Outsourcing Associations

Finding outsourcing vendors is not a trivial task sometimes because it’s just too many to chose from, sometimes because you just cannot find any that fit a particular criteria.  Over the years I found that generating a list of prospective vendors can often be done with a help of organization that unite offshore vendors in some manner.  As it turned out it’s not easy to find these organizations is not to easy as well, so I started a list that should be of help. So far the list is not to big and I was only able to find 20 some organizations, I hope that with your help the list will grow fast.

The list below includes top 5 associations based on Alexa Global rating.  Click here for the full list sorted by Name, here for the list sorted by Alexa Global, and here for the list sorted by Alexa US.   If you know of a site, directory or service with is worth including please comment on the page and I include in the list, feel free also email me at krym2000-po @ yahoo . com as well.

Name PR Alexa Global Alexa US Description
The International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP)
5 313,474 168,529 The International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) is the global, standard-setting organization and advocate for the outsourcing profession. They claim to be the leading professional association for organizations and individuals involved in changing the world of business through outsourcing, offshoring, and shared services with a global community of more than 110,000 members and affiliates worldwide.
The Outsourcing Institute (IO)
5 423,525 246,289 Founded in 1993, the Outsourcing Institute (OI) claims to be the world’s biggest and most trafficked neutral professional association dedicated exclusively to outsourcing with a network of more than 70,000 professionals worldwide including qualified outsourcing buyers. Their specialties include: outsourcing, sourcing, thought leadership, state of the industry, marketing, promotions, RFP, vendor selection, relationship management and governance.
National Outsourcing Association (NOA)
5 893,216 27,276 Founded in 1987, the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) is the UK’s only nonprofit outsourcing trade association and claims to be the centre of excellence in outsourcing. Their services are focused on delivering education, excellence and collaboration and they are involved in all areas of outsourcing, including ITO, BPO and KPO.
Russian Software Developers Association (RUSSOFT)
5 902,435 55,451 Established in 1999, RUSSOFT Association is a nationwide association of the technically competent software developing companies from Russia and Belarus. It aims to represent Russian software development companies on the global market, to develop marketing and PR activities of its members, and to promote their interests in their countries’ governments.
Sourcing Interests Group (SIG)
4 1,010,363 271,503 Sourcing Interests Group (SIG) is a membership-driven organization comprised of sourcing and outsourcing professionals. They claim be acknowledged by many as a world leader in providing an ongoing forum and services to assist companies in strategy development, the improvement of goods and services sourcing, and the implementation and management of corporate services through outsourcing, offshoring, insourcing and shared services.

Top ten mistakes in selecting an outsourcing firm

A few days ago James McGovern, an Enterprise Architect from HP, asked a question on LinkedIn What are the top ten mistakes a CIO makes in selecting an outsourcing fir? Needless to say that this is not a new question and many people have answered it over the last decade (see for example “Outsourcing: 10 Crippling Mistakes IT Departments Make.” yet it set off a discussion with more than 30 people pitching in. There is no surprise here, outsourcing remains an integral part of most IT organization and many mistakes are made in every step and in every aspect of its utilization.

The thought of joining the discussion on LinkedIn naturally crossed my mind, but I realized that my contribution would be better if I put together a summary / highlight some of the most significant points brought in by others (and maybe add a few of my own) and do it here, in my blog, where this discussion naturally belongs. Also I noticed that many answers on LinkedIn went far beyond selecting the vendor and concentrated on mistakes people make when executing the contract /engagement. Great info, just not relevant to the question. Anyway, here is my list of top mistakes I’ve seen CIOs and other technology executives make when selecting an outsourcing vendor –

1) Outsourcing for the sake of outsourcing. The most significant mistake is using outsourcing to solve problems that could be addressed with other often more effective tools and measures. Outsourcing is a powerful tool, but it has its place and its drawbacks. Used without appropriate knowledge it can misfire and create a lot of collateral damage. Before you even consider selecting vendors you need to define goals and objectives you are trying to accomplish by outsourcing and only then turn to selecting companies that can support your objectives.

