Lessons Learned From Running a Software Outsourcing Business

by Colin Kennedy - Dec 17, 2012

Neuron Global Founder and Executive Vice President of Business Development, Colin Kennedy, discusses how the perceived limitations of technology outsourcing can be turned into strengths.


Neuron Global is based in New York, with software and web development outsourcing operations in Manila, Philippines.

© Neuron Global

Before I sat down to write the first of what will ultimately be many blogs relating to the topic of Global Innovation in Business, I thought long and hard about what this topic actually means to me. My first thought was, “this term sure sounds like a nebulous buzz word/phrase!” and I’m positive that I don’t want this space to have a jargon-filled, inaccessible feel to it. Instead, my goal is to cultivate a discussion about best practices and lessons learned and the tangible ways that business owners and executives can incorporate them to better themselves and their organizations. I don’t profess to be an expert in all things business, but I do plan to weigh-in on topics based on my past personal experience, while also sharing the experiences and successes of other business owners. In this blog we want to provide a diversity of perspectives – including yours, should you feel so inclined!

Anyways, I think you’ll find that many of the business innovations that we’re going to discuss will often get distilled down into something less intimidating, and today’s topic is a perfect example of this. Since I’m an owner in a business that offers outsourced web/software development and SEO services, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about the innovations and best practices that make outsourcing “work”. At Neuron Global, we service our US-based clients through our office in New York, but the vast majority of our work, whether it’s building a new website, the execution of an online marketing campaign, or the development of a piece of web-based software is done by our employees in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. So for us, making outsourcing “work” means that we’re able to deliver consistent, high-quality results (at a competitive price) while eliminating the pain points that people often feel when working with a service provider that’s based in a different part of the world.

Below are some of the innovations my business has used to bridge our geographic divide and provide our clients and partners with a feeling of comfort and security:
 

Connect Like-Minded People Whenever Possible

In my experience, miscommunication has more to do with a disconnect in personal perspectives than it has to do with a lack of face-to-face interaction. So when conversations are needed with our clients and/or partners, we do our best make sure that figuratively everyone’s speaking the same language. If we’re discussing the big picture objectives of a new web development project, it’s not important that a developer is on the call…a chat with a non-technical project manager will suffice. On the other hand, if there is a meeting to discuss the ins-and-outs of a large development project, it could involve at least 3 people on our end: developer(s), technical project manager, and the account/client manager. This way, developers can speak directly to developers, technical PM’s can talk to technical PM’s, and big picture issues can be addressed by the non-technical folks. Because people see projects through their own particular lens of expertise, this approach goes a long way to avoiding the frustration that arises when work is done based on a misunderstanding or incorrect assumption.
 

A Project is Only as Good as the Process Employed

The sad truth is that many technology projects (outsourced or not) are characterized by feelings of frustration. And these feelings exist for both the client and the service provider. But why does this happen with such alarming frequency? In my opinion, it has a lot to do with the process used to execute the project. The process affects EVERYTHING – the pricing, the timeline, the communication protocols, the deliverables…and I could keep going. The bottom line is that you need to match up the project’s constraints with a process that is conducive to those particular limitations; and every project has limitations. It may not sound like rocket science, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen these issues arise…and in the past I’ve been guilty of making these mistakes myself!
 

Use Tools That Will Facilitate Communication

If there is an undercurrent theme to this blog post it’s that proper communication is really, really important when it comes to outsourcing. Because I can’t physically interact with most of the people in my organization on a consistent basis, I need to make use of the myriad of web-based (and usually free/cheap) tools that are available to me. Sometimes it’s as simple as using a platform like Skype or GoToMeetings for conference calls that require screen-sharing.  Other times I need to use a project management tool (for example: Zoho, Basecamp, Trello, Jira) to manage one or more complex projects. The easy thing is trying them out, many will let you test them out for free – the hard part is figuring out which ones are right for your situation and how to best drive adoption once you’ve figured that out!

I look forward to discussing this and many other business-related topics in this space in the coming weeks and months. So if you think I’ve missed something here, if I’ve “got it wrong”, or if you’d like to explore any facet of this post in greater detail, please don’t hesitate to comment. In sharing ideas and strategies in a free and open manner we can all learn something that will help us grow our businesses.
 

Written by Colin Kennedy. Colin is a Founder and Executive Vice President of Business Development at Neuron Global