Questions

Would you recommend employing cheaper offshore workers?

Has it produced good results for your business? read more

Asked by:
Hitesh Mohanlal
Hitesh MohanlalDirector at WOW! Advisors & Business Accountants
Depends. If you are willing to train and teach then it can work. If not it will not work. Also it depends on what you mean cheap. If you pay rock bottom prices then the chances are you are not going to get great quality out of them no matter how much you train.I have 3 staff overseas and have been outsourcing for a long time. One thing i have learnt is that you have to spend a lot of time training and then controlling the work they do for you. We go out to visit our team and we fly our team into Australia too - specifically for training. If they understand exactly what you expect from them they will get it right. You also have to be patient. It takes time for them to learn and understand you so do not expect to give out work and think it will get done. It won't. We have found that using an agency is best but home workers can work if you find the right one. The issue with homeworkers is control, cyber security and privacy.
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Questions

Do you prefer to start with a small project or jump straight in with a freelancer?

When starting to work with a new freelancer or consultant do you prefer to start with a small... read more

Asked by:
Jef Lippiatt
Jef Lippiatt Owner at Startup Chucktown
Laura Dang. Process improvement innovator
Small projects are probably the best when using contractors for me.When you and your prospective colleague are both new to a relationship, small projects provide a low cost, low risk, time-bound opportunity for parties to clarify expectations, define boundaries and explore each other's strengths, weaknesses and expertise. Everyone has different styles and skills... it's just about finding someone who works well with yours. An employment relationship is no different to any other relationship.
Steven Freeman
Steven FreemanOwner at Evolved Sound
Starting small as a test on skill, professionalism and attitude is the best first step. The whole probation (or prove your worth) thing applies to most new contractor experiences, as it would in the traditional word too.
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Questions

How do you know what you should outsource?

and how do you manage that risk when you first start outsourcing things or using contractors? read more

Hitesh Mohanlal
Hitesh MohanlalDirector at WOW! Advisors & Business Accountants
Excellent question Nancy. I have been outsourcing since 2004 so if there is a mistake that can be made in outsourcing I have probably done it. I currently have three full time staff outsourced. One in Phillipines and 2 in Fiji. The first thing to note is that whatever issues you have with Australian staff you will have with outsourced staff. Now add in culture differences and the issue is a lot bigger. With contractors control is much harder and making them accountable to you is very hard. I have learnt for example that with contractors you take them on full time. If you have them part time they work for others and your work gets done last.Also the work you give out has to be controlled, systemised and procedurised. If this is not done your contractor will get lost no matter how good they are. If you can break the task down in little parts with full instructions you will do well. My admin team does a massive amount of work off shore but this is only possible because every task is either in a video or is a document. You need to talk to them regularly. Not only on email. Physically on the phone. We do it daily and they join in our Australian weekly meetings. You need to make them feel part of a team.We give access to our team to our server, they have passwords to websites and my administration person has a dedicated credit card as well. I have never had an issue with security. If you use an agent then you are quite safe. If a contractor you need to be careful at first but generally you should be OK. Trust your gut but yes be carefulWhen it comes to choosing someone do your research, try to get reviews or testimonials. Give a trial job, interview them. If using Upwork etc then make sure they have experience.
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Questions

What are your experiences with outsourcing the development of your digital platform offshore?

I am collecting information on the advantages, disadvantages and risks to help SMEs learn from... read more

