With an eye on outcomes that are efficient in time and cost, more and more businesses in today's global economy choose to outsource. By entrusting certain tasks to third-party service providers, you can save time, reduce costs, and access specialized expertise that might not be available in-house. However, outsourcing comes with its own set of challenges, from communication issues to quality control.In this article, we will give you effective tips for managing a successful outsourcing relationship, from setting clear expectations to fostering positive relationships. Whether you're an SME or a large corporation, these recommendations will help you get the most out of your outsourcing partnerships and achieve your full business potential.
Key External Processes in Managing Providers
1. Define your Great Expectations
Before starting a project with your outsourcing service provider, define your expectations clearly. This means communicating your requirements, deadlines, and desired outcomes in detail, so both parties understand what is expected of them.For instance, if you’re outsourcing your customer service, you should provide your outsourced service vendor with a detailed script of how you want your customers to be handled. Similarly, if you’re outsourcing your website design, consider giving your outsourced service provider a clear idea of the design aesthetics and functionality that you desire. The more details you provide for expected outcomes, the more precise your outsourced provider will be in delivering the results.
2. Clear Communication Builds the Bridge
Establishing clear communication channels is vital to a successful outsourcing relationship. Determine the mode and frequency of communication that work best for both parties and stick to them. It’s important to have regular check-ins with your outsourced service provider, preferably via video calls, to ensure that you’re on the same page. Putting names to faces can improve the quality of communication as it provides more opportunities for building relationships, facilitating understanding, and conveying nonverbal cues compared to emails, making it more effective for remote teams to collaborate and work together. Additionally, according to a study by PMI
, ineffective communication is the primary contributor to project failure one-third of the time and harmed project success more than half the time. So, schedule those Zoom calls!
3. Set Milestones
Setting milestones and checkpoints is an effective way to ensure that the project stays on track. Regularly reviewing progress and adjusting as needed helps keep both parties accountable and focused on results. For example, for a software development project, set a milestone for creating the user interface design, finishing the backend development, and completing the quality assurance testing. Regular checkpoints could be set up to review progress and ensure that the project tasks are completed on time.
4. Trust, but do Check
As you communicate your business goals and project needs to your outsourcing provider, it is essential to monitor performance and ensure the project is meeting your expectations. Use metrics to measure performance and regularly review progress. For example, if you're outsourcing a software development project, you can use metrics like code quality, number of bugs and adherence to project timeline to measure the performance of the outsourced team. Try conducting regular code reviews and testing to ensure that the project is meeting the desired standards and that any issues that arise are being solved. You can use some project management tools and software like Smartsheet to make sure the outsourced team is meeting the agreed-upon deadlines and monitor the overall progress of the project.
5. Address Issues Promptly
Speaking of issues, one of the key factors in managing outsourced providers for optimal results is to make sure you provide swift feedback. It's crucial to deal with problems as soon as they appear throughout the project. This prevents small problems from escalating into larger ones. Make sure that you have a clear process in place for issue resolution and communicate it to your outsourced service provider. This will help them understand what to do if issues arise and ensure that they’re resolved quickly.
6. Foster a Positive Relationship
Much like in any type of relationship, it is necessary that the relationship you build with your outsourcing provider is one built on trust and remains positive in nature. This can go a long way in ensuring a successful outsourcing experience. The inarguable necessity of regular communication and feedback, as mentioned above, also plays a key role in establishing trust and keeping both parties on the same page. For example, when scheduling video meetings, keep in mind the differences in time zones so that your outsourcing partners know that you respect their rest hours. When establishing deadlines, try checking the calendar for holidays local to the country your outsourcing providers are situated within to make sure deadlines do not fall on holidays to prevent delays. Thoughtful details like these ensure your partners that you respect them, and that positively affects their work. Another great way to keep your service provider motivated and engaged is to recognize and celebrate successes, even moderately smaller ones, along the way.
7. Re-evaluation Makes it Perfect
More often than not, expectations and goals need re-adjustment in the working process. For this reason, it is best to regularly evaluate and optimize your outsourcing strategy, as it can help you achieve better results. You can track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as cost savings, quality, and turnaround time to measure the success of your outsourcing efforts. Many tools can help you with this, such as Salesforce, Quickbooks, etc. Based on this data, you can make adjustments to your outsourcing strategy, from changing the scope of work to adjusting the service level agreement (SLA) with the outsourced service provider.
Internal Management Tips for Successful Outsourcing Relationships
While the above-mentioned strategies will certainly improve your outsourcing experience, it is important to keep in mind that managing successful outsourcing relationships also relies on the internal processes of the company outsourcing the work.
1. Allocate Sufficient Resources and Support
Companies often make the mistake of not providing enough resources to their outsourced projects. To prevent delays and ensure quality outcomes, it's important to allocate adequate time, money, and personnel to the project. Clear guidelines and goals must also be established to align everyone towards the same objectives.
2. Manage the Handoff Process
To ensure a smooth transition, the outsourced service provider must have all the necessary information and resources to complete the project. This can be achieved by creating a comprehensive handoff plan and providing ongoing support during the transition period.
3. Train internal staff
Collaboration between internal staff and the outsourced service provider is critical for effective communication and collaboration. Internal staff should be trained on the provider's processes and procedures, as well as cultural training, to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.
Peter Drucker's advice of "Do what you do best and outsource the rest" has become increasingly popular, but it comes with its own set of challenges. To manage outsourcing service providers effectively, it is important to define your business expectations, and communicate regularly with your vendor. Regular communication and feedback are essential to ensure a successful outsourcing experience and so is fostering a positive relationship between your in-house and outsourced teams. Do not underestimate the role of internal management in a successful outsourcing relationship, including allotting resources, managing the handoff process, training internal staff, and choosing the right outsourcing provider.
While outsourcing is a great way to achieve success for either SMEs or large businesses, choosing the right outsourced service provider can be a daunting task. Therefore, it is essential to conduct a thorough research and evaluation of the potential partners before signing a contract. We have prepared a comprehensive guide to help you pick the right outsourcing provider. Read it here.
By following the aforementioned practices that have stood the test of time, businesses can build and maintain a successful outsourcing relationship that benefits both parties and enhances their competitive advantage.
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