Successful Offshoring Is Never Totally Offshore

August 2, 2006

It’s not unusual for a business that outsources solutions to offshore locations to experience cultural mix-ups and confusion. As the recent article “Outsourcing stunted by cross-cultural misunderstandings” posted on points out, most businesses that offshore experience “miscommunication issues within their outsourcing operations.”
While many industry experts point to a lack of cross-cultural training and inconsistent methodologies for the high rates of confusion and mix-ups, I believe a large part of the solution to offshore success lies in two critical operational musts:

Selection Process
First, before offshoring any function an organization needs to go through an offshore selection process by carefully examining, “What functions within our organization should actually be offshored?” Clearly, any area that is client interaction intensive should never be offshored, but can still be outsourced on site. Offshoring, on the other hand, is more successful in the world of systems and applications, such as new development, maintenance of existing applications or ongoing QA and testing. If a business takes careful inventory of what makes sense to offshore and what does not, the early foundation of good communications process is established. The organization’s expectations for offshoring delivery are well established, which is the best beginning for an offshore solution.
An On-site Presence
Second, an offshore solution provider must always have a presence on site at the client location and that on-site team must be responsible for managing communications among countries and work groups. This on-site centralization of communications ensures that misunderstandings are quickly identified and remedies and also ensures that information can flow quickly among client and provider team members.
A successful offshore arrangement is never 100% offshored. In today’s world of instant communications and global collaboration, an on-site presence is critical to managing the flow of information and work.
However, the job of the on-site team is not to filter information from the client. When there are ‘two sets of books’ (what I show the client versus what I work off of internally), communication challenges take root. It’s easy to forget what has been shared and what hasn’t, which quickly leads to confusion and client frustration.
A truly successful offshore model will give clients complete access to all information, including project deliverables, issue tracking, error defect logs, etc. The more visibility the client has, the more secure the client will be in the solution and the provider.
So what should today’s offshore solution shoppers demand from potential providers? On-site expertise and resources. Today’s offshore providers need to be working from many shores to ensure their solutions are successfully and superbly delivered.