2) Ignoring basic rules. I covered these rules in an old post, take a look, and remember ignoring these rules is akin to ignoring gravity ;)

3) Inadequate process. Vendor selection can be a complex multi-step process or just a short project posting on a freelancing marketplace. Appropriate process must fit the task at hand, organizational culture, and available funds. Needless to say winging it or building a rocket launcher to kill a woodpecker will get you nowhere. Part of the process is defining selection criteria, see some ideas in this post.

4) Wrong focus. It’s all too often organizations take a myopic view on outsourcing and focus solely on the cost saving it can provide. Big mistake. First, outsourcing doesn’t guarantee savings, more so, it takes money to save money so chances are you will need to increase your burn rate before you can decrease it. In vendor selection excessive focus on $$$ is likely to drive you towards wrong vendor, proverbial “you get what you’ve paid for”.

5) Lack of commitment. Organizational commitment, executive sponsorship, team buy-in are key components of any initiative. Lack of commitment to selected vendor, or insufficient buy-in by stakeholders is a disaster waiting to happen. The worst case of lack of commitment is a “hands-off vendor selection” where is the team / person in charge of selection is merely involved in the process (see this for the difference between “involved” and “committed” :))

6) Technical (skills / experience / background) mismatch. The best cook on the planet is not necessarily the best pilot. Same goes for vendors – some companies are great for ERP implementations, some for iPhone development. So, back to the first point – match vendor technical capabilities to the task (objectives) at hand, and don’t expect one-fit-all providers to be the best (or any good) at the same time. And if you have complex initiative, consider multisourcing, supposedly not putting all eggs in one basket has its benefits

7) Personality mismatch. In the key to success of personal relationships is often a personality match. Same goes for vendor selection. This topic is complex and a voodoo of sorts, never the less it’s extremely important. In my book (due for publishing sometime late this year) I plan to cover this topic in more details. Fill out this form if interested, I will be happy to let you know when the book is ready.

8) Master / servant mindset. Selecting a vendor is selecting a partner, not a disposable pen. Whether it’s abusive RFP process or ruthless negotiations treating vendors poorly is likely to setup the relation for failure in the long run.

9) Lack of transparency. Many organizations hide their intentions from vendor, often to gain an upper hand in negotiations. Funny enough, this approach is unlikely to provide any advantages in the negotiations and instead is likely to mislead vendors and/or the vendor selection team. The more clarity is given to prospective vendors the higher the chances of find that illusive Mr. Right.

10) And last but not least, not talking with me. Just Kidding, at least partially. The point I decided to save for last is simple – read up, learn about vendor selection process, reach out to friends who’s done it, hire outsourcing advisor. Jumping into vendor selection process without appropriate knowledge / experience / background is the biggest mistake of it all.

List of Outsourcing Advisors

After my post on outsourcing governance I received a few emails raising the topic of outsourcing advisory. And that prompted me to do a bit of a deeper dive into the world of corporate matchmaking / marriage counseling – helping companies to find offshore vendors and later on help them with governance and management of the engagement.

This field remains huge and profitable and more so, seems to be growing in leaps and bounds. According to one of the leaders in outsourcing governance, KPMG, 70% of outsourcing users want better governance.  That’s not surprising since there many compelling reasons to engage advisors throughout the full lifecycle of outsourcing. The main being obvious – as I often say, outsourcing is a powerful tool but it a complex one and without proper knowledge using of it could be self- destructive; having someone with in-depth knowledge of the tool will spare you some injuries. If you are looking for me reasons consider taking a look at this article.

While doing my micro research I stumbled upon somewhat unexpected problem – I could not find a comprehensive source of companies that provide outsourcing advisory services. After googeling for a couple hours I figured out that a better tool here would be oDesk :) I pinged one of my VAs and she put together a list for me in just a couple days.

Please see below the top ten Outsourcing Advisors from the list based on Alexa rating (probably not the best way to rate them though), in addition you can find more comprehensive list sorted by Name, Alexa Global, and Alexa US.

