Outsourcing has a lot of misconceptions attached to it. The political rhetoric has been full of them. But, outsourcing is not an option these days for small to medium-sized businesses. They'll have a hard time seeking angel investors or gathering the money to reinvest into expansion if they chose not to outsource to offshore providers of low-cost but highly skilled workers.
However, outsourcing is not something you do without thinking things through. If you're one of these companies considering to outsource non-core routine work to an offshore service center, ask yourself these five questions to make sure you're ready to take on the challenges of offshore outsourcing.
Q1: Do you have enough work to outsource?
It's nice to think that there will always be somebody to pick up the phone, answer emails or chat with your customers whenever you and your onshore staff are not around. But, it can be boring for your offshore team when your businesses receives only 5 to 10 messages in a week. So, what else will your offshore staff do after they've answered a call or email from one of your customers? Watch funny YouTube videos?
Think of ways you can take advantage of your offshore team's wide-ranging skills. They're not only experienced in handling calls, emails and chat messages. They're also trainable and can be tasked to prepare business reports and proposals, track and analyze data, manage your social media accounts, and basically everything that requires some technical knowledge, but not as important as the work that only you can do.
Q2: Are you willing to put in time and energy to train and lead your team?
Outsourcing does not mean you'll just hand over the work to a third-party provider and expect everything to fall into place. When you partner with an outsourcing company, you enter a collaborative business relationship. You'll be exchanging ideas and sharing responsibilities with your outsourcing partner, and your offshore team will serve as an extension of your onshore staff.
In a managed services model of outsourcing, you'll be free from constantly worrying about the electricity and rent, the purchase and maintenance of equipment, the recruitment and retention of employees, and other aspects of running a business. But, you won't be free from taking on a leadership role with your offshore team.
You'll be their boss from another country in a different timezone. Just like other bosses, you'll supervise their work and make sure they consistently produce quality output.
Q3: Are you willing to share aspects of your life with your offshore staff?
You'll be expected to share professional and personal milestones with your offshore staff and they will do the same with you and your onshore team. And, office parties will be a flurry of selfies and groufies that your offshore staff will be excited to share with you and the rest of your team.
Having a candid conversation with your offshore staff builds trust. Allowing them a peek to your thoughts and experiences lets them know they've become integral to your business and you consider them part of your life.
Q4: Are you open to learning about your offshore staff's cultural beliefs and traditions?
Bigotry doesn't have a place in offshore outsourcing. Every bias and prejudice you may have regarding other cultures must go out the window the minute you decide to outsource. You will encounter ideas and attitudes that run counter to your own beliefs and traditions. Adopt an open mind and a willingness to learn and understand another nation's way of life.
This will change the way you communicate and interact with your offshore team. You'll have a better understanding why Filipinos, for instance, consider a Christmas Eve dinner with their family more important than not working on Christmas Day itself. It's okay for them to work on the 25th of December because it means they'll receive holiday pay, but it's disappointing for them to not spend quality time with their whole family on Christmas eve.
Q5: Do you understand what outsourcing truly entails and what you'll be getting yourself into?
This question is not to raise your hackles or cast doubt on your ability to make sound judgments regarding your business. It's an inquiry into how prepared you are.
One of the common mistakes that businesses commit when outsourcing is not having a plan in place. Think about what kind of outsourcing arrangement you'll have with your service provider. Is it tactical or transactional? Or will it be a strategic partnership that aligns with your company's long-term goals? It's also important that the business processes you outsource have well-defined workflows and rules.
Like any other strategic plan, you should define what your outsourcing objectives are, assess the risks you'll be facing, and prepare the measures you'll be taking to mitigate those risks. Think of the degree of change required to integrate your remote staff fully into your current workflows. In some cases, you'll have to give your remote staff access to some of your more sensitive or confidential information, so they can be effective at work.
Outsourcing can be challenging when you have little or no knowledge about it, or you've been burned in the past. But, partnering with a reputable offshore provider can help you reduce the risks and develop best practices for the work you outsource. Your outsourcing partner can also help improve the delivery of your services, lower your costs, and redirect the attention of your core management to activities that bring more value to your business.