As businesses and governments combat COVID-19, much has been said about the world economy’s major shift to remote work. However, one major facet of remote work isn’t getting the press it deserves: outsourcing.
During the height of the pandemic, many businesses had to change paradigms and adopt Work From Home (WFH) and other remote work alternatives to keep their lights on. While this has saved some companies during this crisis, in the post-COVID era companies are opting to gain the known benefits of outsourcing, including: giving a company access to the best resources in the world, lowering costs, streamlining business functions, and increasing customer satisfaction.
However, none of these benefits are guaranteed. Companies have a degree of due diligence when it comes to selecting the right outsourcing partner. And if you want to get the most out of your collaboration, there are some pitfalls to avoid and some best practices to follow.
The Ins and Outs of Successful Outsourcing Partnerships
1: You get what you pay for
As with every business decision, cost is a major criterion in selecting an outsourcing partner. The mistake is looking at cost as the primary factor, when really what you need to consider is value.
Selecting the lowest bid on a project, but demanding high-quality deliverables, is a recipe for failure. There are rare occasions when the lowest price provides high-quality work, but that’s not usually the case. Don’t be afraid to pay more for partners that have been well vetted and are known to provide the quality of product you need on time and on budget.
2: Evaluate before you decide
To find your best-fit nearshore development team requires research. You need to know your options – including both financial and non-financial factors.
In a best-case scenario, you’ll be able to:
- Evaluate the company’s development models
- Interview some of their project managers
- Ask for, and contact, references
- Compare reviews about the company with their competition
- Read feedback from past customers
- See how their portfolio aligns with your needs
Before talking to anyone, you should prepare a list of questions that can help you understand how the company operates and performs.
By analyzing all of this data, you should be able to spot any red flags and at least narrow your choices.
3: Start the partnership with a step-based approach
As you, your business, and your new nearshore partners develop a working relationship, it’s best to start with smaller projects. Assume that you’ll have to take a hand in operations while everyone adjusts to the new working model and each other’s styles and expectations. By incrementally adding more work and responsibilities to your outsource partner, you’ll naturally develop real partner collaboration in which your partner understands both your methods and your business goals.
4: Understand your different roles
You have the subject-matter expertise about your product, your industry, and your market. For the sake of a healthy, lasting collaboration, the onus is on you to provide guidance and business context of the work you are outsourcing to your partner.
Your outsourcing partner, on the other hand, is the expert at their role. They have the technical skills and experience to bring your goals to fruition.
Spend the time to explain and document your requirements, defining your guidelines and expectations. Like anything else in life, the better the quality of the input, the higher the value of the output.
5: Communication is key
Good communication should never be underestimated. As in our personal lives, poor communication brings challenges to working relationships. And one difficulty of remote work is good communication.
These challenges can be overcome. First, consider the communications platform you’ll use. There are lots of options, and choosing one that works for the entire team is important.
Once everyone knows how communication will happen and you’ve provided realistic expectations, you’ll want to provide feedback on a regular basis. This nurtures the relationship, saves time, and avoids misunderstandings.
6: Trust, but verify
By its nature, outsourcing will pull some of your work off of your desk. But that doesn’t mean it’s out of your sight, or not your responsibility.
As partners, both you and your outsourced collaborator need to define and monitor performance measurements to ensure the quality of the output. Once you know your partner understands your expectations, trust them to do the work.
But at the same time, follow-up to make sure that there aren’t any misunderstandings or hiccups.
7: Set timelines and expectations
As the customer, you have to set project timelines that are in-line with your business goals. At the same time, your outsourcing partner must assess the technical aspects, risks, and resources needed to meet your timeline, and provide alternative plans and tradeoffs should it be too aggressive. Every software development process includes inherently unpredictable challenges that can affect time estimates.
Among the most common problems in outsourcing partnerships I’ve witnessed in my career are unreasonable timelines and expectations.
Usually, this is caused by poor communication or a lack of trust. When the concerns of an expert aren’t listened to, or if the expert doesn’t feel comfortable enough to speak openly, the customer becomes unaware of the challenges that may derail a project’s timeline or output.
Every project must periodically address project timeframes, risks, and alternatives. What-if scenarios should be considered in light of possible scope reductions, in order to agree on a defined scope that meets business goals and timeframes.
Remote Work: aka “Business as Usual”
At Proximiteam, we know the ins and outs of creating a good outsourcing partnership because we live it every day. Working remotely has been built into our system since our founding. We know how to create lasting, successful collaborations, and we know the red flags that warn us when a relationship is turning sideways.
Both our culture and working methodologies were designed to work this way. Our development centers in Latin America have continued to work – even throughout the pandemic – safely and efficiently from our delivery centers in Mexico, Colombia, and Costa Rica.
Proximiteam’s project managers and team leaders are both skilled and experienced in creating partnerships remotely. We were managing teams, tracking project activities, and meeting goals and deadlines – all from a distance, through telecommunications – long before COVID-19 necessitated it.
Our best practices have not changed, nor has our commitment to excellence and high-quality results.