The Feedback Loop: How to Communicate Successfully While Outsourcing Projects
Outsourcing your projects to a highly-skilled remote team can instantly transform your business into a profitable, high-functioning machine that brings you sales and revenue like clockwork.
No more going over budget.
No more worrying that you can’t compete with the “heavy hitters” in your space. By finding the right outsourcing partner, you become the heavy hitter.
An overwhelming amount of outsourced projects do fail, for a variety of reasons (revealed below)… and MOST problems leading to a failed project are entirely preventable.
By keeping the clamps down on a few preventable issues, you can turn your outsourcing experience into a highly profitable venture with good returns.
Problem: Two Separate Goals
You want a finished, launched product that makes a lot of money. After all, you want your business to expand and grow. So it’s in your best interests to find a remote team that can do skilled work at cost-efficient prices and deliver a finished project.
Your outsourcing partner also wants their business to expand and grow. In order to make their business extremely profitable, it’s in their interests to keep you as a client for a long time. The longer the project takes, and the greater the volume of work, the more money they can make from you.
So how does the remote team get what they want?
You allow them to take longer than necessary on the project. The communication is vague (on both ends). Needs are not met. You restructure milestones and extend deadlines. You give more and more of your budget, while they promise to have everything finished soon. You get stressed out, and they get frustrated because you aren’t explaining yourself clearly. You keep paying, because it feels like you’ve sunk too much into the project to give it up. When the project is finally completed, you’ve had such a bad experience that you vow to never use remote teams again.
The project is finished on time and to exacting specifications. You are happy because the quality of work was good, so you send them more work. They are happy because you’ve become a repeat client. You trust each other and now the relationship is strong. Both of you enjoy a bump in income.
Which would you prefer?
Obviously, we want scenario two – and so do your remote partners. They want to do good work and keep you coming back.
But every so often, clients slip into habits that lead toward the outcomes expressed in scenario one – bad communication on both ends leads to poor results. So how can we avoid that option and move toward scenario two – the good relationship and completed project?
Solution: The Full-Circle Feedback Loop
There’s a difference between how we communicate in our everyday lives and the precision with which we need to communicate with our outsourcing partners.
You might work with good project managers who are fluent in several languages and understand you well, but you still need to give and receive the right communication and feedback. Many first-time or inexperienced outsourcers struggle with the level of precision needed.
To make the most of your outsourcing, you must openly and frequently communicate your concerns with the outsourcing team, and they should openly and frequently communicate risks and issues with you.
If we were to illustrate this process, it would be a two way circle of communication.
To find out how to hold up your part of the feedback loop, keep reading. We’ve isolated two of the most common issues and how to avoid them.
ASAP Means Nothing
We hear it all the time: “This project is a big deal for our company, and we need it turned around ASAP!”
As much as your outsourcing development partner would like to get everything back to you on time, the above sentence contains no meaningful information. ASAP is not a deadline. It isn’t instructional, informative, or unique. Every business needs something ASAP, but they can’t all take priority.
By allowing yourself to communicate with such lack of precision, you throw your development team (which will often work in different time zones, thousands of miles away, under a different corporate culture) into a state of uncertainty.
Your outsourcing team must clearly understand the cost, scope, and time constraints. These are measurable metrics with concrete limitations. They must also understand the consequences of failure.
Instead of being vague, consider this:
Say “I need this done by [date] because [reason]. If not, the consequence is that [consequence].”
For example, “I need this software finished by November 15, because we’re going to launch it to take advantage of the holidays. If we don’t get it finished and delivered by that time, we’ll miss out on $20,000 of revenue and we will have to cut the outsourcing budget by more than two-thirds.”
Be clear about the scope, time constraints, and consequences. You might think that you’re coming across as harsh, but you’ll actually be doing your outsourcing partners a big favor. Now they can be “on the same page” as you and your in-house teams – and they face real consequences (loss of business) if they fail to deliver what you need.
Encourage Constructive Criticism
You do not want your developer to tell you only good news.
You want to know everything – good and bad. To expect only good news is the mark of an inexperienced outsourcer, there will always be a few setbacks. How you react to the setbacks will determine whether your project succeeds or fails.
If you establish a relationship from the start where you become emotional and angry when your outsourcing partners don’t meet your expectations, they’ll be afraid to communicate with you when necessary. This is why some people get frustrated and give up o the idea of outsourcing – they think their outsourcing partners can’t communicate or are unreliable. The truth of the matter is that you need to encourage open communication so they can make you aware of potential problems.
If they constantly have to placate you to keep you from calling and wasting an hour yelling at them, or filling up their inbox with angry, emotional emails, they’ll be much more likely to be evasive and uncommunicative. Wouldn’t you?
Instead, encourage them to share any news, even if it’s bad – as long as it’s honest. By keeping this cycle of communication open, you’ll be able to get in front of problems before they occur, and your outsourcing partner will become a valued asset.
Ask about potential risks and issues. Allow them to document the project honestly. You might be surprised at how smooth the processes become.
The majority of outsourced projects do fail, but not because the remote team lacks skill or ethics. The vast majority of outsourced projects fail because both the client and the remote partners don’t communicate with the required precision.
For example, at Capital Numbers, we have a very high success rate with multiple projects across multiple clients. The skills of our developers and project managers has a lot to do with it — but it’s also because we keep communication open at all times.
We share project timesheets, make regular calls, and keep the two-way loop completely open on our end. Sometimes that means adjusting our work schedules or removing / adding developers to projects as needed, and we’re happy to do so.
However, we know for a fact that many remote agencies don’t do the same. So the project suffers, the client suffers, and the agency suffers.
When dealing with uncertainties, the client has the responsibility to determine whether there can be open communication and trust. Make it a point to work with agencies who keep open communication. But also make it a point to uphold your end of the feedback loop.
Simply by being precise, professional, and open to feedback, the client can mitigate a lot of the risk and pave the way toward a good future relationship.