start with your project:-

  1. Has a project work-plan/delivery-plan for the entire project been created?
  2. What project management procedures will the dev/design company use to control the project?
  3. Who will be the key members from the dev/design company in the project and what will be their roles and responsibilities?
  4. Is the dev/design company clear on what resources they need from us and when they will be needed?
  5. What in your opinion are the key risk factors that need to be mitigated or taken into account before the project begins and how will you mitigate/address those as the project kicks off?
  6. How do you quality benchmark the deliverables before they are sent to us for User Acceptance Testing (UAT)?
  7. How do you tackle new change requests or change in expectations mid-way the project?
  8. What is the procedure/process through which you intake, assess, evaluate and incorporate feedback into your deliverables?
  9. What are your procedures to ensure that the project does not trip into a direction it isn’t intended to? What is your Plan-B if it is discovered that it accidentally has.

Next, is the list of Questions you may wish to ask of the dev/design team at the end of every iteration/deliverable.

  1. Have the deliverables specified in the project definition been completed up to this point?
  2.  Which are the key items completed, pending and under-progress at this point that will be included in the next iteration and which will be deferred to the future?
  3.  Have the appropriate deliverables been agreed to and approved by us?
  4.  Can the Product Owner from the dev/design team clearly explain where the project is vs. where it should be at this time?
  5. Is the last deliverable market ready?
  6.  What can I expect to see in the next deliverable or at the end of next iteration?
  7. Are issues being resolved in a timely manner?
  8. Are scope-change requests being managed, and are we formally approving changes?
  9. Are risks being identified and managed successfully?
  10. Should the contract or project definition be updated to reflect any major changes to the project?

Once these checklists are in place, it is not only going to be tremendously easy for you to oversee the project as a client, but also extremely beneficial for your dev/design team as has been experienced by us, the [email protected] ever since we helped our clients bring these checklists into their project management protocol for our own good.

If you have questions, suggestions or wish to know more about the Agile delivery management practices we follow at KIS, please feel free to drop us an email at [email protected]

Happy Project Management!
– Team @ KIS