What do brown M&Ms have to do with outsourcing?

mm1It is a folklore that has been proven true. In the 80s, Van Halen had strict conditions to remove brown M&Ms from their dressing room at the tour venues, or the show promoter will forfeit their money. The 53 pages typewritten rider contained the condition that along with a wide selection of beverages and food, M&Ms must be provided, but absolutely no brown ones. Years later, David Lee Roth charmingly explains the truth behind this clause in his video - that it was not a silly rockstar misdemeanor excess, but an intelligent safety check measure. Simply put, if the band found brown M&Ms in the dressing room, they will assume the promoters have not taken care of all the electrical and mechanical safety conditions in the rider. Then the band would spend time checking everything with a fine-tooth comb to ensure a safe and flawless show.

In other words, it is a simple assumption that if someone has taken care of the small stuff, they certainly can be trusted to take care of the big things. Just like Van Halen, check if your outsourcing partner has done the small things right. If they did, you could rest assured that they will take care of the big things.

mm2Access to everyone on the team

Did the outsourcing company set up a meeting early to introduce everyone on the team? Such meetings are impactful when done with video. You should have all the details to reach everyone on the team - their emails, phone, skype, etc. Easy access increases communication among the teams. Highly collaborative companies set up Slack channels to communicate instantly with team members. Do you have easy access to the provider’s senior management? The provider’s leadership must check in with you periodically. When needed, you also should be able to get their senior management’s attention.

Transparency in daily activities

You should know what your outsourced team does every day. Though they maybe thousands of miles away and separated by timezones, you should get brief but crisp updates each day - on Slack or via email. Your daily stand up may include them to provide the updates. The remote teams should be check-in code into your repository every day. Weekly timesheets with a judicious amount of details will provide better insight into the time spent on various activities throughout the week.

Empowered Client Partner/Project Manager

Your project manager must your trust to make decisions on their end - as well as demand changes on your side - to ensure mutual success. While you have access to all of your team - who are hyper-focused on coding, testing, etc., you need a client partner who has your perspective to make everyday tactical decisions. They do not lose sight of the forest for the trees. The project manager should make specific, concise, and realistic communication about what they need and expect from each other. Do they take the liberty to suggest process changes? To put is crude, while you may have many backs to pat, you need one throat to choke.

The flexibility of the engagement

Good partners make the engagement flexible for both. Does your outsourcer lock you down with long term commitments and penalties? An outsourcing provider should be agile in terms of process, contracts, and other demands. How easy is it for you to scale your team up or down with relatively short notice, say weeks and not months.

How well do they treat their employees

"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first." — Simon Sinek

Companies that treat their employees well, certainly will treat their clients well and value them. When employees are valued with trust, respect, and dignity, they perform at their best. High performing teams will produce results that matter to you. See if your outsourcing vendor provides their employees a good work/life balance, continued carrier training, rewards, and recognition.

In summary, little things make big things happen. See if your outsourcer takes care of some of these small things. If they do, then you can trust that they take care of more complex and critical things too.

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