Outsourcing Guide Part 3 : I am ready for this.
I once went to a restaurant (in a five star hotel) rated top 5 in local newspaper survey. To cut the story short, the food was not as expected and service was a horror. The price was premium and the experience: priceless (in a bad way). Bottom line: Do your own research!
The first question if you are ready to outsource will be:
What should I outsource?
Unlike other AEC outsourcing vendors providing 101 services, THD only provide one: CAD Drafting. Period. You naturally want someone who is an expert at just at what you need, rather than a jack of all trades with jack in the box services! If CAD drafting is your need, read on.
Let’s shortlist CAD outsourcing vendors.
So you have determined what to outsource and now to shortlist vendors. If you Google “how to choose the right outsourcing vendor” you will probably get a million hits. But I would say there is only one way to determine a good company: a good company’s website.
As most outsourcing is done offshore, there is no way you will ever visit their offices to evaluate them. So the next best thing will be their website. A representative of the company from your country visiting you does not say everything about the company.
“When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.” Cushing, Richard C.
LIKE WEBSITE, LIKE COMPANY
If the company’s website has bad design, bad navigation and bad content; you can call that company bad. A website greatly defines the company that owns it. A good AEC outsourcing website should have some (or all) of the following:
A good design
Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, certain website design is downright horrible. If the bad colour combination, unusual fonts, un-related graphics, spelling mistakes and anything that makes you cringe, then change your vendor.
If you cannot find the information you are looking for in the website in the first few minutes, change your vendor. A disorganized website is a disorganized company.
It speaks about the company, its history, the services and relevant information. Unless they are trying to hide something, you should be able to find it. If you cannot find it, it is not worth staying too long on that website.
A price plan should be easily found on the website rather than being asked to ask for a quote. This shows the transparency of the company. Would you go to a restaurant that has a menu with no prices or a restaurant that has a menu with prices?
Method of working
It is important to understand the method of working before starting the project. This ensures that you do not get extra charged for steps that you think is not needed, but is claimed by the vendor “important steps”. A clear method of working shown in the website says much about the transparency of the company.
A portfolio speaks much about the skills/style of the vendor and the area of expertise. As most portfolios do not include client’s name for confidential reasons, it is essential to ask for a free trial run to further back up the authentic of the skills shown in the portfolio.
Free trial run
Most companies can talk the talk but can they walk the walk? It is important to get free trial run (usually 8-16hours) to gauge the company’s skill, style and method of working. Note that for the free trial run, give a small project (or a joinery detail) that has already been done and is not important if the vendor screws it up.
Educational documents show the level of understanding of the business the company is engaged in. It also educates the clients on the services or products the company is offering. Usually only professionally-run business provides such papers (they are usually found in the download section).
You need to know who you are working for and also have a knowledge on the size of the company. Biographies of the staff provide you with information on the type of works, experience and knowledge they have. If most of the staff has experiences on residential projects then you should be wary of giving them commercial projects.
Take note on the various mode of contact medium. The more different types the company has, the more advance communication infrastructures they have. To test their communication infrastructure, make a video call (the highest form of communication and if they do not provide such mode, move on). You can see who you are working with, test their English language skill and most importantly it shows that the company has high internet speed connection (you would be surprised that most outsourcing companies are still using dial up modem).
In the end it is about your gut feelings from all the information you got from the website. If you have a bad feeling, move on. If you have a good feeling then contact the vendor for more information.
So I have shortlisted a few, what’s next?
So by now you should have a bunch of vendors in your “outsourcing companies” list. They were shortlisted based purely on the design and content of their websites. Now we need to dig deeper and dig out more dirt.
So let’s start digging!
Communicate with your vendors. Get them to call you back (call back services are common in the outsourcing world) or better still do a video call. This way you get to know your vendor’s team better and evaluate their command in English and understand their communication technology infrastructure. You do not want vendors that are handling/sending big files to be using dial-up modems!
Ask your shortlisted vendors for their portfolio. Do not just look at the content but also how professionally the portfolio is presented. As an architect (or design industry) yourself, you should be able to tell apart a good portfolio from a portfolio that was done 10mins after your request. Be wary of companies that show too many testimonials of their clients including their names and companies. They may not be respecting confidential clauses signed by their clients.
Ask for more
If you are entrusting important projects (all projects are important, from a bathroom renovation to skyscrapers) to a third party, it is only fair you get free trial run to gauge their skills and working style. Take note of how long the vendors take to finish your trail project or how much they did in the limited time. You will need this information to calculate the cost.
By now you should have 3 – 5 companies shortlisted. Compare the prices (use the information you got out of the free trial run and calculate the cost of your trail project) and select that best suits your budget. Remember less does not mean more neither does more mean best. Be wary of hidden cost. Companies which are transparent by showing their price plan in the websites usually do not add hidden costs.
Choose a vendor that passes your requirements.
Choose a vendor that you are most comfortable with.
Most importantly, choose a vendor that you can trust!