Hopefully you find it helpful, as usual feel free to suggest new entries, or comment on existing ones.

Name PR Alexa Global Alexa US Description
IBM Global Services
8 446 608 IBM Global Services claims to be the world’s largest business and technology services provider. It has over 190,000 workers across more than 160 countries. IBM Global Services started in the spring of 1991, with the aim towards helping companies manage their IT operations and resources. Global Services has two major divisions: Global Business Services (GBS) and Global Technology Services (GTS). IBM Global Business Services (GBS) is the professional services arm of Global Services, including management consulting, systems integration, and application management services while IBM Global Technology Services (GTS) primarily reflects infrastructure services. It includes outsourcing services, Integrated Technology Services, and Maintenance.
8 6,851 4,965 “Deloitte” is the brand under which tens of thousands of dedicated professionals in independent firms throughout the world collaborate to provide audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management and tax services to selected clients.
7 8,659 5,056 Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) claims to tbe world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. They deliver the technology-related insight necessary for their clients to make the right decisions, every day -from CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to technology investors.
8 10,816 8,629 PwC firms help organisations and individuals create the value they’re looking for. We’re a network of firms in 158 countries with close to 169,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax and advisory services. “PwC” is the brand under which member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwCIL) operate and provide services. Together, these firms form the PwC network. Each firm in the network is a separate legal entity and does not act as agent of PwCIL or any other member firm. PwCIL does not provide any services to clients. PwCIL is not responsible or liable for the acts or omissions of any of its member firms nor can it control the exercise of their professional judgment or bind them in any way.
Ernst & Young
8 13,374 8,634 Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, their 152,000 people are united by their shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. They make a difference by helping their people, their clients and their wider communities achieve their potential.
7 16,622 4,942 A global leader in consulting, technology, outsourcing, and local professional services.
McKinsey & Company
7 17,418 15,185 McKinsey & Company, Inc. is a global management consulting firm that focuses on solving issues of concern to senior management. McKinsey serves as an adviser to many businesses, governments, and institutions.
7 18,567 13,291 KPMG operates as an international network of member firms offering audit, tax and advisory services. We work closely with our clients, helping them to mitigate risks and grasp opportunities.
Boston Consultant Group (BCG)
7 37,830 23,291 BCG is a global management consulting firm and claims to be the world’s leading advisor on business strategy. They partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises.
Bain & Company
7 40,359 28,581 Bain & Company is a global management consulting firm headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Bain is considered one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world, with 47 offices in 30 countries and over 5,500 professionals on staff globally.

PO Trip Adviser: China

And now a brief list of travel tips for one of my favorite destinations – China, the country that changes with amazing speed right before our eyes.

If there is anything that I regret about traveling to China it is not spending enough time there, not meeting enough people, and not seeing enough places.

I remember sitting on the Great Wall looking at the hills that look exactly like those on ancient paintings and thinking that for many Americans visiting China could be experience equal to visiting a different world, another planet… Well, that’s also changing rapidly.

  • A Visa is easy to get, but it may take a few weeks so allocate sufficient time. Also make sure that you have the travel plan worked out before you apply for Visa as you may need several entry authorizations as cities such as Shenzhen require special handling.
  • The most difficult aspect of traveling to China is language, very few people speak any English and you won’t find too many signs in English either. As a result public transportation even inner country air travel becomes challenging.
  • China is a reasonably safe country, and when it comes to main outsourcing destinations within country is very safe.
  • With petty crime on a raise you should be aware of environment and follow common sense practices such as not carrying large amount of money, protect your passport and valuables, etc.
  • The police in China are generally very friendly, though they speak very little English except in Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen, where some police can generally speak simple fluent English. If you are lost then ask for directions as they will usually be happy to help.
  • Stay in 4-5 star hotels remains relatively affordable. That will also ensure English speaking staff, access to tours, restaurants, etc.
  • Driving in China is somewhat strange experience – on one hand I was surprised with how closely some laws are followed, e.g. the speed limit – most of the cars travel ~5 mph below it. On the other hand I saw a lot of erratic moves and turns that were not aggressive just plain dangerous.
  • Sightseeing in China can be easily arranged with the help of the vendor or hotel staff. Keep in mind that most of professional tour guides are in cohorts with retailers specializing with ripping off tourists selling you “traditional” china, tea, souvenirs, etc. at 3-5 times the price you can get them elsewhere.
  • Eat only in good restaurants or at your hotel. Avoid eating buffet meals, even in high-end places. Not only drink bottled water, but also brush your teeth with it. Most of hotels provide bottled water for free. In restaurants I recommend boiled water / hot tea.

