Why on earth would you offshore or outsource?
Fri 02 Dec 2016
From time to time I get approached by Australian businesses who are using IT and digital services from offshore locations. This is something that I will always be against, for a number of reasons:
1. Language barriers
I've spent a lot of time over the years with international people, really enjoying their culture, perspectives and have some deep friendships overseas. However there is no question that using offshore staff who don't have English as their primary language will always come with concerns and questions. As I have encountered with offshore staff, there are plenty of occasions where their English is great, but spoken with an American accent - so they undertand English with a US accent better. When I speak to them with an Australian accent, they are less likely to understand me. The compromise in communications can be costly.
2. Nuances in the Language
To further explain the difficulties surrounding the language barrier, there are some pointed elements of language which can cause more confusion, in the detail and colloquialisms. Specific and technical language makes better sense in the original language, thus translating it over to English creates confusion and frustration. A case in point was a recent international Skype conversation to India. When the software developer was asked to list some data with newest to oldest order, he responded confidently that he would display the data in chronological order. The obvious mistake he made here and the correction that I had to make was that it was "reverse chronological" order. This was further compounded with the follow up meeting notes listing and stating that the data would be listed in "chronological order". So he had to be corrected a second time. The concern that he is the project manager, and despite being corrected twice might still communicate the wrong list order to the software development staff... and the chance that it might still be wrong.
3. Bad connections on Skype
I have been using Skype since its inception and now I am an enormous fan of Facebook voice and video for an ever-increasing rate of quality. It has been my experience though that connections across and using these technologies will from time to time suffer quality dropouts, disconnections and other related drama. Compounding the language difficulties a bad connection and the communication slows to a crawl.
4. Time zone
Time zones are an obvious factor when it comes to using outsourcing . I'm a morning person and that means that outsourced resources that we would use from Australia would still be typically fast asleep. The communications you wish to have with them done by email, messenger or Skype are going to happen during the next business day. The turnaround time on these communications is then therefore typically 24 hours for iterative time and processing. That's a really slow pace for work in this constantly shifting world we live in.
5. The feeling that you're selling yourself and the country short is another factor.
Maybe I am a bit overly patriotic but I believe in investing in Australian talent and helping them learn, grow and mature into Australia's future success. When developing talent, there is no question that spending the time in person mentoring, coaching and showing things in detail is the best and most efficient way ... this is not something that can be done effectively over Skype or by offshore relationships. I also fully support and currently started a plan to import some outstanding talent to support the growth of my business.
As a result of these factors any offshore project is likely to suffer from the following problems:
- Communication breakdown
- Slow turnaround times
- Lack of quality
- Extra time spent quality controlling
- Excess iterations to get to the result desired
- Accepting lower quality output as time and patience has run out
- Deep rooted frustration
- Angry clients
- Lost opportunity
- Lower profits
- Knowledge drain and strain
This is the reason that eCentral advises against outsourcing, unless there is an outstanding reason or quality on offer.
John Nayler is a 30 year IT industry professional who has spent the past 20 years operating eCentral, consulting to businesses and getting results from Digital Marketing and the best, most reliable technology of the time.