Outsourcing is never easy, especially for a novice. Selecting the right outsourcing partner is often the most difficult task. Most organisations opt the easy way out. They just select a company with all the right certifications. This is by no means a bad way to choose. In fact, opting for a company with top-level certifications like SEI CMM can be a foolproof way to get quality work. And if one is looking at India, they will indeed find many companies with various levels of SEI CMM.
The problem is that by looking for a SEI CMM certified company, you will get mostly just big companies to choose from. However, it is often a good idea to hire a Small or Medium (S/M) company who is willing to travel that extra mile to deliver more than what the customer asks for.
Here comes the real challenge, most S/M companies wont be having the SEI CMM certification. This is because, for smaller companies, it takes huge investment, effort and experience to get SEI CMM certification. Though they might have some of the other internationally recognised certifications like Six Sigma, ISO, eSCM, DNV etc. They will also possess the capability to deliver what you are asking for. In other words, by approaching them you might get what you need at a much lower cost.
However, the difficult part is to find the right S/M vendor who can offer the best service. Finding an S/M company who do the kind of tasks your require is easy enough, but finding the right one can often prove difficult. This article is designed to provide you some tips on how to evaluate a small or medium sized enterprise as outsourcing partner to reap optimum benefits.
While selecting an outsourcing partner, each and every factor connected with the company needs to be evaluated to assess the companys capability. When the company is smaller, each and every part is important and needs to be checked out. S/M vendor with the experience, zeal, knowledge and business acumen to deliver value added service must be chosen carefully.
How to find the right firm
Trade associations can be good sources of information. For example, The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) represent Indian outsourcing vendors and provide information on its members. It conducts events to educate technology managers about outsourcing, such as panel discussions for CIOs from smaller enterprises interested in offshore outsourcing. Most trade associations will have official websites and other contacts too. Participating in user groups at small-business associations and listening to word of mouth is seen as another way to find potential contractors. Another easy way is to hire a reliable consultant.
Give out a Request for Proposal (RFP). You can give the companies that approach you with a questionnaire, to be answered, orally or written. The answers to this questionnaire will solve most of your doubts. Ask the companies to bring information on their company and activities by way of brochures, presentations etc. Check out the websites, at least it will give you an idea about the firm. All this will take time, but there is no other way to do this. You can always hire a consultant to do the screening, but even then, it is better if you personally conduct the final check.
Look for value added service, timely delivery and quality work, at the best price. Before taking the final decision go and discuss with them the finer points at their office. Check out the company offices.
Some questions to put forward
- How do they differ from competition?
Key differentiators, process model, project development, management, delivery methodologies and SLAs
The Duration. Is there any guarantee or warranty for their service?
- People responsible for each area of the project, Person who will be communicating with you during the duration of the project
Their background, expertise and credentials. Are you comfortable dealing with them?
Also check out
- Whether the verbal answers are in line with their brochures, sales presentations, Web site, etc.
- Is there a collaboration, coordination and communication protocol set-up and are you comfortable with that?
- Do you feel comfortable accepting advice from the company?
Evaluation of their capabilities
Some key factors that can be easily checked out…
- Clients, previous work, feedback from key customers
- Company culture and work ethics
- Credibility and accomplishments of the top management
- Collective expertise of the employees
- Capability to deliver quality work on time, within budget
- Comfort level while working in close association
- Certifications that assure a certain quality standard
Customer referrals are very important to provide credibility to the project-bidding phase. Ask the companies bidding for project to submit customer contacts. With todays communication infrastructure, it should not take much time and effort to verify a companys experience in project delivery through a phone call or email.
Pilot projects are a good way to start the evaluation process. You can ask them to submit a pilot project along the line of your needs. This will help you assess their capabilities.
Make sure the contract covers all the points. Maintain close contact and communication. Work in mutual co-operation. Once you select the firm and sign the contract, if possible, make them do a relatively risk-free short-term project. Once the performance is found to be satisfactory, assign more work long term.
Once the contract is given, periodical checking is very important. Make sure that the requested milestones are completed in stipulated timeframe. This is done to minimise risks and losses.
If you get to get the right vendor to carry out your work and if it is successful, it is sure that you will be happy that you opt for a S/M outsourcing vendor. As the cost factor, personal attention and importance given to your work will definitely be better than from a bigger enterprise.