Asked by:
Hi Fleur, we've been outsourcing technology work overseas for several years. The experience differs depending on the type of project. I think the most important thing for successful outsourcing is to develop the policies & procedures *in-house* rather than outsourcing to a team and hoping for the best. There are people with success stories of outsourcing to a "company" overseas, but anecdotally I can tell you they're far outweighed by stories of heartbreak and misery. Basically, if you don't know how to do something (or at least know the basics of how it works), it's going to be very hard for you to consistently get good results when outsourcing. This is the value that a "local expert" can add - either as a consultant or a separate business - when getting your project outsourced. It's very easy for miscommunication to creep in, and for projects to seem on track when they're completely not on track. Hiring is hard to get right, but if you put in the yards you can get amazing people who deliver very high quality work consistently.
David Bradbury
David BradburyOwner at Selector
I ran an RFP late last year with the mission to identify and engage with an offshore development company, we are now 5 months into the development of a Comparison Platform and the report card is as good as I could expect. So what did I learn from this process in terms of the key success factors: 1. As you would for an Australian RFP write a detailed document focusing on questions which are going to give clear relevant insights on the vendors. I found a 2 stage RFP to work best where I started with a list of about 10 who responded to a short RFP focused on their business, which I cut to a short list of 5 who then responded to specific questions about the project. 2. Use local associations as a means of selecting your initial RFP list for example, The Association of Ukrainian IT Outsourcing Companies 3. As part of the RFP ensure you ask tight questions on the processes and technologies they propose to use to overcome the challenges of managing a project remotely. If you are not familiar with the tools they are suggesting ask to see demos. These tools will be critical to keeping abreast of how the project is going, how the time you have booked with the vendor is being used and what the schedule looks like going forward. 4. Consider which universities the vendors are located close to, are these universities top tier for Software engineering? As it will be these institutions which will be feeding them the talent. Often looking at the regional as opposed to main city vendors will be rewarding. 5. Linked in is a great resource to cross check credentials and identify Vendors who operate in the same country/region, as you'll find the good ones tend to have employees who have worked across a number of the companies which allows you to gain a view of the landscape and breadth of companies available. 6. Once you have reached a short list interview the team by Skype, do not just speak with the New Business Manager/team, ensure you speak with the project manager who will be managing your project and the lead software engineer. This allows you to check English language ability and also their understanding of the project 1st hand. 7. Ask to speak with referees, if possible identify projects on their web site which have similarities to yours and request calls with those as opposed to the vendor feeding you whom they'd like you to speak with. 8. Once you have identified the winner of the RFP, award them a small test project, which maybe a small piece of the larger project. This approach will allow you to access how you work together, the quality of the work and if the vendor lives up to the RFP responses 9. Have the code developed during the test project audited by an onshore resource to ensure its up to scratch. Trust this helps.  
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Questions

Do you interview offshore "virtual" staff differently than you would domestic staff? If so, how?

Asked by:
Wendy Huang
Wendy HuangFull Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes
Hi Kevin, It really depends on what kind of role you are trying to fill. I've interviewed staff for more data entry type roles and the best way to handle them, and these are tips I have gotten from friends that run their whole business on offshore assistants is to allocate a budget and a very specific task for them to do that is reflective of what you are hiring for. And this has to be SPECIFIC, as in allocate a due date, a process to handle questions about the task, a way to submit the task and also allocate a time bracket in which to complete the task. If you are not specific the following can occur: They may do a great job, but spend many hours on it costing you more money in the long run, if this is not disclosed from the outset you could be walking into a troublesome relationship They may take too long and not meet the scheduled date.  They may ask too many questions and not be proactive in finding solutions which ends up costing you more time managing. They may not submit the task in the right way. All the above issues need to be prevented and clearly stated so you can concentrate on finding candidates with the right skill set and not try and fish out ones that can follow basic instructions and processes. Hire 10-15 contracts at one time, and then evaluate the top candidates based on task performance. You may want to give an alternative task to complete before then hiring a team. It's also great to have some backups to contact in case your original hire goes astray. If it's your first time hiring I highly suggest you use an agency, this will ensure that if your staff is sick or away or leaves you won't need to spend time retraining or finding someone to fill in - you may pay more per hour but these are the little things that I think are worth paying for. Make sure you are clear with the Agency regarding what they look after and what they don't. At minimum they should cover training, sick leave management and replacements. I haven't had any experience remotely hiring higher level management type staff so I can't comment on that :) Perhaps someone else here may give that questions a shot?  
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Questions

Are there better alternatives to oDesk?

