Sometimes, your best laid plans can go awry despite the preparations you've made in advance. Murphy's Law dictates that "if there's more than one way to do a job and one of those ways will end in disaster, then somebody will do it that way." The best that you can do is to mitigate the risks, so when something bad happens, you'll lose fewer valuable resources than if you'd been caught unprepared.
Knowing in advance the many instances that you'd get thrown a curve ball when outsourcing is only the beginning. Here are 13 possible reasons why your outsourcing strategy may have backfired on you.
#1 You chose to partner with the cheapest outsourcing company you could find.
Cost is not the most important criterion anymore when choosing an outsourcing provider. When you choose the cheapest provider you could find, you're putting your partnership at risk. And, this is not a good thing. Not only will you get what you pay for, you and your provider may not survive the effects of outsourcing the wrong way.
Rather than make price your primary basis for partnering with an offshore provider, look at the performance of the company you wish to work with. Consider the quality of people they hire and ask for testimonials from previous or current clients. These will help you gauge how much your prospect provider truly knows about their industry and how reliable they are.
#2 You tend to micromanage your offshore team.
You were a control freak, and your team had too many rules to follow. Naturally, your team felt strangled with too many restrictions. This kind of behavior is especially detrimental to talented staff, such as designers and writers, who needed space to think and be creative. Constant interruptions can also impede the work flow, and may cause delays in completing the project.
#3 You failed to ensure your technical specifications are met.
Many outsourcing jobs, even the ones in line with customer support, require certain software and hardware. For example, voice accounts will need a predictive dialer, proprietary software for managing a database, and secure servers, among other things. Software development projects, on one hand, will need specific software that your developers will need to create mobile and desktop applications.
If you're not willing to spend or you leave everything up to your provider to know what you need, then you're setting yourself up for failure. Constant communication is needed between you and your provider. Tell them what kind of tech you'll need and discuss with them the costs of procuring such technology.
#4 You've been overly optimistic with your expectations.
A positive outlook is appreciated, but keep your expectations as realistic as possible. When you have realistic objectives, the work becomes more feasible rather than overwhelming for your staff. Break down the work, delegate if you will, to make each step easier to accomplish. Set deadlines within a reasonable period and celebrate milestones to keep your team's morale up.
#5 You were not aware of production creep and its effects on your team.
When doing a project, be aware of your team's time and the effort they're putting into finishing the work. There may be need for immediate changes, but only do that when it's time to review the work. As much as possible, keep the changes to the project at a minimum. Most development projects end up consuming too much time, money and effort to complete because of scope creep.
#6 You either lack the metrics for measuring success or they're inaccurate.
Metrics are important because they tell you whether you're doing well or not. They also give you an idea of bigger risks you'll be taking on as you progress and the possibility of failure at any stage in the process. It goes without saying that your metrics should be accurate. The best solution for this is to work with your outsourcing provider in customizing your metrics and in making sure they meet your objectives.
#7 You allowed cultural differences to affect your outsourcing relationship.
Cultural clashes are common in offshore outsourcing. When you bring together managers and employees from different cultures, misunderstandings often occur because of differences in communication styles and values. You can reduce the friction by educating your managers on how to handle their offshore employees in different situations.
Also, establish a corporate culture that's an amalgam of the positive aspects of different world cultures. Help Scout has written an insightful article on remote culture and managing teams from different parts of the world.
#8 You failed to explain things in detail.
Seasoned project managers will tell you that it's always good to err on the side of being meticulous rather than assume everyone understood your instructions simply because nobody asked you about what you said. Always explain things in detail. What may be obvious to you may have been vague or confusing to others. Being clear and precise is even more important when you are working with your team for the first time.
#9 You thought you could outsource everything.
Not all kinds of work are ideal for outsourcing. Most of the work that you do can't be outsourced, especially those that require your presence. Tasks like that are known as core activities. Non-core activities, on one hand, can be done by anyone in your organization. The question on which tasks or processes to outsource and which ones to retain or eliminate will depend on your answers to the Outsourcing Decision Matrix.
#10 You don't know how to manage a remote team.
When you're outsourcing to another country, expect to work with a team of remote workers. You'll be working at different times and places. You won't be able to supervise them as closely as when they're working with you in the same office. If you thought you could manage them the same way as you did with your onshore team, then you should think again.
Geographically dispersed workers require a different managerial approach. Put in extra effort to make your workers feel welcome and that they're an essential part of the team. When you give them their tasks, emphasize the value they contribute to your company. Without them and the work they do, your company's processes won't be completed and operations may ground to a halt.
#11 You did not understand what global collaboration means.
Outsourcing does not mean you dump the work in the laps of your service provider and expect to pump them for results on or before the expected date of delivery. It does not work that way.
Outsourcing is a mutually beneficial relationship between the client and service provider. It's understood as a global collaboration of two or more business entities. Simply put, it's a give-and-take relationship. You and your service provider share the responsibility of managing your outsourcing strategy.
#12 You've lost control of your outsourcing strategy.
So many factors come into play when planning and executing your outsourcing strategy. It's possible you did not clearly map out the way your project was expected to progress. It's important you cut the project into phases. If it's routine work, cut down the work into chunks that you can schedule and assign to your team members.
Make sure everything is in order before moving on to the next phase. Manage changes with effective control procedures. And, make sure everyone sends regular reports. You don't need a blow-by-blow report; ask your team to only share information that has business value.
#13 You don't have a risk mitigation strategy in place.
Sometimes, life deals you with a bad set of cards. Nobody is at fault. It's simply not your time to shine. But, you can minimize the risks and your losses won't hurt you as much if you were not prepared. When you don't mitigate the risks, you'll surely fail. Stupendously.
All these possible reasons for failure point towards the importance of having a well-laid outsourcing plan. Be proactive in your managerial approach, and keep the communication lines open. Nurture a healthy remote culture that values the work but also keeps one's personal and professional lives in balance.