A Guide To Outsourcing

Charles Allnut

Outsourcing, put simply, is sending certain tasks to a team or person outside of your organization to complete. Here we aim to offer some guidance and answer many of your outsourcing questions.

By the end of this blog, you should have a pretty good idea of what processes you need to establish, how to prep your on-site team, tips for managing outsourced workers, what challenges you might face, and where you can find further information to outsource efficiently.

This may mean sending certain tasks to a team or team member in another country. But whether you outsource in the U.S. or overseas, doing it effectively and in a way that truly takes work off your shoulders requires the same basic skills.

If you've identified tasks within your local teams that are:

  1. Time-consuming and repetitive, 
  2. If otherwise 'not there,' would free up their time to perform value-adding tasks,
  3. Able to be digitized and completed online

Then outsourcing could be the option for you.

What internal processes do you need to have in place to outsource efficiently?

The right software, tools, and technology

A good outsourcing partner will set your team up with the hardware they need, like a computer with an internet connection. But they won't dictate the software, tools, and technologies that your team can use. You should have complete control over that, and since your remote team relies heavily on digital access, this is a key component to a good setup

Usually, your virtual team will use the same software and tools you do. You just need to provide them with the licenses or access to get started.

The main thing is that you're using the technology to help your team quickly and securely access the information they need, and do what they need to do, no matter where they're located.

Transition to the cloud

High-speed internet has made businesses and employees more connected than ever before, especially for teams that work remotely. The introduction of cloud computing simply adds to this. This means using an integrated outsourced team is easier than ever before. And innovative tech companies are developing new solutions all the time, so it's only going to get easier.

Creating SOPs for your system and processes 

So, where can you start with systemizing your business? It really comes down to knowledge: getting it out of your head and into a format your team can use. Here are a few tips for getting started.

Document everything you do in your business - and how you do it. Documenting your processes will help you see more clearly which tasks in your business can be delegated to outsourced employees and which ones can't be (the ones that are difficult to systemize and predict). Here are some typical starting points for documentation:

  • The customer journey (from initial inquiry to final purchase)
  • How to deliver products and services (from purchase to final delivery)
  • Marketing and communication across all channels.

Next, you'll need to organize this information to make sense to someone new to your business. You might use the following formats to organize your data:

  • Create flowcharts and diagrams
  • Make lists
  • Record screencast videos using a tool like Loom
  • Record videos of you addressing the camera directly
  • Write tutorials and step-by-step instructions.

Essentially, you're building a how-to manual that shows your team exactly how to do any of your regular, recurring business tasks.

Finally, put all of this information into a process library that's accessible to your employees via either your cloud storage, your project management system, or your password-protected online hub. And make sure it's easy for people to find the exact information they want. Ideally, a search function is beneficial, but at the very least, structure the information logically (e.g., by the department, then task).

Change management and local team understanding

It's also imperative to communicate your plans with your team. Your approach to this will depend on their position in your business and their openness to change. But here are a few suggestions for how you can help them feel comfortable, even excited, about adding a remote team:

  • Explain what's in it for them. For example, they might not have to do as many manual tasks, like data entry, because those types of tasks are ideal for outsourcing.
  • Tell them about the benefits for the business and your customers. This might include providing better customer service, delivering results faster, being more competitive, or just generally boosting profits.
  • Reassure them. Let them know that their jobs are safe. You're not trying to replace them. You're simply trying to scale your business efficiently. And a more profitable, sustainable business will keep their jobs secure long-term.
  • Let them know you'll need their help. With the coming changes, you'll all need to work together on systemizing as much of your business as possible, so you can welcome and train your new employees.

Above all, try to be transparent with your team. Try to look at things from their perspective. They might have heard negative things about outsourcing (there are a lot of unfounded myths out there), and they'll need your reassurance. So talk to them, listen to their concerns and views and be prepared to answer their questions. Once they see the benefits and understand what's involved, they'll likely be keen to get involved and help out.

So, you've got the right internal processes in place to start outsourcing, but how do you know what outsourcing provider to choose?

What do you need to consider when selecting your outsourcing provider?

Every outsource partner is different. So, before you begin a long-term relationship with one, it's vital that you know exactly what they offer and whether they're an ideal match for your business. Just because an outsourcing provider is right for one business doesn't necessarily mean it is right for another. Here are some key elements to consider:

Costs, transparency and fee structure

Overseas labor costs mean offshoring has the potential to save your business a significant amount of money, but labor costs aren't the only cost consideration. Your offshore partner choice will make a big difference to your bottom line because they don't all offer the same savings, inclusions, and setup.

