Offshoring is often overused nowadays by managers that tend to only understand that based on head count, it costs less, and that is of course true. The problem with simple offshoring is efficiency and failure to deliver, hopefully you can use the brand new Softshoring concept to replace most of your offshore work!!!
To ensure your offshore team delivers at the required quality you spend time, effort and money training people that are not even directly part of your company. This is time you could have spent training some new cool kid next to you, that would buy you a drink, tell jokes and feel involved. Most of the time, you will have to invest in people that do not really care and that will move on at the next opportunity without looking back. It’s not a good investment of your company’s knowledge, it’s just dispersing knowledge and training people for free.
In India and China, delivery at the expected target is a challenge that can only be achieved with close management of the teams to ensure progress. In a project environment, that can work with tight management, but for BAU tasks, you necessarily have a project manager to handle these people. This has a cost as someone on site will need to take on his time to follow progress of the offshore team, identify problems to the best of his ability and provide remote answers to, more often than not, simple but delivery blocking questions/issues. This will cost even more if your offshore team is not top notch, as you will need a very good project manager with international and remote project management experience, and that can’t be cheap when all you want are some chaps to produce damn reports and just follow very precise and detailed procedure.
Because it is supposed to be cheap, it is a good reason to throw any labour intensive, some would say “stupid”, work to offshore teams. This is actually quite interesting as it shows so much of a common trend in today’s managers. It’s cheap, and at laaast you get the much fought for increased head count! But the work sent offshore is often forgotten there, it is never optimized and offshore teams do not seem to be very interested in simplifying their own life. In their place… doing shitty work… would you do any better?
Most of your offshore team members just want you to be happy by doing EXACTLY the job you ask them to do, no more (and sometimes even a little less if they can go away with it, but hey we can’t blame them ^^). But that is not a good mindset for process optimization and continuous improvement, so there is a problem with efficiency as your remote teams will not have the nerve to tell you how to make the process better, often because that would involve somehow that they can do better than what you propose and in their eyes, that could have a negative impact on their relationship with you… Well, being located several thousand miles away does not help, but I have found that it’s also a cultural difference in the way they handle relationship. That is a very common asian view of relationships. At the end of the day, all of this does not help process self improvement, costs a lot of useless money on the long run and costs also turnover, as the staff gets bored from the uninteresting tasks proposed and the lack of flexibility to change anything (even if it is a barrier only in their head).
Offshoring is sending out knowledge and funds to another country, it is not good business for your local country’s economy, as it does crush local jobs, the funds sent away do not get back much either directly (buy your products) and indirectly (local taxes, VAT, consumption in the same country, etc). I may be wrong but offshoring is interesting only for the offshore economy, the added competitiveness of your local company may not stand strong in the long run as turnover, knowledge control and cultural gap raise new issues that cost money and pile up, in the end I am not quite sure the added competitiveness is that clear.
My workmate and I have found that most of the work that people want to offshore can often be done more efficiently and with much less errors by a good script or software: that is the definition of Softshoring! 🙂 Indeed most of the tasks offshored can be automated to such an extent that the actual people needed to do the work are 1 guy that knows its stuff, instead of a pile of AngryBirds applying a procedure they despise and have little interest in improving.
This strongly relates to automation in the workplace of course, but managers today only look at the cost and don’t know how to measure efficiency and have no interest in identifying improvements, so much that people are sometimes discouraged to propose improvement although they know what should be done.
Softshoring requires a good IT developer that understands the processes and has a brain for him.
With softshoring, rediscover what IT was originally made for: doing the crappy job itself and let human beings drink their beer and use their brains!