Bottom-up Outsourcing – original post July 27, 2009

I happened upon this little tidbit on my blog backlog. The unconventional James Governor taking a whack at outsourcing as done from the trenches: James Governor’s Monkchips’ Give Every Developer a $5k Outsourcing Budget

Some of my past compatriots may recall the idea I had worked up that didn’t go quite this grass roots, but was a variation on a theme that might appeal to the slightly more conservative innovators.

The suggestion was that the projects be done to understand an explore outsourcing for the company, and learn to manage and use it down in the people that would be the internal leads. The developers would examine the train of tasks coming through, and the projects they had assigned or that were of value to them (which may be their own projects). They would then propose how to outsource, under their direction and management, a project or component. The collection of these proposals would be collected periodically (or continuously) and assessed for value, risk, and other criteria the company and team may see fit. At that point, the selection would whittle it down to a few and distribute the budget accordingly in the proposals (with possibly a round of refinement if the numbers don’t all add up) and the developers would have both skin in the game, and would stand to gain both valuable management and communication skills and experience, but also would show some of the soft-skill capabilities to the company.

Unfortunately, the corporate and technical leadership at the time figured that big projects and minimal oversight was the way to go, so not only did the staff gain near-zero experience in this global toolset, but the outsourcing also had a number of large failures, little learning, and didn’t bring value to the company in any reasonable time frame. Lessons have been learned since, but I still stand by this approach if you want your team to think of outsourcing as a partnering and supplier-style tool, they need to be involved and committed.

If you’re faced with the opportunity or need, consider a variety of approaches, and also consider strategically how you expect outsourcing to work in your company on a continuing basis, what you need to make that happen as far as your staff skills, and finally what it will take to make that transition start. Delegating into the team the responsibility and control serves a number of needs and strategic goals if you’re serious about adding outsourcing to your tool aresenal.

Currently playing in iTunes: Comfort by Jillian Ann

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