How to Choose an Outsourcing Partner
Having recognised a need to outsource, and worked your way through the initial preparations, you are now in a strong position to seek out a suitable partner.
Choosing an outsourcing partner is no trivial affair, so taking the time to do your research will undoubtedly be a valuable investment. With years of experience as a trusted outsourcing partner, we have collated some pieces of advice to help you find the best partner for your project.
Do they have the skills needed to complete your project?
There is no point in engaging a partner without the capability to complete the project. Capability is a blend of knowledge, skills and experience, with individual projects requiring varying levels of each component. Some projects will require a higher level of skills, but a lower degree of knowledge, while others could be more demanding in terms of knowledge as skills take more of a back seat. So when you look for your outsourcing partner, you need to look for someone with the right blend for you.
When evaluating potential partners you should try to consider the following factors:
- the breadth and depth of their technical expertise
- the expanse of their skillset
- whether they have access to up to date an relevant technologies
- whether they can harness their skills, knowledge and experience with excellent project management to solve similar or equally complex challenges
It is an added benefit if you can find a partner who has a broad range of skills, even beyond those you deem necessary for your project, and they have been able to apply them to an equally broad range of business challenges or applications and systems. The more diverse the range of skill application, the more likely they are to think out of the box to resolve issues.
Do they have a positive market reputation?
An organisation’s market reputation will tell tales of past successes and failures. It will highlight the reliability of their service, and how they treat their clients. Even if a service provider has access to the latest technological tools and the necessary expertise, you wouldn’t want to enter into a long-term relationship with a provider with a reputation for poor customer service.
Much like hiring a new employee, before you go too far down the rabbit hole, ask your prospective partner for references of companies that have previously utilised their services. By following up on these references it is easy to build up a clear picture of the opinions of an organisation. If they can’t or refuse to provide references, then this speaks volumes in itself.
What data security measures do they have in place?
Privacy and data security issues are one factor that will prevent organisations from deciding to outsource. During various stages of a development project, you will probably need to share sensitive business information with your chosen partner. If this information is not managed properly then your data is at risk of being mishandled.
Therefore, it stands to reason that you should ensure any potential partners up for consideration conduct regularly scheduled network and security audits. Be sure to double-check if your partner has a suitable approach to data security and their level of capability in it. Do they have ISO27001 certification for instance? Have they been engaged by government offices, and as such have suitably robust data security processes established and in place?
As an additional note, whenever you feel ready to approach a potential partner, an NDA must be in place before any detailed discussion takes place and any sensitive information is shared.
Do they have the processes needed to capture knowledge?
One of the major benefits to be gained from outsourcing over other methods such as contracting is the reduction of future time wastage from familiarisation. A good outsource partner should have the processes and infrastructure required to capture knowledge securely and this knowledge should be cultivated regularly to ensure that it continues to be up to date. They should then subsequently utilise these reserves to ease the onboarding process of new team members.
Are they open with their communication?
A good outsource partner should be willing to communicate with their clients. They need to be able to interact flawlessly with your internal team and should be willing to share regular progress updates with their clients, regardless of their nature. Invariably, even in the most meticulously planned projects, issues can arise. In these situations, clients have a right to know of their appearance so that suitable plans of action can be discussed. A willingness to be open and honest about issues, combined with deciding to share them earlier rather than later, is a good indicator of an outsourcing partner that is seeking to build trust.
During the very early days of any fledgeling partnership, contact points between internal and external teams will be established. A good outsourcing partner will then work alongside you to clearly define and agree upon the necessary communication channels. This will ensure that both parties are clear on who is responsible for what, and who should reach out to who in any given situation.
It is also worth asking them to explain the processes and procedures they follow to track results and risks and resolve any issues. You should ensure that information will be presented in a way that is clear and concise, and that you will be able to recognise how much progress is actually being made.
Are they flexible?
As with planning out new developments, you need to consider the possibility of unexpected issues when looking for potential partners. With this in mind, flexibility becomes an important factor when trying to choose an outsourcing partner. They should be flexible enough to respond quickly to urgent requirements or resolve issues as and when they arise, however they should not be so flexible that any small distraction prevents continued progress.
If you are new to the world of outsourcing, we hope that this series has helped you gain a clearer picture of what the process entails, and what you should expect from a suitable outsourcing partner. On the other hand, if you are experienced in the process of outsourcing, much of this series should be familiar to you, but we hope that you may have picked up some points to ponder over in the future.