Anna Frazzetto's Blog

Digital Innovations and Technology Solutions

Offshore Quality in Question? I'd Say It Measures Up.

Quality is of utmost importance in every industry. And quality of work and the level of talent are even more scrutinized when the work is done offshore. Afterall, offshoring is still a fairly new concept for many companies leery to send work overseas for fear that quality will suffer.

Will skilled labor in another country meet standards of excellence? What measures are in place to ensure quality? Offshoring feels like a serious risk to companies new to the process. Because it's unfamiliar, their level of attention to the quality of work is in overdrive as the offshore partner works to prove its worth. New research from Forrester Research, Inc., underscores this point with companies that have not yet taken the offshore plunge admitting that their biggest concern is the quality of work being done.

From my experience in Vietnam, the level of skilled professionals and the number of those eager to learn and meet quality standards is impressive. As I shared in a recent blog, Vietnam has an outstanding and flush IT talent market. The government there continues to be fully committed to the effort to develop a skilled, highly technical workforce for the future of Vietnam. Coupled with the determination of the people--75 percent of whom are under age 35--to make Vietnam a prevailing player in the IT offshore market, quality of work is an absolute priority. Developing a competent workforce is the first step to ensure quality work.

Once the team is secured, a key to success in terms of quality is managing the talent and communicating expectations again and again and again. In addition, the following five tips will also help to ensure top-notch quality from your offshore provider:

1. Gain buy-in on-shore from all team members - from the C-level all the way to the technical teams
2. Set expectations early on and in writing
3. Overcommunicate goals, deliverables and concerns
4. Insist on an on-shore liaison who is always available and dedicated to your needs
5. Get to know your offshore team. Making offshore professionals a part of your team success wins their enthusiasm and dedication to the project

When it comes to the offshore talent pool, Vietnam continues to grow as an offshore destination of choice, but it still does not compare to India or China. Recent statistics point to Vietnam's IT labor pool sitting at about 80,000, with that figure increasing by 9,000 per year. Comparatively, China and India are graduating about 2.5 million students per year. From a quality of work standpoint, though, Vietnam shines. Why? Our experience at Harvey Nash over the past decade points to the mix of low wages, improving English-language skills, less frequent job-hopping compared to other offshore destinations, and technical proficiency. In fact, these reasons secured Hanoi the number 12 spot among 50 emerging outsourcing destinations in a report published about a year ago by Global Services.

What's really going to be interesting to watch is how quality of work shares some of the focus that price and location have had as more companies decide to take the plunge and give offshore markets a try. According to an article in Sourcing Magazine, IT work makes up about 65 percent of the current offshore market. Yet, the Forrester research found that a small nine percent of firms use offshore IT labor "wherever and whenever possible," and 14 percent are "ramping up" use; 19 percent are piloting offshore projects; and 22 percent are not currently using offshore labor but are "actively tracking developments." Furthermore, according to the 2007/2008 Harvey Nash CIO Survey, 48 percent of respondents noted that offshoring work to skilled professionals elsewhere fills the skills gap in the U.S.

So, what all of this tells me is that while we've seen tremendous development in the offshore market, I think the best is yet to come from an access standpoint, a production standpoint and, most importantly, a quality standpoint.