PO Trip Adviser: India

Continuing with a line of travel guides I turn to the most common outsourcing destination – India. There are a plenty of outstanding travel guides for India, so if you are planning to combine business and pleasure, and see places such as the Agra, Rajasthan, and Kerala make sure you study them before you depart.  Keep in mind though that most of the most interesting places will take dedicated and possibly considerable time, for example while Taj Mahal is fairly close to Delhi / Noida the trip there is going to take you at least a day.

For those of us who are limited to strictly business, here are a few tips to consider:

  • A Visa is easy to get, but it may take a few weeks so allocate sufficient time.
  • Safety of travel in India is not what it used to be just a few years ago, yet large outsourcing cities remain quite safe for majority of business travelers.
  • Shop around for tickets and ask frequent India travelers for advice. Chances are you can find something 30% less than standard internet rates using Indian travel consolidators.
  • Chances are you will arrive in India around midnight. I typically go straight to a hotel right near the airport and start my business day the next morning.
  • Stay in nice hotels, 4-5 stars. They are relatively affordable and the high quality service will help you to retain the energy you most certainly need.
  • Ask the vendor to arrange all your travel and have a car with a chauffer. Don’t even think about driving in India. The traffic and road system is not for the faint of heart plus they drive on the wrong side of the road!
  • Petty corruption is widespread in India, from expediting you through airport customs to dealing with government agencies and employees can involve bribing or “tipping” as it is often referred to. My advice it to stay away from it.
  • Make sure you have your personal belongings partitioned among suite cases and carry on. Lost luggage is a fairly common event. Use solid suitcases as mishandling is also common at airports.
  • Don’t wander off the beaten track, don’t encourage beggars, don’t visit shady places, don’t leave your valuables unattended, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket, use licensed guides in sightseeing – basically use common sense!
  • Eat only in good restaurants or at your hotel. Avoid eating buffet meals, even in high-end places. Not only drink bottled water, but also brush your teeth with it.

PO Trip Adviser: Russia

While working on a outsourcing destinations chapter for my book I realized that tips for travel in many countries could be helpful to those not accustomed to traveling to third world countries and other outsourcing destinations.  Of course there are plenty of books, websites and forums covering travel to any place in the world.  I am not planning on competing with them in any way, my goal is create a simple list of items to keep in mind when visiting a vendor far away from your home becomes necessary.   I am planning to put a couple posts covering few countries that I have a fortune to spend time in and let me start with the one that I lived in for 30 years…

So, here we go – a few tips on traveling to Russia – one of the top Eastern European outsourcing destinations:

  • Visas are required and getting one can be a tricky process. Make sure you allocate at least one month for processing the paperwork.
  • Unfortunately terrorism and street crime are a part of daily lives in many parts of the Russia. Still, on a relative scale, Russia, and especially the tier-one cities, are safe and great places to visit.
  • Shop around for tickets. If you know any Russians who stay connected to their motherland, ask them for help. There are many Russian travel agencies that can find great deals on tickets.
  • Staying in nice hotels can be price prohibitive, particularly in tier-one cities. Ask your vendor for help with travel arrangements.
  • You can rent a car and drive in Russia. Be prepared for a manual stick shift and very aggressive driving styles. You may face very serious traffic and won’t see any signs in English, so finding your way can be a challenge.
  • Ask your vendor to arrange sightseeing for you. Due to large distances and complexities in city navigation, you would be much better off on a guided tour. And I assure you Russian cities and their suburbs have a lot to offer a curious visitor such as architecture, landscape and even shopping.
  • Ask your vendor for recommendation when it comes to restaurants. Nowadays, especially the big cities, offer a great variety of styles and cuisines but the cost can be astronomical. Just like many other destinations, not only drink bottled water but also brush your teeth with it.
  • Prices are generally quoted in rubles. Currency can be freely converted at banks, hotels or kiosks specifically for tourists.

