Signs of outsourcing trouble & how to avoid them

Avoid these pitfalls when outsourcing your software development project

Talk to anyone who has outsourced IT, and you are bound to uncover a horror story or two. Budgets gone wild. Poor quality work. Deadlines missed. And while much has been learned since the earliest days of outsourcing, there are still pitfalls and bumps to be avoided.

All too often, an IT manager or department is well into an outsourcing situation before they realize there is a problem. Looking for these trouble signs can help you tackle problems before they derail your project.

  • Lack of communication. Sometimes a language barrier or time zone difference gets in the way. Other times each team simply gets caught up in its own work and neither makes an effort to communicate.  Whatever the reason, a lack of communication is the greatest threat to any project. Suspicions and even antagonistic behavior often result, while deadlines get missed and people are not accountable to each other.
  • The too-agreeable supplier. Be wary when a supplier doesn’t ask questions or make suggestions. Not until delivery time do you find out that they did not understand your need, or were ill-equipped to provide a solution.
  • Unclear priorities and lack of collaboration. What is important on one side of the ocean may not seem so vital on the other side. All team members need to know daily, weekly, monthly and overall project goals – and how each  piece fit into the whole. When everyone understands this, members cooperate rather than compete, and pull together to accomplish goals.
  • High attrition. This causes a significant drag on productivity. Attrition at some overseas software development firms can reach as high as 50% per year.  Be sure your supplier has a good track record in this regard.

. . . And avoidance measures

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Trust, teamwork and accountability: these are the ingredients for a good outsourcing relationship. Make sure you have them and you will avoid 95% of the problems that can occur.

Trust can only be developed over time, but incorporating transparency and open communication will help you achieve it. Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and Task Management systems like TFS, JIRA, and TargetProcess provide a good foundation for communication followed by regular emails, phone calls, and instant messaging. While there may be a primary communicator on each continent, others should be free to contact their counterparts too. A team is built of all members, not just a few.

In his bestseller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni noted that, “It is teamwork,” not finance or strategy or technology, that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” Engaging and encouraging team members is what drives excellent results.