Asked by:
David Mays
If you're looking to find skilled workers, then oDesk/Elance are not ideal as you probably know. Granted, there are some excellent contractors there, but you'll likely have to wade through quite a bit of less than ideal candidates to get to them. Take a look at Hubstaff - they have time tracking like oDesk but it's not an open job site for finding work. They only recommend contractors that they have retained in the past so you know you're getting quality
Alice Albert
Alice Albert at Part Time Internet Marketer
I'm doing freelancing from last 3-4 years. For me, oDesk is ridiculous and insulting. The only freelance job boards worth considering are SEOClerks.com and If you need help getting started on these boards, let me know and I'll give you a hand.
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Questions

What exactly is a personal concierge?

I've been seeing this mentioned online recently, I personally use VA's to support my business - but... read more

Asked by:
Nick Chernih
Nick Chernih Founder at LinkBuildSEO
Abbie Allen
Abbie AllenPrincipal & Personal Concierge at Lifestyle Elements Concierge
Thanks for your question Nick - I run Lifestyle Elements in Adelaide, Australia (and also work with Adrian who is mentioned below!). A personal concierge is like a personal assistant for your life - we tick off your 'to do' list. Most of us have a huge list of things to do that we just never get around to. It doesn't matter if we are perfectly capable of doing it, these things just don't get done because they aren't urgent, but they are still consistently hanging over your head. Alternatively, there may be an urgent situation that crops up - say you lose your luggage and urgently need to get a new suit delivered to a hotel - who on earth do you ring? Why, your personal concierge of course! We are the extra pair of hands, the back up person, and the person with an array of contacts and suppliers at our fingertips to help you - plus we have people on the ground to get stuff done. If you'd like to find out more you can visit the Lifestyle Elements website. We can assist you with services throughout Australia and internationally - and if you just have a question, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Thanks for your contributions below Rowland - I work regularly with Adrian and can also highly recommend him :)
Hi Nick, I know a couple of personal concierges. They are people who do the stuff you don't have time for... whatever that is, personally or in business. my mate Adrian McGowage from someone lifestyle services http://www.someone.com.au/  goes shopping at Ikea and Costco for people, waters their plants when they are away, lets the plumber in when the toilet needs fixing, organises birthday parties for people...etc etc etc... busy people who don't get their "stuff" done because they are so busy. does that help? cheers Roland
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Questions

How do you best evaluate the skills of offshore developers?

In the process of finding offshore developers it often becomes hard to do a practical evaluation of... read more

Asked by:
Henrik Larsen
Henrik Larsen Director at IePlus Pty Ltd
David Bradbury
David BradburyOwner at Selector
Henrik Hi, Having just appointed an OS development company to build a new Software application, here's my learnings: Issue a detailed RFP for your project, requesting key points of information in the response, to include: Recent clients, recent sample work, detailed profiles of the team members who will work on your project, number of projects the vendor currently has in progress, what is the value of these projects, how many other new projects will the vendor be starting during the period of your development.  As part of the RFP provide a detailed scope for your project and request that the vendors responding to the RFP work up circa 5 pages of the site (best you identify the 5 pages, so you can compare the results easily later) Ask the vendors to write some code against a brief so you can access their approach and audit their coding capability. Speak with references, if possible ensure some of these references have used the vendor for projects of a similar size to the one you are looking to place. Request for confirmation of accreditations, e.g. Microsoft Gold partner, and ensure you cross check these with the partner. Request a copy of the contract the vendor will be expecting you to sign if you appoint them. Key points to look for in the contract are around ownership of the final source code and how this will be transferred to you, with no copies retained by the vendor.   That's hopefully given you some direction, my advice would be stick with it as you are likely to generate significant savings. On the project I"m currently outsourcing the cost will be circa 30% of what Australian development teams where quoting on alike for like basis.
Phil Joel
Phil JoelDirector at SavvySME
I would assess the providers on at least the following: - Technical Skills - Quality assurance - Availability of key resources - Communications skills - Cultural fit - Transparency and Flexibility - Track record - Industry and domain experience - Value for money I would weight these assessment criteria based on your priority as they may vary by the nature of the work and type of project. You can then score the candidates and make an objective assessment. Hope that helps.
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