From missed deadlines to mixed signals, outsourcing can be a minefield of miscommunication, especially when you are dealing with cultural differences. Quite often there are signs that can help you identify issues early on – if you know how to spot them.
Here are seven signs that your offshore provider might be leading you astray:
Vague or Over-Eager Promises Pre-Deal
Beth Anderson, a Director at Alsbridge, noted that during the sales cycle, providers can be vague regarding who will actually work the engagement. “Clients need to be leery of having the A team sell the deal and then having the C team come in to deliver the work,” she said.
She said that another red flag is providers who are too agreeable and say ‘yes’ to everything in hopes of winning the business. This can cause unrealistic expectations as well as scope and solution creep because delivering on those promises is difficult.
Other promises clients should be wary of include:
- Underestimating or downplaying the investment needed from the client to transfer knowledge can be a problem.
- Some providers overstate their ability to ramp up their onshore and offshore account teams for transition. This includes visa readiness.
- Another potential issue is minimizing the complexity that exists in connecting client sites and the provider’s offshore locations.
Missing In Action
Potential problems often emerge post-deal. Anderson warned that during transition, some providers will fail to adequately outline their transition plan to the client. Similarly, the length of time, complexity and disruption involved in deploying the provider’s tools in the client environment can come as an unpleasant surprise.
ISO 9001 Quality Management Expert at Advisera, Strahinja Stojanovic, said that alarm bells should ring if the most competent people are assigned to other tasks, and the friendliness of the outsourcing partner vanishes.
Most worryingly, team changes may not be honestly communicated, with vendors covering up or downplaying spikes in account team attrition during ramp up or post transition. Clients should also look out for lack of engagement and dedication from the provider’s tower lead. “They may not be onsite enough, and communication and transition execution are hampered by a lack of presence or lack of focus,” Anderson said.
Missed Deadlines And Timing Issues
Misquoted turnaround times are a significant issue for clients outsourcing to far-off locales. Juston D. Smith, Chief Creative Officer at Spectacle Marketing & Design LLC, has outsourced to a variety of locations offshore. He said that misquoted timings seem to be extremely common with agents from the Middle East and India. “It seems like they are more concerned with getting the work versus getting the work and completing it successfully,” he said.
While some looking for offshore tech labor may initially be put off by the seemingly blunt nature of many candidates/companies from the Asias (China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, etc), Smith said he has found them to be far more meticulous with regard to deadlines and end-products.
As Smith implies, there is often a cultural dimension to people’s perception of and use of time. Americans (and most Northern Europeans) believe that time is money. They are monochronic.
As Richard Lewis explained in an article for Business Insider, “In a profit-oriented society, time is a precious, even scarce, commodity. It flows fast, like a mountain river in the spring, and if you want to benefit from its passing, you have to move fast with it. Americans are people of action; they cannot bear to be idle. The past is over, but the present you can seize, parcel and package and make it work for you in the immediate future.”
In Eastern cultures, however, time is viewed differently, according to Lewis; it is cyclical. Quick decisions are difficult to reach. As a culture, they tend to be less likely to plan for the future. Southern Europeans and Arabs, on the other hand, view time as multi-active, and tend not to be interested in punctuality.
Understanding these cultural views of time in terms of your offshore business transactions can help you manage the conflict between expectations and delivery.
Lack of Agility, Lack of Communication
Mark Tuchscherer, Co-founder & President of digital service provider, Geeks Chicago, said that they have many clients who come to them after failed projects with offshore teams, and often the primary reason for teams’ inability to do their work or succeed in projects is a lack of agility.
“If the team you are working with isn’t providing regular updates and/or showing work to test as it’s completed, this should represent a significant red flag,” he said. “At a minimum, weekly updates should be provided.”
Stojanovic said that clients should also be concerned if your outsourcing partner is cancelling or rescheduling meetings, often to hours that are less favorable for you. Other warning signs are when meetings are shorter and without resolutions to your problems while the tone of a meeting is not positive anymore; questions are asked by your outsourcing partner with the intention of padding hours; and when long explanations are given with the same intentions.
Large Upfront Payments
Tuchscherer added that one client who had to send a large deposit at the beginning of the project, found that no work was ever completed. “If any overseas team asks for more than 10% (and shows a lot of persistence about the money), this should also be a red flag,” he said.
Common sense should guide the business deal – and clients should be careful about giving too much too soon especially with unproven partners.
Few Or No Client Recommendations
Smith advised looking for vendors and freelancers that can produce LinkedIn recommendations from clients like you. “If they can’t furnish those or can’t put you in direct contact with a similar client who’ll rave about their services, move on. You’re better off working yourself to the bone than letting some offshore folks run your company into the ground,” he said.
Check Their Language Skills
For Smith, another of the core issues is misrepresentation of the quality of English language skills.
“Somehow, some way these agents are acing English exams but then can’t even put together an email to a client without a grammatical error,” he said. “If I had it all to do over again, I’d immediately delete any offshore/outsourcing bids from freelancers/companies/agencies that have even the slightest of grammatical error on their website. If they don’t have a website at all, not a chance.”