Collaboration and Outsourcing: Here's What Businesses Told Us

Outsourcing in today's digital world is a good decision, we even might say that it is inevitable.

 

Why not outsource when you can find great designers in the Philippines, excellent developers in Eastern Europe and great content writers on freelance websites such as Odesk and Freelancer

 

The one of the biggest challenges in this area is to find a way to organise the tasks so that you can keep track of them. Many use free platforms, exposing their valuable data to people they do not know, and some use paid options. 

We here at TallyFox have been cooking something really great and can't wait to show you

 

Many articles on the web are giving you a general story, but we've interviewed a couple of business owners and people in charge of outsourcing their work to tell you how do they do it, and what their challenges are. Here's what they told us:

 

Kevin Mallen from virtualcoworker.com

 

Kevin is a co-founder of Sydney based Virtual Coworker and they have a team of 15 staff in the Philippines. Here are his answers:

 

1. How do you set up tasks?

 

The setting up of tasks is something that, for the most part, should be done during training. You don't want any ambiguity on the job role so the offshore staff know exactly what they are doing on a daily basis. 

 

2. How do you monitor progress?

 

There are multiple ways of monitoring progress and it really depends on the specific position. All of our staff use a time-tracking software that takes screenshots throughout the day so I can monitor how productive they're being if need be. You can also use project management software of your choosing as well. 

 

3. Do you communicate on a daily basis?

 

I communicate with our senior staff daily. Those staff communicate with the team underneath them throughout the day. I'll speak to the whole team once a week. 

 

4. How do you communicate (skype, mail, google hangouts)?

 

The majority of our communication is on Gmail and Skype. I use Skype messenger and calls throughout the day. Our once a week team call is on Google hangouts. 

 

5. How do you provide feedback?

 

Feedback is given on the phone during our one-on-one meetings. It's important to be honest and to give feedback or criticism to that person only. Do not call them out in front of the team. 

 

6. Which country(ies) do you outsource and why?

 

We only have staff in the Philippines because they have exceptional English skills, they're highly skilled, and the time-zone similarity works wonderfully for Australian companies.

 

7. What would you say are the biggest challenges when outsourcing your work?

 

The biggest challenges in my opinion are finding people you can trust and rely on, just like you would with in-house staff. This is especially true when you are outsourcing ongoing jobs rather than project work. The key to finding genuine team members is to make sure the person seems passionate about their work, excited about the opportunity to work for you, and is able to communicate very well. 

 

8.How many companies do you know outsource their work?

 

I know hundreds of companies who outsource at least some of their work. Our company alone has over a hundred clients who outsource roles ranging from administration to bookkeeping to web development. The majority of people I talk to these days are outsourcing most of their work to the Philippines. 

 

Any advice you would give to people outsourcing their work right now?

 

I would tell people looking to outsource to not jump the gun and spend ample time finding the right person. After hiring, spend more time than you think you need establishing the right processes and over-communicating with your staff to create a genuine business relationship. It is a big upfront investment, however, if done right will reap massive rewards. 

 

Layla Roberts from conciergeconnections.com.au

 

Layla outsources various tasks, mostly via Odesk, but also via Freelancer and Fiverr.

 

1. How do you set up tasks?

 

I mostly use the Odesk (or similar) inbox to describe tasks. If it is complicated, I will use Snagit to show them what I mean (this is particularly useful for repetitive tasks which I know how to do myself).

 

2. How do you monitor progress?

 

I monitor progress through emailing them to see how it is going. Odesk also records screenshots every 10 minutes or so, so you can check they are not on Facebook (useful at the start, with a new freelancer).

 

3. Do you communicate on a daily basis?

 

I communicate with them as much as necessary; some days it is 10 times a day, other times it twice a week. It depends what they are working on. 

 

4. How do you communicate (skype, mail, google hangouts)?

 

 I mostly communicate with them via email and through Odesk itself. 

 

5. How do you give feedback?

 

 I also give feedback through the Odesk inbox.

 

6. Which country(ies) do you outsource and why?

 

I use a woman from the Phillipines on a regular basis through Odesk, but have also used freelancers from other countries such as the USA and India etc. 

 

7. What would you say are the biggest challenges when outsourcing your work?

 

The biggest challenges are: making sure you explain what you want doing clearly and concisely. Just because you know what needs doing, it doesn't mean they will understand you or read your mind. Also, finding a freelancer who can follow clear instructions, but also use their common sense and initiative sometimes.