If you have any suggestions, ideas or tips on travel to Russia please comment or email me, I’ll be happy to update the list.

Search for SWAT

There is famous French expression cherche la femme (find the woman) implying that behind a cause of almost any event there is a woman (well, in its most common meaning the phrase has negative and sexist connotation). Cherche La SWAT or “Search for SWAT” is an approach I have been using and recommend others to use when selecting an IT service partner, offshore vendors included.  I honestly believe that behind almost any success in our industry there is a SWAT team…

A couple days ago I had a pleasure of meeting with two guys who’s been running their local technology shop for quite some time now. Both were top notch developers who’ve been in the industry probably at least as long as I, maybe longer. A bowl of outstanding Pho in a greasy spoon Vietnamese restaurant, college campus attire, and potential partnership created special ambiance that is particular conducive for nerd bonding.

After quick introduction and buzz word exchange we realized that we were only a degree apart and for awhile were working for startups that we fiercely competing with each other. We laughed through tears talking about how a company with 2 developers and 12 marketers and no product can put out of business a superb product with 12 talented engineers and 1 marketer behind it and then after sharing similar stories about dot com bust and being screwed by VC and CEOs we finally dove into discussion of technical capabilities of the firm my hosts were representing.

It is amazing how quickly these two guys who are as remote to sales and marketing as naïveté to Capitol Hill were able to give me a sense of comfort in their services and products. I guess many sales guys can take a few tips from these nerds. Well, faking competence takes a lot of competence and thus no need for faking ;)

Probably the main reason for such instant connection was a common mind set and similar language even though spoken with very different accents. What was the most important is that these guys had very similar pitch to what I have been using when promoting my services for very long time. These two guys were representing a SWAT team – Specialists With Advanced Tools.

There are many SWAT team out there, yet they are a tiny minority in the vast pool of IT resources. There are a few things that are common between SWAT teams, in particular they

  • are typically comprised of top notch professionals with substantial experience or/and IQ off the charts;
  • are typically specialized shops with individual contributors not making claims outside of their domain;
  • often are small in size and tightly knit teams, many of their members have history of working together possibly in some other firm(s).

SWAT team pitch is typically around results, quality, and productivity. In development arenas they tend to offer veni, vidi, vici model – pragmatic approach to delivering the product and no concern for recurring tasks, when it comes to providing ongoing services they are typically very pragmatic and process oriented. They do not tend to dazzle you with marketing materials and prefer to quickly cut to the chase. If they want to show off anything than it’s typically their weapons – advanced tools – for example a development framework they developed and refined over the years.

Besides obvious benefits of SWAT teams (efficiency, reliability, focus, etc.) there are a few exceptionally important aspects that set SWAT teams apart from a majority of service providers including most prominent companies. To some degree you can call those aspects “advanced tools” as well:

  • Established network of technology leaders and individual contributors of all ranks.
  • Time and scale proven technologies, solutions, libraries, patterns, and reusable components.
  • Best of breed technology tools as well as process, policies, and methodologies.
  • Established relationships with software and hardware vendors.
  • Established partnerships with consulting organizations and offshore providers.

I hope by now I made it obvious that SWAT teams are the teams to find and work with. The trick is the “find” part since there are not that many of them and plus there are plenty of imposters. To a large degree that is very much like for employees – “looking for people is very much like digging for gold, you literally need to go through tons of dirt, but you are looking for gold, not for dirt.”

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