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Outsourcing and the Learning Curve

Jan 20, 2008
It is so tempting to engage in outsourcing nowadays. Through the internet and the technologies it has to offer such as email and instant messaging among others, businesses in the United States now have the option to contact consultants and professionals all over the world to complete their business needs. Because of the cheaper labor offered by these offshore consultants, thoughts of profits and cutting down production costs are foremost on the minds of most managers when they think about outsourcing.

There is more to outsourcing, however, than just reduced production costs and increased profits. There are several differences that have to be taken into account. The most obvious of these is the time zone. Most IT, CAD, and other professionals are located in India and the Philippines. As such, there is a twelve-hour difference in the time zone. In addition to this, there are possible communication barriers that might complicate the situation. Language means more than just understanding the words being said or the words written on paper, rather, there are a myriad of connotations and different layers of meaning embedded in statements. Moreover, there are different cultural differences and modes of doing things.

At first glance, these differences may be easily surmounted because of the availability of information in the Internet and the prospect of instantaneous communication over the Internet. The issue of competence is not the question. Rather, because of the cultural differences and different means and practices in conducting business, there is also a learning curve that offshore consultants have to go through. Not only that, this learning curve may also be steep and may take time to be scaled.

Even if the labor rate of the offshore consultants is way lower than local ones, time lost on a project due to the steep learning curve may undermine the advantages and benefits that outsourcing may offer. Given this scenario, what should businesses do? What kinds of precautions should you put in place to take into account this learning curve?

It is still possible to enjoy the benefits offered by outsourcing as long as the necessary precautions are in place. More than that, the consultants to be hired should be able to demonstrate early on that they can surmount the learning curve in a reasonable timeframe. By hiring consultants from the Philippines, the cultural differences are easier to surmount. This is because, the Philippines is heavily influenced by the culture of the United States. Moreover, the English skills of consultants from the Philippines easily approximate that of Americans. Hence, only minor improvements will be needed in their English skills.
On the part of the company doing the outsourcing, they should establish a set of criteria for assessing whether the consultant will be able to satisfy the requirements of the project given the budget and the timeframe. Otherwise, time and money would just be wasted on trouble-shooting the problems created by incompetent offshore consultants.

Outsourcing does not need to be a nightmare. With care and strategic planning, the benefits of outsourcing can be maximized by businesses.
About the Author
James Stinson is Owner and Founder of Global Sky Inc. For more information about seat leasing visit http://www.global-sky.com or email sales@global-sky.com
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