 

8. How many companies do you know outsource their work?

 

I don't know of any specific companies that outsource, but my guess would be that all companies outsource some things these days. People and companies are realising that you can't be good at everything, so you should ask for help from people that are better or quicker at it than you.

 

Any advice you would give to people outsourcing their work right now?

 

Advice I would give: don't give up on outsourcing if the first freelancer you use is not very good. Sometimes, but not always, you do get what you pay for. Other times, you will find someone that you don't know how you survived without! Also, with the ones that don't give a very good first impression, make sure that it was not your fault for giving vague or confusing instructions, before you replace them. If you give constructive feedback, they will often turn into your loyalist employee.

 

Leigh Louey-Gung from http://mancademy.com

 

Leigh has been outsourcing his work and helping other companies outsource their teams of up to 14 people for 3 years now and he has a lot of experience with this. Here's what he shared with us:

 

1. How do you set up tasks?

 

We use project management tools to setup tasks because that's what they're designed for.

 

2. How do you monitor progress?

 

If the task is being managed through our project management tool. We have task lists setup to indicate different stages of progress (to-to, doing, done, etc...) that we slide each task through as status updates.For bigger tasks, we have regular meetings to discuss updates.

 

3. Do you communicate on a daily basis?

 

Communication on a daily level is restricted to functional and necessary communication only. We've found that too much communication just ends up slowing things down. We have weekly meetings setup to discuss the previous weeks' progress and plan the following weekly and monthly meetings to discuss vision, strategy, and long-term goals. 

 

4. How do you communicate (skype, mail, google hangouts)?

 

Functional communication is done through the project management tools so we have a complete record of everything that's been discussed and meetings are conducted through Skype.

 

5. How do you give feedback?

 

Feedback is always in writing and through the project management tools so that the outsourcer always has a copy of it and it's always associated with the specific task they're doing. 

 

6. Which country(ies) do you outsource to and why?

 

I use the Philippines for repetitive tasks that don't require a high level of English as they're cheap and on my time zone. I typically hire my programmer through eastern Europe because they're great value for money.For any administration or writing tasks, I hire my staff through the US because people are happy to work for less (lower minimum wage) and they're native English speakers. 

 

PRO TIP: If you're looking for highly skilled, native English speaking workers, target new or expecting mums in the US.  I've had incredible success getting incredibly experienced and over-qualified team members at very affordable prices because I can offer the flexibility that new mums need. 

 

7. What would you say are the biggest challenges when outsourcing your work?

 

challenge to manage you staff because of time differences but in my experience, that's not true. Staff who've decided to work remotely typically have far better time management and self-discipline than most in-house staff I've worked with. The problem is just finding the right staff. 

 

8. How many companies do you know outsource their work?

 

I work with a lot of online marketers and outsourcing is the norm. I would say that I personally know 50+ guys who outsource at least a portion of their work and I would guess there are hundreds more, just on the forums I'm part of. 

 

Any advice you would give to people outsourcing their work right now?

 

The two most important factors I've found in having success with outsourcing are:

 

1. Developing proper training manuals and systems 

 

I've seen a lot of outsourced projects fail, not because the worker was inadequate or the project wasn't any good, but simply because the requirements and processes weren't communicated adequately. Given that you and your team members aren't in the same room and they can't just casually ask you a question if something isn't clear, you must make sure the training manuals and procedure manuals they're given are extremely thorough. If you don't, your project will either fail, take far longer than it needed to, or turn out nowhere near like what you thought it would. 

 

2. Make sure you team feels like they're part of something bigger than just them sitting at a desk in their home office. 

 

When your outsourcer is sitting all alone at their desk, plugging away with no idea of what their work is doing and the bigger picture it's helping create, they will struggle to make decisions that help you get your company to where it needs to be. 

 

If you give them a clear idea of your vision for the company and help them see exactly what role they're playing, not only will they be more motivated and driven, but they'll be able to make decisions that help you get where you want to be. 

 

So what have we learned?

 

We're going to pinch a part of Leigh's interview and quote it here "Most outsourcers want to help. They want to see your company grow. You just have to give them the information necessary to contribute." and by using a collaboration software of your choice, you can. 

 

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