How To Manage Effective Outsourcing Projects

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IT solution providers can offer their customers outsourced services and increase their revenue handsomely, if it's done properly. Illson, chief operating officer and chief financial officer

Astreya Partners, which specializes in providing outsourced talent in in systems administration and network engineering, offers tips on getting an outsourcing strategy right. — Jennifer Bosavage, editor

As companies of all sizes in the business world embrace information technology as a strategic differentiator, they recognize that leveraging outside resources for select functions can improve execution. Especially in an uncertain economic environment where cost management and time-to-market is essential, businesses realize that outsourcing their IT functions -- such as systems administration and networking engineering -- can be not only a sensible decision, but one that can also positively impact the bottom line.

That opens a sales opportunity for the VAR: External talent for specific IT projects and tasks can save your customers training costs and reduce operating overhead, while they benefit from the experience of trained professionals. Moving toward an outsourcing model for infrastructure projects is an excellent way for a VAR to gain additional revenue, especially because the market is currently seeing an increase in requests for outsourced infrastructure projects.

While the potential of outsourcing is alluring and feasible for end-users, too many companies select outsourced staff based largely on cost and without thoroughly vetting the caliber of candidates offered. This not only can be a misfire for the VAR providing the personnel; it also wastes time and money for the customer that is doing the hiring. Here are some of the biggest mistakes companies make while attempting to draw or place the right outsourced IT talent:

Mistake #1 – Lack of Focus and Consistency in the Hiring Process
One size does not fit all with IT. Areas such as systems administration and network engineering, for example, require significant technical expertise and a more extensive hands-on skill set. In assigning outsourcing personnel, make sure your people are specialists in the IT area with which the client requires assistance. Do you provide a repeatable evaluation process of your personnel, both before and during your project? Is this process scalable, so it can be applied as the client’s needs grow? Many resellers, staffing firms, or managed service providers try an ad hoc approach, rather than relying on a proven process or system. This makes it more difficult for them to adapt to different operational challenges, and they lack the tools and metrics to evaluate their team’s progress.

Mistake #2 – Use of Disparate Consultants as Opposed to Proprietary Personnel
Are the personnel in question your own direct employees, or are they independent contractors assembled for this one-time engagement? Engaging a highly qualified project staff comprised of dedicated and trained employees significantly reduces the risk of getting a bad fit in personnel. The VAR should assume responsibility not only for the integrity of its personnel, but also ensure that those employees are equipped and trained to succeed while on the job. Also, when you use a consistent set of direct employees, you stand to gain from their experience and you are in the position to assemble the best team technically and culturally.

Mistake #3 – Submitting Unscreened Candidates to “See What Sticks”
How do you screen prospective candidates for an outsourcing project? Is it a rigorous evaluation of both technical and interpersonal abilities? How do you monitor and manage personnel at a client’s location? Is it an active program, or are the employees left with minimal oversight? Many companies overlook the different dimensions of evaluating a new hire – for example, a company should consider culture and personality requirements as well as on-the-job competencies. Examples of effective screening techniques can include rigorous technical tests, standardized exams, use of a practical lab setting, and personality assessment tests.

Mistake #4 – Not Effectively Using Performance Metrics
What metrics or scorecards do you provide so that clients can evaluate your employees’ performance? Do you apply objective performance criteria or conduct periodic client reviews during the project to see that personnel are performing effectively? These metrics should be highly visible to the client. The reseller should have a direct line of feedback to support and verify an employee’s performance. That can be even more important when the reseller is providing a managed service or a specific deliverable to meet established expectations. Make sure your company and your client understands all existing service level agreements (SLAs) and contracts, and everyone agrees to abide by them.

Mistake #5 – Staffing Overseas Branches with Non-Local Employees
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This simple, but this powerful adage is often ignored when businesses establish foreign offices, yet is critical. When you engage outsourced talent, ensure that they have a good understanding of the established company culture and the new branch’s geography, culture and personality. New branch employees must understand and be acclimated to the local market. If the new employees aren’t culturally compatible, your customer’s branch project may wrap up sooner than you’d like.

Those issues apply in good times as well as less certain climates. In our experience, when companies are in growth mode during a robust economy, they tend to rush the outsourcing process and adopt the same mistakes. So take this advice in high times and low: You can reap terrific long-term benefits through an efficient outsourcing model, generating ongoing revenue in what is otherwise a stubborn economy.

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