Ten Mantras for a Successful Offshore Experience

By Salil Godika

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Everybody in the industry talks about the “why” of outsourcing but often the “how to” is missed. This task is further compounded by myriad options from a multitude of service providers. Here are the 10 mantras to keep in mind as you begin this journey:

1. Select the Right Partner: While management expertise, support infrastructure, and process maturity are important, one should also look at attributes such as access to key management personnel and their ability to go the distance for you.

Fast growing, mid-sized companies can provide the requisite access, agility, attention, and attitude. Your partner should not just offer technology solutions, but also understand your business and take a consultative approach. Assess how they track customer satisfaction. Do they have a systematic process to continually measure and improve customer experience along with true references? Another important element is year-on-year employee satisfaction, which ultimately reduces turnover rates and ensures a lasting relationship with a familiar team.

2. Executive Commitment: To increase your success rate, your senior management needs to commit their time, specifically in the first 90 days, and must influence the process and drive shared understanding. Create a steering committee and ensure a high level of interaction between your top executives and the partner’s. This facilitates transparency, attention, and joint ownership.

3. Apply Portfolio Management Approach: Create a systematic roadmap on what to outsource and when, and tie it to your organizational readiness. Define key short- and long-term success factors in such a way that there is frequent visible success. This gives you an opportunity to celebrate and ensures a higher degree of motivation among your own and vendor’s teams.

4. Identify Success Metrics beyond Cost: The obvious advantage of outsourcing is cost savings, but there is much more to an offshore engagement. Besides lower cost, measure success in terms of reduction in time-to-market, higher end customer satisfaction, and shared learning and innovation.

5. Define Governance Model at the Onset: An effective governance model is the first step towards mitigating systemic failure. The clearer you are about your goals, the better. Define the basis of the relationship and the collective vision. Document and follow review mechanisms, communication protocols, and escalation/exception handling mechanisms.

6. Accept Cultural Differences: Do not brush aside cultural differences. It is a fact and should be handled with care. Invest time to make sure that both teams understand the culture of the other. This early step will minimize conflicts later. 7. Pick the “Just-Right” Team for the Job: Sometimes clients over-project job complexity to justify why only a superman will do. Of course, you would like the best and the most experienced people to work on your project. However, the guiding principle should be to assess the right skills required for the job using the same yardstick as you would in your own organization.

8. Foster a “One Team” Mindset: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Have no walls between the teams. If you throw specifications over the wall, then you are bound to get spaghetti code in return. Involve the partner team from the conceptualization stage, and communicate disconnects openly and early for better results.

To develop a two-way communication culture create standards for availability and acknowledgement, build a team collaboration space, isolate issues from people, and keep the team well-informed about the progress and future requirements. This will help you in building a partner that feels empowered in a “no-surprises” culture.

9. Insist on a Knowledge Management Ecosystem: Check if the partner has a strong knowledge management foundation and processes for ideas-reuse. A well-defined system for knowledge harvesting will help maintain business continuity, and more importantly, be the bedrock for future innovation.

10. Integrity is Non-Negotiable: Taking care of IP protection and maintaining data security are a given, but you must also assess the honesty, transparency, and ethics of the company and its people. If integrity is a part of the DNA of the partner, then you can be sure of long-term success.

So, how do you know you’ve created a deal that survives the players? You will know that you are doing well when both sides contribute to each other’s success; trust is recognized as an active ingredient; there is a sense of equality in the way the relationship is created; and both sides think it is important to make each other commercially successful.

Salil Godika is the general manager of Marketing at MindTree Consulting, an international IT and R&D services company with development centers in India and the U.S.