~ By Bill Balcezak
The success of a company depends on providing the highest level of service to its clients. Yet when times are tough, reduced budgets and smaller staffs make it harder to deliver. Outsourcing key projects can help you to provide a higher level of customer service while lowering costs at the same time. It is an important step on the road to business virtualisation, which reduces IT costs, improves availability and optimises service.
Websites such as Scriptlance, Elance and Freelancer.com make finding a qualified professional to complete your outsourced project easier than ever. These sites allow programmers from all over the world to bid on projects, stating their price and timeframe for completion. You can also view their ratings from past projects to judge the quality of the person's work before you commit. My company recently began using Scriptlance for projects where we needed to keep costs low. We've used programmers to design an iPhone application for our software, redesign a portion of our website in Drupal, and expand our search engine optimisation (SEO) capability.
The benefit of sites like Scriptlance is that you can obtain multiple bids quickly, creating a reverse auction, so to speak. Yet there are caveats that you need to watch out for as well. Here are some tips to get the most out of project outsourcing as you further your business virtualisation strategy.
While we've had great success in outsourcing projects, we have also had to deal with failure. Knowing which projects will succeed or fail is not always intuitive. For example, we were unable to find someone who could put together a prospective customer list for us, though it seems simple enough. On the other hand, getting someone to create a very professional, complex flash video was not hard at all.
The lesson to be learned here is that the most successful projects are the ones that do not require a deep knowledge of your company, customers or markets. If you hire an outsider to perform projects that require this knowledge, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Any project can go awry if not managed and executed properly. While it may be tempting to "outsource it and forget it," you won't receive quality results unless you keep tabs on the project every step of the way.
When outsourcing a project, you must first have a good idea of what your requirements are. Even though you are hiring an outsider for his/her expertise, providing proper direction at the outset of the project is critical. This includes deciding on deadlines, responsibilities, expectations, and so on. Though you must manage the project closely, make sure that you hire someone who has a high level of responsibility and work ethic, understands project management and will take the project seriously. As when hiring any employee, always ask for samples of work and references - and follow up on them!
When outsourcing a project, make sure that it's not too big or complicated. Rather, create an achievable set of tasks that the person you hire can actually accomplish. If you don't do this, chances are the project will fail. For example, our current website was originally built 10 years ago and has hundreds of pages. If we handed the entire website to someone and asked them to rebuild it, they would get bogged down. Instead, we outsourced the project of rebuilding portions of our website in Drupal. This worked well because we split it into multiple parts and managed each project individually.
All projects are executed in order to bring in a positive return on investment, including those that are outsourced. The ROI might be enhancing the organisation's strategy, streamlining processes, complying with regulations, or otherwise improving the state of the organisation in some way.
In order to manage your projects effectively, it's best if your outsourced workers track their time by task and project. In doing so, you will be able to catch and address problems as soon as they surface and understand the true cost of each project. This will put an end to project failure, as well as eliminate the waste of resources on projects that are not profitable to the organisation.
You can save a significant amount of money, time and trouble by outsourcing projects to a capable workforce. It is just one step on the road to completely virtualising your business, which minimises IT burden and overall costs. Make sure that when you do decide to outsource, you do so intelligently. Knowing the skills and reliability of the workers you hire, setting realistic goals and managing the project effectively will ensure a positive return on your investment.
Bill Balcezak is the general manager of the Time Division for Journyx, the first company to provide Web-based time-tracking, project accounting and resource management solutions that guide customers to per-person, per-project profitability. Bill is a seasoned professional with a broad, international and multi-disciplined background in consulting and high technology companies. He has 25+ years of experience in successfully managing heavily integrated, large-scale, critical software deployments for industry leading clients. Bill is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org