It's normal for companies to have multiple vendors or suppliers. In outsourcing, it's not unusual for companies to hire customer service representatives from the Philippines and have them coordinate with a software development team in India and a managerial team in Canada, the United States, or Australia.
This approach is part of strategic outsourcing, which we've discussed before. It takes advantage of the benefit of building a partnership with your service provider rather than remain in a limited transactional relationship. This time we're touching on the concept of multiple outsourcing partnerships and how to manage them successfully.
#1 Make sure the work schedules of your geographically dispersed teams overlap with each other by at least an hour.
An hour of overlap is enough to give each of your teams time to get to know one another and coordinate their tasks. Emails are only good for sending instructions but not for communicating effectively. A video conference is a better option. You'll have a clearer grasp of emotions and nuances of cultural behavior when you interact with your staff regularly through video calls.
#2 Set up your outsourced teams in countries that are more similar than they are different.
Countries in the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, have minor issues with time zones. If your teams are located in India and the Philippines, you're assured they'll have similar cultural practices compared to your teams in North America and in Europe. Your team in the Philippines may have the same cultural background as your team in South America, but they'll surely have a wider gap in their schedules compared to having your teams in North and South America work together.
#3 Hire teams based on their strengths rather than which teams have the lowest rates.
If you're outsourcing, then hire your teams based on their strongest competencies rather than who's got the lowest rates in the industry. It's okay if you'd rather hire one team from this country and another team from another country. Everyone already knows that the Philippines has been the top destination for customer service and administrative support for many years. Meanwhile, India remains the preferred labor market for software developers, engineers, and analysts.
#4 Choose outsourcing companies that have a wide range of experience in managing global virtual teams.
Partner with a reputable outsourcing company that has extensive knowledge and experience in handling globally dispersed teams for different clients. You're assured that the people you're dealing with can be trusted to do their job even when you're not always around. Compared to virtual teams of home-based workers, outsourcing companies have well-equipped offices and enterprise-level technologies that are not usually available to residential end-users.
#5 Hire relationship managers or project coordinators to make sure workflows run smoothly and friction is reduced between teams.
Conflict may rise up sometimes because of differences in time zone and disparities in culture and language. But, a relationship manager or project coordinator ensures you'll have someone to take care of misunderstandings between your teams. The best person to hire for this job is someone who has an open mind, a willingness to learn all about the country or culture of your outsourced teams, and a warm, friendly personality.
#6 Adopt technologies that let your teams collaborate and synchronize their data.
The prevailing trend for collaborative work is to use cloud-based apps like Google Docs lets people update the file at the same time. Users can see a history of everyone's edits, and save information in the cloud, taking away their dependence on device-specific software. Data can be shared using storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive.
#7 Establish a governance model that smooths out the decision-making process and clarifies which persons are accountable for each stage in the process.
Too many cooks can spoil the soup. A good governance model for outsourcing reduces the guesswork on who has the authority to make a decision on which part of the process. The managerial staff in your chosen outsourcing provider works hand-in-hand with your company's managers.
A research study from MIT advised that "managers need to identify which activities create and sustain shareholder activities and those that are 'noncore' and can be safely outsourced. Once that decision is made, 'there should be specific recommendations about how the handoffs will work across internal and external organizational boundaries.'"
In every relationship, a balanced view of each person's role is important. While managers may have more duties and responsibilities on their shoulders, it's important that support staff also feel that what they're doing has a heavy impact on the customers and the company's future.
These tips are just a few that we've gathered from experience. Perhaps, some of you have had your worst and best experiences in managing global teams. Share with us your thoughts through the comments section below and let others learn from you!