Four Steps to a Successful Service Engagement

8- articleUsing an outsourcing firm with technical know-how and sound processes adds value from the very beginning.

Flexible outsourcing, in particular offshoring, can make the difference in achieving business goals within the boundaries of time and budget. Organizations rarely have a predictable, steady flow of work. Most test teams are under extreme pressure to get new products released and are working within highly compressed timelines. Hiring more staff is seldom an option, and even when it is, its time consuming, and even more so if when specialized skills or experience is required. Outsourcing, when used optimally, not only reduces the cost but also bolsters the existing processes and adds value in areas that are otherwise untouched. 

Organizations that are aware of the mindset and needs of current employees find better success in outsourcing. By knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the existing teams and identifying areas that need additional heavy-lifting, these companies are able to seamlessly integrate a strategic outsourcing partner into their existing ecosystem. Making internal teams aware of the rational for additional resources makes them part of the decision process and helps secure their buy-in.

Using a strategic partner provides a lot of testing leverage. Internal teams that do both the strategic planning as well as the nitty-gritty of day to day testing can take up the supervisory role of providing the necessary direction and ensure the operational success of the engagement. Using an outsourcing firm to provide the right sets of skills, technical know-how and understanding of the processes involved adds value from the very beginning and does not require a lot of hand holding. Following are the keys to maximize the benefit of outsourcing.

1. Don’t Think Cheap, Think Low-cost

There is a huge difference between low-cost and cheap. Reputable outsourcing firms hire and train qualified employees who are evaluated on both the speed and quality of their work. Looking for a sound internal structure and a robust business model in an outsourcing service provider is a great first checkpoint for any organization that is looking for a partner. You will want project managers and test leads that you can interface with on a daily basis who take care of overseeing the test teams.

The quality of a service provider can sometimes be assessed through their cost. Service providers that get into a bidding war rarely produce good quality output in the long run. Organizations that associate cheap labor to outsourcing often end up hiring the wrong teams and ultimately spend a lot of money for poor service. A quality service provider will be able to justify their cost through their past customer engagements, referrals and their expertise.

2. Service Level Agreements (SLA) Confirm Understanding

SLAs set the correct expectations for both the provider and the client and go a long way to establishing a good working relationship throughout the term of the engagement. Properly written SLAs will define roles and responsibilities for both parties as well as the deliverables. Good SLAs work for the benefit of both parties and even help avoid unforeseen issues.

3. The Third Arm

For companies new to outsourcing, internal staff can be wary at the start of the relationship and inadvertently cause delays by holding back information due to fear of losing their jobs or just plain lack of trust in the service provider. When engaging an outsourcing partner, organizations must consider the vendor as a third arm. By utilizing proof of concepts and automation trial services companies can quickly evaluate many important requirements such as technical competency, reporting, communication and, last but not the least, the value that the vendor brings to the table. The vendor is there to help and not hinder. For a vendor to perform better, the service seekers should provide access to all the essential systems and ensure that the internal team cooperates. The time and energy invested at the start pays off in the long run. Employees who feel their jobs are secure are seen as forthcoming in a vendor engagement and build the much needed relationship for a seamless integration.

4. Think Strategic Problem Solving Partners

Organizations should look for strategic testing partners that can solve the problem. Services providers are often found through word of mouth or referrals. Companies can also engage with service providers that are well known in the industry at international trade shows and events. The outsourcing project should start internally based on the business goals of your organization. Cash crunched companies that embark on an outsourcing adventure often end up spending months researching and talking to vendors to eventually find out that the project may not get approved. Also, sometimes the teams lose focus and deviate from the original path of the need for the outsourcing partner. This not only drains resources but also hinders them in the current duties. Organizations seeking service providers should establish the business goals at both the micro-level and macro-level as this will save a lot of time. A step-by-step partnership process ensures that the business level goals and application level requirements are all clearly defined for the vendor to start adding value from day one.

Summary

An outsourcing relationship is not a cheap alternative but a strategic low-cost partnership. Organizations should embark on the journey with clear set of goals and take their time in finding a suitable partner. The engagement process should start with a great conversation where the service provider’s knowledge and skills are assessed. Service level agreements establish a good understanding between the companies and outline the responsibilities of both parties. Organizations should utilize benefits such as proof of concept, and promotional trial services for automation etc., which will give them the time to assess the technical competencies of a service provider. Strategic outsourcing/offshoring can add value by aiding you in achieving your business goals faster, with no compromise in quality and without disrupting your existing structure.

 

Subu Baskaran

Subu Baskaran has over 11 years of experience in leading large, complex outsourcing projects both from onsite and offshore. He has a Bachelor’s degree in electronics and instrumentation engineering from Sastra University, India and an MBA from Cass Business School, London. He can be reached at subu@logigear.com

Subu Baskaran
Subu Baskaran has over 11 years of experience in leading large, complex outsourcing projects both from onsite and offshore. He has a Bachelor’s degree in electronics and instrumentation engineering from Sastra University, India and an MBA from Cass Business School, London.

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