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Tips for Managing Outsourcing for Your Own Career Growth

By Adam Kolawa, Parasoft
September 27, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As a result of the recent trend of IT outsourcing, many IT managers' career advancement potential and marketability now depend on their ability to manage fully or partially outsourced projects. IT managers responsible for outsourced projects commonly find that the greatest obstacle to project success is miscommunication. The outsourcer seems to understand the manager's expectations but then delivers software that incompletely or incorrectly implements the requirements. These problems typically aren't discovered until the end of the project -- when correcting them requires the greatest amount of resources. Code needs to be rewritten by outsourcers or by local developers, which typically leads to missed milestones and/or budget overruns. Eventually, the costs of the required rework outweigh the expected cost savings of outsourcing.

Here are some tips for reducing the risks of outsourcer misunderstandings causing project setbacks or failures.

Tip No. 1: Recognize cultural differences.
Realize that not everyone you communicate with shares your assumptions. What's obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to your outsourcing services provider. If you grew up in the U.S., your beliefs were shaped by American culture, and this may skew your understanding of the way people think outside U.S. borders. For instance, you might assume that if you write a contract, everybody's going to adhere to it. However, for many people, a contract is just a suggestion.

Tip No. 2: Choose the right words
When you explain your requirements to an outsourcer, word choice is important. For many outsourcers, English is still a foreign language -- even in India, where both outsourcing and the use of the English language are prevalent. No matter how commonplace English has become, your outsourcer might have a basic understanding of each word you utter, but it is quite possible that they are not completely clear on the true meaning of the message you're trying to convey. This is exactly why you must speak in a direct manner using simple vocabulary.
For instance, you might be talking and talking, trying to very politely tell the outsourcer what you expect without seeming too direct or demanding. Each of your demands is prefaced by something like, "It would be nice if..." or "Maybe you could also..." The outsourcer agrees. You assume everything is fine, but the outsourcer does not implement your requirements as you expected. Why? You were beating around the bush with niceties instead of being straightforward, and the outsourcer, who is used to very straightforward communications, interpreted your requirements as suggestions.

Tip No. 3: Confirm your requirements.
There are a few steps you should take to confirm that the



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