Culture and IT Outsourcing

The concept of cultural difference is a critical success factor when outsourcing IT services.  Truth be told, there are instances where certain cultural differences are too much to overcome, and outsourcing is not the best solution.  A prime example of this is contacting a support line when trying to get assistance for a purchased software or hardware product. With this, the variety and (hopefully small) volume of individuals that call into your support line can’t be underestimated, or worse, grouped together. For example, you might be catering to a senior citizen who is a first time PC user and has rarely spoken to anyone outside his/her own small community. On the other hand, you could be talking to an experienced professional who regularly communicates with others on an international level.  Because of this wide spectrum of potential customers, there is an expectation that when calling customer support, you will be dealing with a customer support representative that knows not only what they are doing, but how to help both quickly and efficiently.  Everyone needs access to quality support, even if it is someone who has never talked to anyone outside her/her own country.  These are the ‘requirements’ of that support position that the outsourced model may not be able to accomplish.  The acceptance of cultural difference is not innate, but learned, so cannot be assumed. In many instances, true understanding comes from continuous interaction with the culture itself. This interaction can also not be assumed as it is something that many either don’t have access to or, may not want to engage in.

Some of the bad press that outsourcing has received in the past is because it was applied to a situation where it simply wasn’t the best solution.  There are times where outsourcing is a great option, and knowing when and when not to use it can be the difference between a good experience and a bad one.