Fining an offshore provider is much more difficult than it should be considering the supply abundance. Yet the complexity starts right with the first step – generating a “long” list of prospect vendors.
The easiest and probably the least meaningful way to find providers is just publicly announce you needs, for example post a question on LinkedIn. The problem with this approach is that if you are CIO or VPE chances are you are already getting plenty of annoying cold calls from offshore suppliers. Public indication that you are searching for an offshore provider is only going to increase the spam and cold call inflow. Of course you can elect respond to the unsolicited emails and cold calls, in the end of the day most of them are produced by real companies, and quickly build a very long list of the prospect vendors. The problem with this list is that all prospects are unqualified and you have to go through very laborious process of separating good leads from gazillion of bad ones.
The next set of options comes from using public sources. Public sources in this space are far from perfect and won’t necessary fit your needs they are however worse considering:
- Directories from outsourcing associations are not bad. They typically offer basic information on about companies in a specific geography. For example if you are looking for offshore companies with ODCs in Russia go to Russoft.com. The directory it offers is fairly up to date. The main problem with it as with other directories is that the key information relevant to vendor selection is missing or difficult to find.
- To 100 lists such as The 2008 Global Outsourcing 100 and other similar sources are only good for finding companies such as Tata, Satyam, Accenture, etc. I personally also do not have much trust to those lists having been exposed to what it takes to become one of the companies mentioned there. However if you motto is “you can not be fired for hiring IBM” those could be the best source of prospect vendors.
- There are a large number of companies that offer anonymous access to vendors, for example http://www.elance.com, http://www.guru.com, http://www.odesk.com. These companies typically position themselves as a middle man between supplier and provider. That might be fine for small projects but not for any sizable offshore initiative. There are a few more serious problems with these companies, one of the most serious issues being that the sites are full of low quality freelancers and fly-by-night firms digging through which is a painful experience. The vendor rating that the sites offer helps in the selection process only to some degree.
Another set of options comes from using outsourcing consultants of all types and calibers, this approach have plenty of challenges as well:
- Gartner and other similar sources are expensive and slanted towards the needs of large / multinational corporations. They offer a great a great “corporate” insight into outsourcing world. These sources are probably most meaningful for large companies and significant scope engagements.
- Mid-level / low level consulting firms offer fairly good advice at a decent price. However that approach’s first challenge is right on the surface – finding decent consultant organization to begin with.
- Low-level small consulting firms or individual consultants specializing in offshore selection offer even better price performance which is more than offset with narrow view, legitimacy of sampling, and scope of penetration in the offshore market. Also with both mid-level and particular low-level consultants what is your assurance that they are not tethered / attached to a few offshore vendors that they represent on an “unbiased” basis?
An option which by my limited scope survey is used the most is professional networking. Reaching out to your professional network via email or other means is likely to generate enough prospects and offer some pre-qualification of the leads. You need to be careful not to blast your network and just reach out to colleagues with knowledge of the subject and somewhat similar interests in terms of engagement.
And the final option is working with me… A big caveat here – for me offshore consulting is more of a hobby rather than a business, so I do not do it often. I did started working on developing an offshore vendor directory which would help people with this and other vendor selection tasks, but, again, that is a project financed out of my pocket that doesn’t get much attention. I still hope to get the initial directory out by the end of the year though.