As important as corporate culture is for improving the odds of success for internal IT projects, it becomes even more crucial when work is sent offshore.
According to an Accenture survey, 67 percent of U.S. business executives tapped miscommunication arising from cultural differences as a primary cause of outsourcing woes. Different cultures have different approaches to completing tasks, resolving conflicts and making decisions, said the execs.
Companies often underestimate the resources required to manage outsourcing providers. An executive of an Indian BPO provider, quoted in this Computer Business Review article, says that firms should plan on spending 4 percent to 6 percent of an outsourcing contract's value on internal management resources.
Learning by doing is an effective -- yet possibly expensive -- way of mastering cross-cultural management. The University of Colorado at Boulder's mechanical engineering department came up with a better way, by creating a course called Global Engineering.
During the course, offered for the first time this past fall, students worked with an Indian engineering firm to manage the design and building of several small products, including a flywheel and an iPod case.
The course was taught by members of the university's engineering and business faculties as well as outside experts like a patent attorney. Topics included: engineering economics, writing product requirements and specifications, pipeline logistics, project management and communication (with an emphasis on working with members of different cultures).
Jack Zable, a professor of mechanical engineering design at the school, in an interview with IT Business Edge, noted that these business-oriented skills would be beneficial for any engineer, whether or not they were involved in an outsourcing effort. Makes sense to us.