Seth Turin is an automation expert and project management specialist.
With the promise of getting a lot more done for less, off-shoring quickly became the latest craze. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, CEOs, CTOs and even CMOs thought that the answer was getting the job done — anywhere but here.
Then, after attempting to ship overseas what was seemingly every job under the sun, businesses quickly realized that they needed a better plan. They now see that the only realistic solution involves a new hybrid model, incorporating the best of both worlds — offshore and at home.
Whether or not you agree with this approach, it’s obvious that off-shoring presents its own unique set of challenges. So, what are some ways to sidestep them and maximize success? And how do you figure out when and when not to offshore? Here are a few tips for making sure you are on the right path.
1. Only offshore projects that you are fully prepared to manage.
While offshoring might sound like a godsend for those times when your business or project is already in full swing and you’re under the gun, that might actually be a bad time to jump overseas. Offshoring requires a lot more project management than you might think. It’s not a ‘set it and forget it’ benefit that you can turn on whenever your staff is overworked or you need to finish an initiative tomorrow. You’ll need to get a lot of processes in gear before your offshoring engine is running smoothly.
That is why it’s best to begin with one small project that is low on the totem pole when it comes to the impact and visibility it will have in your organization. It is easier to build up your offshoring practice slowly rather than fail at your first attempt and then not be able to get the buy-in you need internally to offshore future projects.
2. Offshore the steak, not the cow.
You should offshore a project if it can be done in a short time frame, exactly to your specifications. Offshore what is cheap to make, not what’s expensive — in other words, you’ll want to save on tasks that are simple and straightforward. For example, let’s say you’d like to set-up a server: This is something for your offshore team to do because they can do it at a cost that is less than you would incur if you did it yourself.
You might hear of companies that offshore entire divisions. But you need to realize that it takes months, if not years, to find the right people to do the jobs — and train the local employees to manage and run those divisions remotely. Our experienced clients often outsource the entirety of the programming for their software projects. But they do it after determining exactly what the project entails and breaking it down into small pieces for their established outsourcers to complete.
3. Don’t offshore the parts of the job that your local team wants to do.
This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often companies give control over to an offshore worker or agency while someone in-house had great, informed ideas about the project that went unheard. And, we’ve often found that employees welcome being involved in the creative process, especially the coworkers whose jobs usually don’t entail a high level of creativity.
For example, if you’re planning a website redesign, it’s a good idea to ask your employees — from the customer support staff to the CEO — what they’d like to see in the new site. Maybe the responses will be varied or unfocused. But at least you won’t get a first draft back from your offshorer, only to discover that everyone hates it.
4. Consider streamlining support and keeping it at home.
It’s surprising how many companies just don’t get the support part of the equation right. Sure, live phone support might sound like the more attractive option, since your customers will be able to talk to someone, even if they are in another state or across the world. But what good is it if they really are not trained to troubleshoot issues?
In reality, online support that is delivered by a select group of knowledgeable staffers is often cheaper and eliminates a lot of aggravation for your customers while serving up greater value for them too. There’s nothing worse than having a support person on the other end of the phone that is clueless when it comes to addressing your customer’s unique problem.
FAQs combined with systems that are conducive to well-thought out email exchanges let you scale back your support hours so you can keep this function in the U.S. You’ll still save on costs and be able to deliver top notch service.
Is it worth it?
It goes without saying that the goal of any off-shoring initiative is to get more done for less, just not at the expense of product quality and customer service. With that said, it’s a good idea to create business practices for deciding which jobs stay in-house, which you will send offshore and, finally, what jobs you will automate.
Remember to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Will you spend 80 hours working with an off-shore programmer instead of 40 hours if you engage your own staff? How much time would you save if you decided to build an automated program to get the project done? And what about the deadline: Does the job require a quick turnaround? If so, you’ll want to keep that one in-house — or at least in your own time-zone — to make sure it gets done on-time.
As wages in other countries continue to rise, adopting a hybrid off-shoring model will become increasingly important. Combine offshore programming with in-house systems and automation so your business will stay competitive. At the same time, you’ll preserve the heart and soul of your business.
Seth Turin is an automation expert and founder of one of the most popular automation software providers, UBot Studio. As a project management specialist, he has assembled teams of offshore professionals for the past six years.