Collaborating with an outsourcing agency to expand your business’ products and services is often a smart and cost-effective decision for many companies of all sizes. The outsourcing industry has significantly grown over the past few years, undoubtedly because of the many advantages it offers to businesses — cutting overhead and staffing costs, freeing up time to focus more on core tasks, improving work efficiency, providing enhanced skill sets and up-to-date industry knowledge, and so forth.
While 78% of businesses worldwide feel positive about their relationship with their outsourcing partner(s), it’s still quite common to face a few challenges when collaborating with an agency. This includes time zone and language differences, difficulty in keeping everyone in the team informed of the current project updates and progress at all times, and variations in organizational cultures, to name a few.
Communication is always key in any working relationship and is especially crucial when collaborating with an outsourcing agency, much more if the agency is in an offshore location. Here are a few helpful communication tips in making any agency collaboration a success:
1. Get the right tools in place
Advances in technology have made it easier for internal and external teams to work together, even when from a distance. Tools like Basecamp, Trello, Slack, and Asana are popular project management platforms that offer seamless collaboration tools, as well as help keep track of key project milestones, and so much more. Telecommunication tools like Skype and Google Hangouts come in handy as well for meetings and status reports. For document collaboration, Google Docs, Zoho, and Dropbox are the top choices. Use technology to your advantage and set up the appropriate tools for your teams that work best in their scenario for easier communication and collaboration.
2. Use chat and video platforms for informal and quick communication
The lack of face-to-face interaction between teams in an outsourcing setting is often the cause of miscommunication. Without seeing non-verbal communication cues, a lot can get lost in translation. Regular video conference calls can bridge this gap and help team members get to know one another better. Additionally, the rigidity of formal business communication in emails, as well as the time delays in reading them, can also hinder the need for fast-paced collaboration. Utilize instant messaging and chat platforms for informal communication and to answer quick questions.
3. Set regular checkpoint schedules
Keeping key stakeholders updated with the progress of a project is crucial to ensuring its success. However, it’s also equally important to establish a regular schedule on when to expect status reports and when to have checkpoint meetings done. Without a set schedule, it’s difficult to stay on track and address project roadblocks in a timely manner. You may want to set a daily update, like standup meetings, at the end of each workday, followed up by a weekly checkpoint meeting, or you may opt for a more flexible schedule — establish what works best for you and your outsourcing agency.
4. Communicate clear and realistic goals
Successful collaboration occurs when both parties have a shared understanding of what they are trying to do. Without a clear and common goal, it’s difficult to do anything and work together as a team. Identify what you’re trying to achieve from each project; it can be as simple as listing three to five bulleted objectives. Communicate clear and realistic goals to both your internal and external teams; that way, everyone knows what is expected of them and will be more invested in the outcome.
5. Define roles for each member of the team
Collaborating means bringing together the strengths of each individual contributor and using these strengths to achieve one common goal. At the beginning of each project, be sure to clearly define the roles for each member of the team and identify what their tasks are. Each member of the team should know how he or she is needed; because when they know what their roles are, they’ll have a clearer understanding of what they can and need to do to contribute to the team.
6. Have a process for resolving conflict
Conflict is unavoidable in any team setting; there will always be differences in opinions and ideas. However, conflict can often be a fountainhead of better ideas and a way to brainstorm more effective alternatives in tackling problems. Make collaboration constructive by establishing a process for resolving conflict every time it occurs, such as doing a SWOT analysis, having a voting system, or whatever works best for your teams.
Wrapping It Up
Teamwork and collaboration are essential for any business to succeed. Challenges may always resurface at certain points throughout your journey; however, with these tips in mind and with an unwavering trust between you and your outsourcing agency, successful collaboration is very much possible.
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