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Business knowledge management helps boost offshore strategy

How important is business knowledge management to the success of your offshore strategy? Pretty important, one CIO who offshores to India told me recently.

Offshore workers are often at a disadvantage when providing services for U.S.-based companies. Sure – you can find a tech person in India who can code java without any detailed knowledge of your business. However, for other outsourced services, such as customer support or software development, the more knowledge your offshore workers have about your business, the better service they can deliver and the more productive they can be.

“How can they participate and anticipate, if they don’t know about our business?” said Cornelia Pool, CIO of San Jose, Calif.-based Covad Communications, a national provider of national provider of integrated voice and data communications. Pool, who outsources the company’s software development efforts to India, makes extra efforts to ensure her offshore workers are treated like company employees.

At the beginning of the outsourcing relationship, she involves team members from both the offshore group and U.S.-based team to review the project goals and determine the best ways to communicate on a regular basis – ways that are convenient for both groups. Regular communication regarding not only project deliverables, but also the company’s message and goals, are key to the success of working together.

Pool also looks for any opportunity for someone to go and visit her team in India or bring one of the offshore workers to the U.S. This allows the offshore workers to learn more about the company and feel more connected to the goals of the business.

Offshore workers who feel like they’re part of a team and understand the goals of the business are also more likely to stick around. That’s an important factor for companies offshoring to places like India, where employee attrition has been an issue over the past few years.

An investment in business knowledge management helps make offshore workers feel “part of the team.” However, this also brings up cultural issues at some companies. For instance, at Covad Communications, the U.S. team had gotten in the habit of saying, “Someone offshore worked on it; that’s why it went wrong.” Pool made specific efforts to make her U.S. team understand that their vendors are partners in the success of the company.

At your organization, how important is business knowledge management to your offshore efforts? Are you comfortable sharing the ins and outs of your business with offshore workers? Or are you more hesitant to offer your company’s intellectual property with offshore workers who might or might not be working for your team in six months or a year?

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