On our previous posts we have talked about lack of effective communication as one of the major pitfalls that exist whenever a company is looking for a nearshore or offshore IT Services partner. So what should that company do about this? Here are some simple pointers that should be considered when looking into IT outsourcing:
First word of advice: If in initial conversations you find that you cannot communicate with your IT services vendor, no matter how technically savvy they might seem to you, please take heed, and run like the plague.
Second word of advice: Make sure that in initial conversations you ask "what do you think?". If you do not see an attitude of the IT services or software development vendor being able to think for themselves, to be able to convince with their own ideas or approach, be careful... it might be an indication of a lack of a proactive culture in that particular IT outsourcing firm.
Third word of advice: Describe an IT software problem to the company but keep what you thinks is a potential answer to yourself. Then ask them, "how would you proceed?" Make sure you ask this in a context where managers and engineers from your IT outsourcing vendor are present, and watch for how freely engineers can express themselves when the managers are also there.
Fourth word of advice: Openly ask what the IT outsourcing company's culture and values are with respect to communication. At PSL, for example, we explicitly champion a culture where: Ideas come first, regardless of who says them –if the junior had the spark, then the junior's idea is implemented. Mistakes are treasures that need to be socialized and learned from so that others who have not yet committed them never will. The truth is king, even when it is unpleasant –raise red flags early! And, when you raise a red flag, socialize it, so that others don't make the same mistakes you made. Remember, software development is a team effort! Groups are co-responsible for their own performance. Software developers, for example, can say to our COO: "our PM is not working for us, we need him / her changed"
Fifth word of advice: Ask the leaders of the IT outsourcing vendor what they look for when they hire a new employee. This can tell you a lot about the company, and how its seeks employees that are open to communicate and interact constructively. At PSL, for example:
- We like to hire sharp brains, but only if they come packaged with strong people skills. We never hire the asocial software development genius.
- We seek people that love software engineering and are always curious to learn more. We are a happy company and do not want subversive employees that hate coming to work, no matter how smart they are. We also do not want people that think they were born blessed with "all the knowledge in the world". Thinking you know everything is the most dangerous form of arrogance, as it brings learning and curiosity to a halt.
- We look for creative thinkers that are critical of the system, but can bring change in a positive manner. When you criticize, acknowledge the efforts done before you to get the the current status-quo, and most importantly, make sure your criticism comes with a solution or at the very least with some very good questions and issues to look into!
- We look for people that are open to teaching others about what they know, and are open to receiving input from others about what they don't know. People who cannot take feedback or are not willing to help their peers cause great harm to a collaborative culture like ours.
- To end, there were several implications about communication that we did not touch in this post. They mostly pertain to communicating within the life-cycle of a software development project. We believe they make a good Segway to our next post about "IT offshoring vs. IT nearshoring", and will treat them there.