Learning what your company can and cannot do is probably one of the most crucial insights you can achieve. Where are your resources, time and effort being wasted? Which parts of your product should you create yourself, and which should you delegate to someone that can make them better, faster or cheaper? The digital age has revolutionized serialization. In this modular world, the possibilities are endless.
Endless possibilities, however, can be intimidating. The outsourcing world is crowded with companies claiming they can give you the best service at the lowest cost. Many of them use similar catchphrases to justify their claims: a long list of solid methodologies, innovations and empowerments. After reading through all of their web pages and ogling their beautiful designs and dazzling testimonies, how do you choose the best one for you?
As the CEO of a software outsourcing company, I think the essential concept here is that of a partnership. If you consider your outsourcing choice as a service provider, everything can go wrong. I believe you want to choose someone who has a similar philosophy to yours so you can trust them to fulfill your vision. How can you identify such a partner and create a successful relationship with them?
Although you’d expect to find it listed as a human resources matter or within sociological research, cultural proximity can be paramount to the success of your project. It basically stands for how like-minded you and your partner are. Do they share your worldview? Do they read the same books as you, like your favorite sport or hear the same music? Why is this important, you wonder, if all they’re going to do is code?
Many years ago, I worked as a project manager for a food-related app. We outsourced most of the interface design to India, mainly because they were the cheapest option. We started having problems halfway through the project. They chose bright-red colors for the breakfast section and dark-brown and shadowy themes for the dinner and nighttime snack segments. When we reviewed the first-draft concepts, we couldn’t put our finger on what seemed off — but the feeling of the app was just wrong and off-putting. It wasn’t until I did some research on Indian food tradition that I learned they have very heavy and sometimes spicy breakfasts and more light and mellow dinners than we do. Then I understood their association. I ended up having to make decisions about most of the design aspects myself, which demanded much more time and attention that I wanted. In summary: I understated the importance of their relationship with food, something I took for granted. If you share my nerdy interest on the subject, The Journal of International Business Studies published a fascinating study in 2013 on the significant impact of cultural proximity in the automotive industry.