Guerrilla Outsourcing - How to Fly Under the Radar

What’s New?

The notion of outsourcing has been democratized down to the team and individual level so it is now possible for project teams to reach out for offshore resources to accelerate their progress and increase their skill set. Given that this possibility has been made available to teams, what is the best way to go about it? Teams can use a decision-support model and a related graphical map to evaluate the best alternatives based on their needs.

What Is the Tool? Outsourcing Map

After going through a process to determine if outsourcing is what you really need, you are confronted with many different approaches that can be adopted. In order to determine the best approach for your particular situation, the following questions should be answered. Use a scale of 1 to 10 to answer each question where 1 is “no” (or closest to the first alternative) and 10 is “yes” (or closest to the second alternative).

The chosen approach is mapped against a grid with “technical difficulty” and “strategic importance” as the two axes.

Strategy

  • Peripheral to the strategy or core?
  • Not used again or to be used again?
  • Part of differentiation?

Technology

  • Technically sophisticated?
  • Relies on internal patents/know-how?
  • Technical impact if knowledge not captured?

This list of other factors helps refine various choices after doing the overall mapping.

  • Small vs. big effort?
  • Long vs. short term?
  • Cost critical?
  • Problem well specified?
  • Reason to have regional presence?
  • English a requirement?
  • Strength of internal project management?
  • Quickly required?

What Are the Benefits of this Graphical Technique?

  • Provides a checklist of factors to consider
  • Provides a recommended alternative to explore
  • Supplies real sources of assistance that can be applied to the project

Which Business Problems Do We Solve?

This tool catalyzes action and provides a roadmap to staff up a project quickly. It takes some of the guesswork out of the process and provides meaningful recommendations. Finally, it does all of that in a way that helps provide justification to management, thus speeding up approval.

What Are some Considerations?

Obviously, it is not possible to reduce this complex decision to a set of black-and-white rules and methods. Different approaches might be dictated by many factors including internal culture, sensitivity to intellectual property, cost, and prior experience (good or bad). If you are also new to outsourcing/remote development, be prepared for some disappointments as it is fraught with many risk factors such as communication problems, turnover, quality issues, etc. One recommendation if you are using low-cost resources on small projects is to hire two individuals at the same time and then choose one after the first deliverable.

Case Study

A big transformation to automate performance approvals is taking place with HR and IT teams in a large corporation. Chuck, the IT program lead, has several time-critical tasks that will soon set the project back if he does not get them addressed. He has been unable to secure the internal resources to convert the past reviews from Excel into the current tool, change the color and logos for a professional look, and have an editor clean up the customized documentation that was created offsite and has style consistency issues.

Answering the survey questions confirms that an offshoring approach using some third-party hiring organization makes sense. Since the three tasks are so different, Chuck has posted three task descriptions on oDesk. He has decided to pick two graphic designers and two editors and give them a sample task before hiring the best performers. For the data-entry task, he has hired the provider with the most experience and positive ratings. Within two weeks, Chuck has added three team members to his project and, since expenses have been so low ($8K for all three tasks), only needed one signoff.