Outsourcing to Outsiders:
As the industry of outsourcing has grown in the last decade, so have the numerous nuances with the teams of people involved in the service provider’s company. Having been party to some of the good and bad practices involved in this bargain, I felt it was only appropriate that I put down some observations in this aspect. The idea is not to demean any one’s smartness where in they have designed ingenious ways of getting profits for their company but it is only to create awareness among customers who pay heavy amounts to generally under qualified and un accounted team members.
Checks that should be made
I have stressed on this time and again. It is very easy to trust and believe someone who is sitting almost 24 hours away by flight. The credibility of a company based on its past is generally taken for granted but seldom do clients take a rain check on who is doing what in the team that is catering to their needs. The resumes floated are generally hyped in terms of the experience. The interviews conducted, mainly telephonic, are also manipulated. The practice is simple.
Organize a conference call with the customer. Keep the senior most programmers in the conference room, without being introduced. The manager/lead will introduce only the candidate to the customer. What goes on next is very entertaining. Each time a question is asked, the senior programmer is the one who answers in the form of a scribbled answer on the table’s scribbling pad. This answer is merely re-orated to the client by the candidate who is actually the one being interviewed.
Many would already know this process. Many would also say that it is not a perfect world and hence this is acceptable, but my take on this is that when you a client is willing to take a half cooked team member on board and paying the money in full, why can’t the client go a step further and invest in training this employee. The process that I suggest is that instead of depending only on an interview, the clients should grade the candidates on a scale of “project readiness”. Every team member should be given training in the needed area even after the interview. A screening process should happen again and only then should the candidate be allowed on to the project.
In fact, if budget allows, a physical check on the candidates can be made or at least a video call can be used in the place of a telephonic call. This way it can be ensured that half qualified team members do not get in to roles for which they aren’t ready already. Someone who is OK with the concept of allowing half qualified employees to work on their teams should read further.
Effects of half qualified employees in teams:
If I were part of a team where most of the team members are beginners and are expected to deliver a proper output, well I would not be really sure if the deadlines committed are going to be met.
Next, I have to ensure that they have the ability to work without procrastination. One issue with people who get caught on a work middle way is that they get demotivated, frustrated and thus end up wasting valuable money in the time they waste.
Even when there is a certain someone who is an initiator, is very proactive in learning, their contribution to the entire project has to be measured against the money invested for the other guys who are not in the same mould.
When you have a team full of rookies, your dollars or pounds are not spent on getting the work done. They are spent to help the service provider recruit more of these half baked employees.
The money that you spend is going to pay for the higher coffee quantities that are consumed by such employees than being spent on getting a quality out come in the project.
Furthermore employees who don’t have a clue on what they are hired to do in the project always end up causing Group Think where in they create unnecessary discussions and confusions which further lead to conflicts in the team.
Not only does the client suffer due to these employees, but the employer who has employed such employees can also suffer great credibility points if such employees have to be fired.
Finally the employees who are not equipped to work on the project will not only make their lives miserable but also of everyone around them.
So what is my point?
Every company which gets an outsourced work, should be thoroughly screened for their skill set. Some of the things which can be done are:
1. Get a previous customer list and their remarks not only on just the out put but also on the process which transacted during the whole project
2. Get a list of grievances filed by previous/existing customers, and enquire as to how lessons are learnt and implemented in the company.
3. Enquire for continuous learning plans of employees
4. Use the Positive Social Facilitations programs for meaningful action items rather than just for informal socializing.
5. Make sure neither side of the deal is compromised in terms of quality people, process and product.
6. For long term projects have a sitting client at the service provider location.
7. Do not take lightly issues which have been noticed by you instead of being updated by the service provider.
While I agree that business is a relation which has to be built and nurtured, I stress that relations should be built with a view to cement strong bonds. They should not be limited to transactional relations only.