Archive for category Outsourcing and Offshoring

The No Collar Workplace

Here is an interesting article that examines the types of personalities that can excel at working remotely or from a home office. These are the main takeaways:

Duff assumed it would be the quants, introverts, and reclusive types who would thrive in a virtual work situation. After all, they’re the ones who keep their heads burrowed in their cubicles. But it turns out it’s the extroverts — the office gabbers, the life of the break-room party — who thrive in the land of virtual work. Left on their own, these types of employees are the ones who work closely with clients, chum around with colleagues, and talk it up with bosses. They stay connected no matter where they are.

Shy, disorganized types are better kept in-house. The office environment is more forgiving of the scatterbrained; its structures help provide external reinforcement — as in your comrade popping his head into your office to remind you that you are late for the meeting (again). There’s also something to be said for the social interactions of an office environment. It doesn’t require much to keep up basic relationships when you are physically at work.

Duff also thought that mobile workers would tend to be seat-of-the-pants types. Again, the opposite turned out to be true. “Mobile workers are far more organized, personally, than their office-bound counterparts,” he says. “They have to be on top of their game the whole time.”

Based on our experiences with remote offices and employees I mostly agree with these findings. Here are a few of our own best practices for remote workers:

  • The best remote workers are people you have worked with in a physical office. The longer you have worked with them the more likely it is for the remote relationship to be a successful one. Of course, the above criteria still applies. If this person is a disorganized introvert then going remote will only make matters worse.
  • Do not hire someone who has always worked from the office as a first time remote worker. This is too much of an adjustment for anyone. A more gradual approach to going full remote (let’s say two days a week to start) is much more likely to succeed.
  • Invest a lot of time in nurturing the remote relationship. We assume too much when we work with others, especially those we do not see. Taking the time to talk to them frequently, asking them how it’s going, and finding opportunities to connect with them virtually and in person goes a long way in making the relationship successful.
  • It takes a village to go remote. You have to make sure that remote workers have the collaboration from everyone in the main office and access to the information they need to feel connected and get their work done. For example, if you are having Internet issues in the main office or any major pending announcements, your IT and HR personnel should immediately notify all remote workers of such events. After the fact is too late. Every event is an opportunity to build trust and enhance communication. Lack of such updates actually alienates people and hurts their trust in you and the organization they work for.

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Offshoring Tech Jobs: Opportunities for the Innovative Workforce

An article from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, entitled "What Job Shortage? Firms Go Begging for High-Tech Talent," addresses the surprising trend that fewer students are enrolling in IT programs:

Nationwide, [Randy] Guthrie [Microsoft academic relations manager] maintains, enrollments in college-level computer science programs have dropped as much as 70 percent compared to enrollments of 10 years ago. "Information systems are down a similar degree."

It follows, according to the article, that the demand for entry-level IT workers is outpacing supply:

"Every employer I’ve talked to says they can’t find enough people to hire," [Robert] St. Louis [professor of information systems at the W. P. Carey School of Business] maintains. "There are internships that aren’t getting filled … new positions that aren’t getting filled. Every employer says programs like ours are not turning out enough people."

The dramatic drop in the workforce pipeline is being attributed to the fear that all IT jobs get offshored, and that the career offers no job security.  This trend is particularly alarming as the bulk of the current IT workforce ages and retires. 

However, not all IT jobs are in computer programming, and not all jobs are offshore-able–companies need analysts and managers who can solve business problems, not just code:

Employers, [St. Louis] maintains, need people who can handle "management of technology in business. It requires all the leadership skills, strategic vision and project management ability used in any management career." (emphasis mine)

In an earlier post I asked if offshoring would threaten innovation. I expressed my hope and belief that the market will value innovation. It does seem that the job market is slowly, perhaps clumsily, responding to the need for innovation. Offshoring can help companies get deliverables produced once project requirements are carefully spelled out. But identifying and solving business problems cannot be summarily "outsourced" and "offshored".

The companies who need innovators and schools who need students need to keep getting the word out–that the smart jobs, the innovating jobs, are aplenty.

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Flat World Project Management – Should You Outsource the “Boring” Work?

In a recent Computerworld article, "Unlearn Outsourcing 101: Back to Basics," author Joe Hogan, VP of strategic outsourcing programs at Unisys, recommends that outsourcing decisions be based on a lot more than simply cost-cutting. He states:

Outsourcing is not about cost savings; it’s about cost savings over time – the time needed to build a relationship with the provider, streamline processes and innovate. In fact, roughly 70% of outsourcing agreements fail because they don’t take into account the long term. Those who enter them with false expectations become disillusioned and give up.

He also recommends the right tools for managing the relationship: a framework that links business processes to infrastructure; and "accountability tool" that shows the reporting structure, provides a de facto governance process, and accelerates resolution if issues arise; and comprehensive measurement. Of course a Project Workforce Management approach fits this work model quite well.

I would add to Hogan’s recommendations that companies should be sure to outsource the right work. I see too many companies make the mistakes of over-outsourcing, so that potentially strategic functions are handled by people who do not have the same vested interest in the long term success of the organization.

The first to be outsourced work should ideally be the commoditized, "boring" work that is not core to your company’s value proposition. Then, it should be definable in discrete projects with well defined deliverables. When outsourced work meets these criteria, and is managed with the proper Project Workforce Management tools and techniques, these company-vendor relationships will build value and drive business success over time, as Hogan suggests.