Over the past five years, many businesses have redefined offshore outsourcing from being a tactical methodology for reducing operational costs, into a strategic tool for business transformation. With the shift from sourcing-as-tactic to sourcing-as-strategy, comes a critical need to analyze fully the implications for training and development. What are the skill-sets needed in an organization - and by whom - if offshore outsourcing is to deliver on its strategic promise? Let’s begin by identifying the different populations with training needs.
In general terms, the target groups will fall under the headings of Onshore and Offshore. Why include the offshore population except for perhaps a few expatriates? The men and women in your provider’s organisation now become part of your extended enterprise. Their skills, knowledge and mindsets need to fit with and/or – ideally - complement your own. There is also another reason why they need to be included in your training and development thinking. Directly or indirectly they have an impact on the reputation of your brand(s). Indirectly if they are engaged in activities such as processing, programming or manufacturing; directly if they are actually interfacing with your customers through call or service centres. Training will help to minimize the risks to your brand; it cannot be left to chance.
As well as being Onshore or Offshore, we can further divide the target training populations into four main role groups (although there will be some overlap between them):
Senior level managers responsible for understanding the costs/benefits of offshoring for the company, and deciding on the right approach to exploit offshoring potential. These are the men and women who must ask the “Why?’ questions and set a course. Why would we want to do this – lower costs, a more variable cost structure, increased innovation and idea sharing, access to critical skills, increased focus on the core business, improving customer service? There are multiple reasons for offshoring, and the senior team needs to provide others with a clear business case, business model, and game plan.
The Deal Makers:
Senior and upper middle level managers who establish specific objectives linked to the overall game plan, identify providers, and establish formal business relationships. They begin with a vetting process based on clear criteria such as provider skill sets, management practices, and price. Having short-listed providers they must clarify their expectations and negotiate with providers to optimize their goals, e.g., lower cost and increased innovation, or lower cost and increased customer satisfaction. It is the deal makers who must find the optimal solution.
Middle managers – onshore and offshore - responsible for the handoff/transition phase, the everyday oversight of the business relationship, the establishment and maintenance of key processes, and the achievement of performance and quality targets. These are the men and women who ensure the work gets done according to client company specifications and standards. They are business analysts, project team leaders, integrators, intermediaries, quality assurance managers. Sometimes there will be a pairing of onshore and offshore managers to ensure maximum knowledge transfer and alignment.
The Implementers: Personnel who are responsible for producing the actual outputs, e.g., software programmers, call centre agents, information processors, and product or component assemblers.
Let’s put all of these groups into a matrix. An ‘X’ suggests where your training resources might be deployed most effectively.
|The Deal Makers||X|
What we have now is a framework in which we can think about specific training needs. Below are some of the topics and skills that should be integrated into training initiatives for each group. While this list cannot be exhaustive, and each provider will be somewhat unique in their needs, it does provide a starting point for you in identifying how training can support your offshoring strategy.
- Understanding offshoring in today’s business models
- Offshoring and business strategy
- Offshoring risk assessment and management
- How to produce an offshoring game plan
The Deal Makers
- Setting criteria for identifying suitable vendors
- Vendor selection processes and methods
- Cross-cultural communication (with target country guidelines)
- Cross-cultural negotiation (with target country guidelines)
- Establishing service level agreements
- Distance management and virtual teamwork
- Knowledge transfer techniques
- Working effectively with the provider’s business culture
- Cross-cultural change management
- Cross-cultural communication (with country-specific guidelines and language learning, as needed)
- Cross-cultural conflict management (with country-specific guidelines)
- Measuring ROI/Balanced Scorecard metrics
- Virtual teamwork
- Understanding the client’s business context (including insights into the problems the client’s customers are trying to solve)
- Understanding the client’s requirements and standards
- Working effectively with the client’s business culture
- Cross-cultural change management
- Cross-cultural communication (with client-culture guidelines and language learning, as needed)
- Cross-cultural conflict management (with client-culture guidelines)
As well as formal training programmes, offshore managers are also likely to benefit from techniques such as job shadowing in the client country. It may also be the case that the provider could benefit from training in recruiting the best people to service the client (you).
- Working across distances via technology
- Cross-cultural communication (including guidelines for interacting with the provider’s culture)
- Working across distances via technology
- Understanding client requirements and standards
- Cross-cultural communication (including guidelines for interacting with the client’s culture and language/accent training, as needed)
Training to support offshore outsourcing is sometimes an afterthought. This is a terrible mistake. It needs to be integrated upfront into strategic analysis and game planning. Likely training challenges need to be identified and resources allocated early so that the challenges and opportunities of offshoring can be managed for optimal results.
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