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.