Opened up by the Web, we now have so many options for finding and hiring contractors, that “outsourcing” appears deceptively simple.
Need someone to write some software? Go on the Web to RentaCoder and 246,000 software programmers are at your beck and call to look at your project and compete for your business.
Need a Web developer? Go to Elance and you will find 19,609 of them, as of this writing.
Need a virtual assistant? Go to Team Double Click and they even can place virtual assistants that specialize in certain types of businesses and tasks.
In some ways, the Web makes everything so much easier for us in our jobs and businesses.
For instance, all these resources that would have been hard to locate even 10 years ago, are now available 24/7. We can see full profiles of the companies and freelancers who would provide the services. We see their resumes, their photographs, sometimes videos of them. We can browse through their portfolios of past projects and read testimonials, all from the convenience of our desks. There are even certification programs to assure us that the provider has the necessary skills for the job.
Yet in the end, the Web is no substitute for management skills. The Web may have made talent more readily available and may have made it more of a buyer’s market because there’s a wealth of talent to choose from – literally from around the world. But it doesn’t solve the basic project management issues that have always existed whenever you hire an outside contractor to handle a project or perform a function.
No matter how available that talent, you’re still faced with:
1) Selecting a contractor who not only is skilled but is alo a good match in terms of price, communication style, timeliness and results orientation;
2) Communicating sufficiently to equip the contractor to get into position to actually do the work; and
3) Maintaining overall project management to keep the project on track so you get results and deliverables you want, on time and on budget.Recently in a webinar I led on the subject of getting things done without spending lots of money. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing, one of the panelists, made a key point. He said that outsourcing is not a panacea. He said something roughly to the effect of: “You can’t just say I’m going to outsource everything and hire a virtual assistant and think it’s that easy and all your problems will be solved.”
You have to spend time developing a framework for the project (or process) being outsourced, including an agreement or contract laying out the scope of the work and deliverables, as well as an overall vision and plan for what you want done. You have to communicate so that the contractor can get up to speed with enough information to do the job, and will know what your expectations are. You have to give feedback and answer questions along the way to advance a project.
In short, you can’t just find a contractor, drop something in their lap with a few words of encouragement and expect adequate results. It takes management time and effort to get the results you expect.
Some things change (like the Web) but other things (like management skills) never change.