Engaging an outsourcing partner is a vital business decision and when applied correctly it can effectively reduce the direct costs of a company. You need to understand how to identify a bad outsourcing partner as this is a pitfall that many businesses that begin outsourcing for the first time often fall into.
There are two schools of thought that tend to be prevalent when outsourcing:
- Quote and Hope. Here, a lot is left to chance. This is where smaller businesses typically tend to make buying decisions solely on price. The decision to outsource needs to be subject to appropriate administrative processes and not be simple, as in the case of many decisions, primarily on a financial basis.
- Assessment and Evaluation. This model is far more effective and approaches choosing your outsourcing partner in a more structured way. There is even an element of recruitment to ensure that the partner has the right skills to deliver to your requirements.
So how do you identify a bad outsourcing partner? Simply, do your research!
Usually their website is the first experience you will have with a potential outsource partner and there are things here that you should take notice of. It is advised that you look for professional websites that are free from obvious errors. The content on the site should be original and well written and it should be more than just a brochure list of services. Also make sure the content talks lucidly about the services they offer rather than being keyword-heavy, focused more on their own marketing than describing their services properly.
Even if a professional website is primarily brochureware, it should still hold detail about the business, working practices, terms and conditions that would govern the relationship, as well as showing areas of experience, knowledge and expertise. For example, the site should have an area that focuses on their skills and services that allows you to match those with your requirements. Also look for specialties that match what you currently need. Of course, if you are considering outsourcing a wider range of tasks in future, a broad base of experience and expertise may be more appropriate and a better choice for you.
Some service providers will often show profiles of key personnel including their photographs with highlights of their achievements, experience, and other interesting information. This is a sign of a stable company that is confident of its team and capabilities.
Look for and evaluate ease of communication. A bad outsourcing partner is likely to have nothing other than a generic email address on their site. For a professional outsourcing service provider, look for a domain linked email address, telephone number, and also whether they offer additional methods of communication such as IM (Skype, etc.) details. See if they state how long they will take to respond to customer enquiries. If they do, do they stick to it or is it just marketing?
This is a growing age of work at home parents, students making some extra cash when they have time and also sites with even less honest intentions. If a physical address is not on the website, then it is wise to question the authenticity and/or professionalism of this service provider. Remember a clearly listed business address (not a home address or a post box) is a good signal of a company that has invested in its infrastructure and is likely to provide better, stable, and longer services.
Websites, when you look deeper, can provide clues in what is and what is not included. Seek evidence of clients. Are there any testimonials either on the service provider’s website, any third party portals, or elsewhere on the Internet? How about case studies? Case studies help as they go into more detail and you can see the type and size of clients that the service provider has worked with and what they have done for the client. This can be different from what is listed in the service pages and can actually give you a better idea of the depth of experience the service provider offers. Often people describe what they would like to do on their services list, not what they actually do.
Also check on the site if there any industry recognised certifications such as ISO/CMMI. Look for any other indicators like validations from recognized and well established business such as recommendations for high profile sites or even industry based awards. Remember it’s easier to get on curated lists than win awards or achieve recognition from industry leaders. Know the difference.
If all is looking promising still hold some caution, we recommend now is the time to send through a work brief and request more details and a quote. This can be very enlightening. Take note of the speed of reply, what expertise, qualifications are indicated and how well have they understood your requirements. Apart from the information you have back, you can also gather a lot form the reply and their use of language, the standard of English, and how the information is presented as well as its accuracy. Remember, a fast quote may well indicate a lack of diligence and often comes with caveats in small print that could generate potential issues once the contract term commences.
We hope that the above list will arm you a little better in being cautious in choosing the right outsourcing partner for your business.
Please feel free to share your tips and other signals you look for in identifying the right outsourcing partner in comments below.