Top 5 Signs of Outsourcing Trouble
By Robert Duff
And how to avoid them
Talk to anyone who has outsourced IT, and you are bound to uncover a horror story or two. Budgets gone wild. Poor quality work. Deadlines missed. And while much has been learned since the earliest days of outsourcing, there are still pitfalls and bumps to be avoided.
All too often, an IT manager or department is well into an outsourcing situation before they realize there is a problem. Looking for these trouble signs can help you tackle problems before they derail your project.
- Little or no contact between internal and outsourced IT teams. Sometimes a language barrier or time zone difference gets in the way of communication. Other times each team simply gets caught up in its own work and neither makes an effort to communicate. But lack of communication tends to build siloed work teams that can become suspicious and even antagonistic toward each other.
- An outsource supplier who says yes to every request, without asking many questions. The too-agreeable supplier can create havoc for you. Not until delivery time do you find out that they did not understand your need, or were ill-equipped to provide a solution.
- Teams and individuals who don’t share priorities. What is important on one side of the ocean may not seem so vital on the other side. All team members need to understand daily, weekly, monthly and overall project goals – and how their piece fits into the whole.
- The blame game. This is when people separate themselves from the group and use lack of communication as a weapon. Instead of seeing a challenge the entire team needs to overcome, they see isolated incidences and guilty parties.
- Escalating costs, missed deadlines. This is a sure sign that no one is minding the store. Increased costs and missed deadlines should never come as a surprise, but a lack of communication and accountability can lead to this.
… And avoidance measures
Trust, teamwork and accountability: these are the ingredients for a good outsourcing relationship. Make sure you have them and you will avoid 95% of the problems that can occur.
Trust can only be developed over time, but incorporating transparency and open communication will help you achieve it. Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and Task Management systems like TFS, JIRA, TargetProcess provide a good foundation for communication followed by regular emails, phone calls, and instant messaging. While there may be a primary communicator on each continent, others should be free to contact their counterparts too. A team is built of all members, not just a few.
In his bestseller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni notes that, “… It is teamwork,” not finance or strategy or technology, Lencioni says, “that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” Engaging and encouraging team members is what drives excellent results.
No operation, but least of all an outsourced one, can get results without demanding accountability. People need to know what is expected of them, and when. But positive accountability should not lead to finger pointing. Rather, human error should be accepted along with strong expectations for correction. Teams operate optimally under an umbrella of support, not fear, and they need to see mistakes as team challenges, not individual failings.
Rob is the Chief Operating Officer at Coherent Solutions. Coherent Solutions, Inc. provides offshore software development for organizations that deliver commercial grade software. Since 1995, the company has helped over 100 software companies take advantage of the benefits of global development teams.