Most of us have had “not so great” experiences with outsourcing and are hesitant to move forward when it is proposed as a possible solution to dealing with resource and skill constraints. Having worked on both sides of the resourcing fence and having set up an outsourcing model in my last job, I have been able to leverage the benefits of having an extended vendor team.
Here are some of the best practices that have worked for me:
Build Consensus Within Your Team
Before you take the plunge, make sure that all stakeholders and your team know why you are outsourcing, the benefits that the vendor team brings to the table, and the advantages of outsourcing the project. One of the key reasons why outsourced projects fail is that the stakeholders don’t buy into the idea of outsourcing. As a project leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have a candid conversation and address all issues regarding outsourcing before you initiate the project. It is also a good time to set the stakeholder expectations from the vendor team on the project.
Define the Scope
Know why you are outsourcing and what work the vendor is going to do. Clearly outline your expectations, input and output, timelines and milestones, and define success criteria for both your team and the vendor. If it is a time and materials billing relationship, it would be worthwhile to define a productivity goal. Defining the scope will not only help you manage the project better, it also will help align your and your vendor’s understanding of the project. Remember that internal teams as well as the vendor team need to be onboard with quality, timelines and budget goals of the project.
Treat the Vendor Team as an Extended Team
Just like when you hire a new team member, you need to have a ramp up and launch plan for the vendor, especially if it is going to be a multiple-project relationship. Plan how you are going to onboard the vendor team. Talk to them about company culture, expectations and give them tips on how to navigate within the teams they will be collaborating with. Invest in the relationship so that they invest in your projects.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
When working with vendors, you almost have to over communicate. They can be in different time zones and there might be language barriers. Weekly team meetings and written status reports go a long way in ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
Respect Cultural Differences
Just like with your internal team, be sensitive to the time differences, language barriers or cultural differences of the vendor team when communicating or scheduling meetings and status calls. From a planning perspective, check on the regional holidays before finalizing milestone dates.
Like any other relationship, a vendor-client relation needs work to be successful. Open a feedback channel to provide in-time feedback on the performance of the vendor team. At the same time, be open to feedback from them. This will not only help the team to perform better but will also establish trust leading to a strong vendor-client relationship and a win-win situation for all.