Contractors: Partners, Not Enemies
Your company has made the decision to outsource a function that is a necessity for providing your customers with a good quality product. The company has opted to do this based on a myriad of reasons including cost reduction, focus on core business, capacity management, etc., etc., etc. The list is long and all are potentially very good reasons. So, you do your due diligence in preparing the RFP, specifically identifying the operational requirements and qualifications necessary to perform the function for the company. Once you receive all responses to the RFP, you select the outsourcing company that you and your team feels is the best to accomplish the tasks that you have put forth.
OK… NOW WHAT? The outsourcing company has made a contractual and financial commitment to meet your company’s objectives. Are you going to treat them like a partner or an enemy?
Allow me to suggest a few points about contractor/company relationships that I think need to occur to maximize the benefit from the association and increase the likelihood of each achieving their mutual goals.
First, clearly and jointly define the deliverables, expectations, and how success is to be evaluated. Putting time and effort into this task eliminates ugly ambiguity -- which is the major instigator of frustration for the company and the contractor. I know deliverables are always standard across all multiple geographic and administrative units (grin), but you might want to be sure they know specifically what is expected from each region, and to not provide the contractor with “corporate” guidelines when you know the units differ.
Communicate as often and as accurately as possible on forecasted workload. If the contractor was hired because of capacity management, they need to be able to timely flex their force to meet your needs and not break their bank in the process. Another way to always have a core qualified team ready and available is to have a minimum workload guarantee or at least an appropriate paid force-reduction period. This goes totally against industry practice, but is the right thing to do in a true partnership.
Attempt to provide rational and reasonable due dates. We all know that there are times when the company finds out today that they need a job performed tomorrow, but this should be the exception and not business as usual. By providing realistic due dates, the contractor can effectively schedule their resources to meet your current and long-term projects without driving unnecessary cost into their business.
Another important aspect is to have a centralized team to coordinate the work flow and act as a single point of contact for quality assurance. This team eliminates the geographic and administrative differences, provides a standard quality product for the company, and holds the contractor accountable to meet the deliverables that were originally established, thus effectively eliminating ambiguity, reducing rework, and driving cost out of the process for both partners. A real Win-Win.
So, step back and reflect on how your relationship is with your outsourced company. Are you going through contractors like water? Think about becoming true business partners and get rid of the “enemy” mentality. It will truly have a positive outcome.
Byron retired as a senior manager of AT&T and now is an Independent Consultant in Telecom Operations. During the last 12 years of his career, he held the position of Vice President - Construction and Engineering for AT&T West. Reach Byron at email@example.com.
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