Every offshore provider has its own unique approach to fees. The main differences in fee structures are what you pay for, how much it costs, and how often you pay.

Before signing up with an offshore partner, it's critical to determine exactly what they include and how the fee is broken down. That way, you don't end up with any unexpected costs. And just as importantly, you'll know your staff are getting a fair wage.

Recruitment process

When comparing outsourced partners, we recommend exploring their recruitment process. Find out how they source talent, whether they have an existing database of qualified applicants, how quickly they can fill roles, and how involved you need to be in the hiring process.

You would want your  provider to recruit candidates in the same way you would locally, so make sure that the steps and processes you take to recruit are communicated or already exist with your chosen provider.

Facilities

Your  partner should provide internet access, computers, a desk, and a chair in a clean, comfortable, and professional work environment. It’s also important to ensure they provide a supportive and motivating workplace environment for their staff. This includes fair remuneration, reward and recognition programs, and employee engagement activities. 

But these are really just the basics. It's important to also ask about the ongoing support you're entitled to for your staff. To succeed with virtual teams, you really need your partner to be a black belt in operations. 

  • What IT assistance is available if a computer breaks down or the entire floor loses internet access? 
  • Do you get on-site security?
  • Is your offshore partner ISO-certified? - e.g., ideally, they should be ISO 9001 (Quality Management) and ISO 27001 (Information Security Management) certified
  • Do they have data security protocols and privacy measures in place?
  • Do they offer project management teams for the onboarding of new employees?

Quality

When choosing your outsourcing partner, you want to ensure they'll deliver consistently good outcomes for your business. How will you know if they can do this? Analyze their infrastructure, tech, equipment, and their internal management structure. Ask them questions about:

  • How will my virtual team be managed? 
  • What infrastructure do you have in place? 
  • What will you provide my offshore team with in terms of equipment?
  • What tech/software do you use? 
  • How will you track productivity and quality of output?

Stability and responsibility

When you're comparing your options, we also recommend that you clarify what you're responsible for and what your partner is responsible for. This will extend to the recruitment process, the infrastructure, reporting structures, and how your virtual team will spend their time.

To gauge the stability of your service provider, ask them:

  • How long have you been in business? 
  • How steady has your growth been? 
  • Have you experienced disruptions to your services over the past few years? If so, why?
So, you've got the right internal processes in place, you know how to choose the right outsourcing provider, but what are the challenges or mistakes to look out for that can hinder your chances at outsourcing success?

How to avoid the usual outsourcing mistakes and challenges?

You treat your virtual team differently from your local team

Your virtual employees are not 'out of sight, out of mind.' Your remote teams are real people and a genuine part of your team, just like your on-site staff. Treat them as valued team members and you'll get the best outcomes. 

Simple things like communicating daily, helping them live and breathe your company cultures and values and engaging with them as you would your local team with end-of-month events or including them in your staff engagement activities. 

You didn't invest enough time into the set up and onboarding of your virtual team

Outsourcing requires significant time investment - upfront and ongoing. All the points mentioned throughout this blog show how much time and money goes into setting up your virtual team. The up-front investment may be significant, but with outsourcing saving many around 70% in employment costs, long-term, it's often worth it.

If your staff doesn't have the resources they need, they'll be less productive and feel like you don't understand or value them, which will reduce morale and loyalty and potentially increase staff turnover rates.

Consider the resources your  local employees need to get their job done well and ensure that your remote team has gained access to those resources. 

You don't have a business continuity plan for your virtual team

Plan and ask yourself these questions to ensure staff can continue providing services in a nearby location with minimal disruption when disaster strikes:

  • What if the tech or internet access in your building goes down?
  • What if your employees can't access their usual workplace?
  • How might these issues affect your day-to-day operations?
  • What processes can you put in place to protect your employees and business and ensure maximum uptime for your customers?
So, you've got the right internal processes in place, you know how to choose the right outsourcing provider and understand the challenges to look out for...what's next?

Take the leap. There's nothing quite like actually delegating tasks and responsibilities to virtual teams, getting that real-life experience, and putting everything you've learned into practice - even if you start with just one role. 

For more information on how you can ensure your outsourcing journey is a success, check out these two guides that take you through the process step-by-step; part 1 and part 2

Charles Allnut

Charles Allnut is an EVP of Global Solutions for MicroSourcing. MicroSourcing was founded in 2006, pioneering in a new way of offshoring. MicroSourcing serves 280+ clients globally managed by a staff of over 4300.



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