Culture Matters: How to Find the Right Match for Tech Offshoring
“Location, location, location” may cover it for being successful in real estate — but don’t fall into that trap when trying to select your technology offshoring team. The location of an offshore team can have a much deeper impact on the outcome of projects than simply having to overcome an accent or make status calls at off-hours due to time zone differences. When considering the location of your offshore team, it’s vital that you also consider their culture — the differences and similarities — and how they will impact the project you are embarking on together.
While some might say otherwise, the truth is that cultural differences can and do affect IT solutions. In order to match your project to the right offshore location, considering questions related to culture and location and how the answers to those questions might complement or undermine your technology outsourcing can help improve your success. There is an optimal off-shore culture and location for every project type, if a technology buyer (e.g., CIO, CTO) is willing to look beyond the simplest, easiest option. So, how can you match your project to the right off-shore location and culture to find success?
Consider These Three Risk Factors For Offshoring
In order to avoid potential culture-clash that impacts execution, communication, and strategic alignment, there are three key areas to consider. Karine Schomer, a global management consultant, identifies and explores them in an article about underestimated offshoring risk factors.
1. Corporate Culture
Some of the key differences that can be found between US-based companies and their foreign counterparts have to do with company culture. It’s important to understand the working culture of the company you offshore with, so ask these questions to find out if you’re a good match:
- What are their values and vision? Do they prize their ability to exceed clients’ expectations, or simply to meet a deadline on time? Make sure the values and vision of any company you partner with are compatible with your own, as their performance will reflect back onto yours.
- How are decisions made? Do employees have the authority to respond quickly to your requests, or do they require authorization from a manager? Knowing this will alert you to potential slow response times or significant delays.
- How do they find and develop their workers? Are employees well-trained and given opportunities to continue to grow and learn, or are you buying in to a company that silos its workers and relegates them to performing the same menial tasks for years? You’ll want to partner with a company whose workers feel enabled to do their best work.
2. National and Regional Culture
In addition to the culture of the company, you’ll want to consider the larger cultural forces that shape it. To that end, learn about the national and regional culture of a company before you begin a partnership. Here are some things you’ll want to know:
- Do they value process or result? While either answer may align with your needs, it’s important that your answer is a match with theirs. If you are looking for immediate results, a process oriented culture may not create the kind of workers who will understand your needs, and vice versa.
- Are their ethics situational or absolute? Many cultures have a deeply ingrained set of values that are non-negotiable. Others prize the ability to respond to any situation with flexibility.
- Do they tend toward candor and straightforward explanations or do they value creating harmony and saving face? In the event of any problems that may arise, you’ll want to be partnered with a company in which the culture faces issues in the same way that you do.
3. Key Players and Their Cross-Cultural Competency
The offshoring relationship requires specific supervision, planning, and communication. Therefore, one of the most vital factors in the success of any partnership is leadership. Your company must cultivate the cultural knowledge and competency necessary to effectively oversee your offshore relationships, and any company you partner with should also have a leader and contact person who understands your culture and communication style.
Before solidifying any partnerships, it’s crucial to identify the members of both teams who will take on this responsibility and to have in-depth conversations about expectations, processes, and responsibilities. Your offshore contact person is an incredibly valuable resource for understanding all of the factors discussed above and for correcting any misunderstandings that may develop. This is a sensitive position, and any discussions of cultural differences must be conducted with a healthy curiosity, a willingness to be educated, and the utmost respect for both parties.
Finding The Right Fit
How well people from diverse teams work together is always an important factor in any IT project. When those teams are from different locations and cultures, it often becomes the most important factor. If the cultural differences are not understood and processed at the start of the relationship, then project effectiveness can be fatally impaired. On the other hand, if you enter into a relationship having done your due diligence and address any potential impact up front, then project effectiveness will be maximized.
The cultural impact on offshored technology projects has been experienced by many companies. Often, this learning occurs at the expense of the company’s time to value of key technology projects. Many companies will forego engaging in offshore projects due to the complexity of aligning domestic teams, project types, and offshore locations. But with an understanding of how to overcome or mitigate these complexities, any company can benefit from the global technology workforce.
Ask your IT managers how they consider culture when aligning their teams, projects, and offshore staffing. Grow your cultural understanding by sharing your results at @EDZ_Systems and joining the conversation.
Elizabeth DeZeeuw is President and CEO of EDZ Systems, a global technology solutions firm. With nearly 30 years of experience, she has expertise in leveraging information technology to advance business solutions on a global scale. Elizabeth has served in numerous executive roles for a Fortune 500 financial services technology company — directing global information technology strategy, sales, and staffing. EDZ Systems helps companies optimize their people, projects, and results with Intelligent Global IT Solutions, a proprietary Intelligent Resource Management System™ (IRMS), and Strategic Consulting Services.