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Blog for May 2011

The Challenge of Offshore Outsourcing – Keeping it Real
Author: Andy Schachtel
Date Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 13:47:31 PM | Comments (0)

Less than 10 years ago, the prospect of a video conference conjured up thoughts of satellite links, corporate boardrooms or maybe even the secret, underground headquarters of a spy agency. Today, anyone with a PC, or even a smart phone, can easily set up a video conference and conduct virtual face-to-face meetings. Technology has allowed us to bridge great distances and to collaborate in ways we might never have thought possible. Yet billions are still spent on business travel; and most major business decisions at some point require a flesh-and-blood meeting. Real-world social connections such as schools, clubs, and families still play a huge role in business, even in our virtualized world. Recognizing this innate need for real human connection and familiarity is one of the underlying and subtle challenges of successful offshore outsourcing, especially when outsourcing to offshore destinations such as the Philippines.

Given the above, obviously the ideal way to begin an outsourcing project is with a site visit to meet the team so you can impart to them firsthand the culture of the organization and the expectations that will be placed on them. This also allows both parties to ‘put a face’ on their distant colleagues and create a certain empathy that no video conference could ever really replicate.

For many, however, an introductory trip to the Philippines is not possible; and even for those who can go at the beginning of a project, frequent trips may not be possible. So the challenge arises of how to maintain the focus, commitment and connection of an offshore team while interacting remotely.

One of the keys is face time. Even if it runs a distant second to an actual in-person meeting, allowing your staff to see your face creates a connection that goes a long way toward making up for the dozens of cold e-mails that will have passed between the two sides each week. This is just a basic human need and no amount of modern technology can erase it from our psyches.

The next key is local staff integration. Let your local staff know who’s working for you offshore and vice-versa. Have your staff in each location exchange profiles or allow them to connect via social networking if that is within company policy. Understanding and friendship promote cooperation and communication -- and can prevent the misunderstandings and resentment that might doom an offshore process.

Finally, make sure to create opportunities for positive interaction. Some outsourced, offshore processes can become so routine that information flow becomes rigid and morale and performance suffer. Try to carry out regular evaluations and offer incentives for strong performance. Give your staff positive feedback and solicit input from them.

In the end it’s about keeping things human. Offshore staff may be out of sight but keeping in mind that they require a human connection will enable you to develop a healthier and more productive offshore component for your business.

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