Stereotypes (and not only those of outsourcing) are based on conventional, formulaic, oversimplified preconceptions rather than facts. For instance, a common modern stereotype is that all teenagers are rebels, difficult to be around and self-destructive. This stereotype appeared because some teens’ negative acts have been highly publicized, while teenagers who help old ladies across the street never make the headlines. The same holds true with outsourcing. What some say about it makes my hair stand on end.
This stereotype was formed when the costs of an IT outsourcing project were compared to the costs of an in-house project, without accounting for all the factors that go into hiring an outsourcer. Often the hourly rate for an outsourced worker is compared to the hourly rate of the in-house specialist (which includes spending on their hire, retention, development, company overhead, etc.).
Second, working with an external contractor always requires establishing processes, introducing regulations, and documenting them for the offshore team and the client. Every change involves a repetition of the development cycle at least in some part, costing more. These are all additional spending points for the client that need to be taken into consideration from the beginning.
Outsourcing is not actually cheaper, per se, but it is more effective when it comes to long-term goals because you have a team of dedicated professionals working for you. If you need to hire an additional designer, for instance, it will be easier to incorporate an outsourcer into the team they have worked with already rather than hire an in-house designer and train them from scratch, which will take time and cost you more.
Because offshore teams aren’t something that clients have next door, there is a temptation to sometimes abandon them for a while and hope the project will be finished as if by magic.
The reality is that each outsourcing project calls for constant communication. The client and the outsourcer are in the same boat. Promises by outsourcers are made based on analyzing and estimating the project, which the client oversees and approves. Problems should be solved together. Risks should be mitigated in part by the client and in part by the outsourcer. Joint responsibility is the only way to succeed.
If the client stays out of the process, the end product may be not what they had envisioned initially. The absence of the client can demotivate the team, and when the client is not there, the train can go off course pretty fast. The client has to participate in the analysis and decision-making processes, providing healthy criticism. Client requirements will drive the choice of a particular platform or methodology, so they shouldn’t be too general or too flexible. The more detailed and outlined they are, the closer to the client vision the end product will be.
Some believe that by hiring an offshore team that includes various kinds of specialists, the client can kill many birds with one stone. Often, exactly what those birds are isn’t spelled out for the offshore team, because the client thinks that the goals will be somehow met automatically.
Again, the truth is that every outsourcing project is a collaboration of equal partners, with both parties benefiting from the process. The relationship between client and team should be mutually fulfilling and open. Goals should be communicated clearly and a plan to reach each goal should be put in place. The type of collaboration chosen to achieve project objectives depends on the nature of the objectives. Because the market changes all the time, financial aspects, as well as the means of achieving the goals of the project, have to be revised subsequently.
I hope you can avoid falling into the trap of believing stereotypes in your work. As we say in Belarus, “A smart head has a hundred hands.” If you plan your IT project well, you will have a passionate team of professionals working on your dream.