Leveraging the Many Advantages of FreelancingGuest_Blogger | Sep 14, 2012
The business world is changing, especially now that companies increasingly turn to online freelance help. But like anything new, freelance jobs demand special attention to details. Here are some insights from Katie Gove, Managing Director at Copenhagen-based Trellis.
Moving to the extended use of freelancers challenges the traditional project management and product development process. Through our work with over 50 companies, and after evaluating several benchmark studies involving over 400 companies who use freelancers, Trellis has gained enormous insight into patterns, structures and behaviors in contract work.
One thing that is clear is that companies, project managers and freelancers typically underestimate the actual gap between expectation and reality regarding the process of delivering across organizations. To succeed, you must pay careful attention to the details. In situations where the contract sponsor (the client) has been able to not only make the arrangement work but where they are beginning to reap great benefits with regards to innovation, increased productivity and growth, there are several traits that are shared.
Focus on and cultivate the relationship.
First, there are key resources managing the relationships between the vendors and the sponsor. These resources have general business competencies as well as a good degree of mastery of the sponsor’s technology. However, they are less frequently the technical masters themselves. What seems to be crucial is that they have enough technical knowledge to manage and broker the interactions but they do not themselves play the role of technical specialist.
Face time matters
Secondly, there is consistent scheduled and ad-hoc contact between teams on both sides. This is critical. There appears to be a direct correlation between success as well as satisfaction and these kinds of exposure. Critical to the exposure is that it happens at several (or many) different levels between the partners and that there is regularity to it. Having regularly scheduled forum which consistently handle communications and processing build a shared sense of commitment as well as an expectation for how things can and should be processed. Equally important is that this must be buffered by regular, individual and ad-hoc interaction among the teams and resources. In instances where there are only regular group/team meetings, we do not see the strengths and successes that we see with regular group/team meetings along with robust ad-hoc interaction. “Face” time matters. What this means for the buyers and vendors using Elance is that they need to robustly use digital tools to make this happen. Skype, chat, messenger, email etc. are all critical tools for enabling “face” time in the 21st century.
Experience is the name everyone gives their mistakes
Thirdly, all contract work success stories are built upon previous failures. No company just leaps into success. The learning curve is so universal that there isn’t a company engaged in using freelancers that doesn’t have a story about their struggles in this arena. The critical point here is that the successful programs have been able to learn from their less-than-satisfying experiences. This is not to say that all companies have learned from their experiences. We have met more than a few companies in our work that are deeply frustrated and unsatisfied with their performance in outsourcing which have done little to change the conditions under which they work. As Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.”
Answer the question: how does contract work support our business strategy?
Fourth, the sponsoring companies have formalized how partnering occurs and have clarified its connection to business strategy so that others in the organization understand it. Typically, there is a small group of people who manage freelancers and share knowledge in the organization about what is happening and how to make it work. When executed well, this group’s guidance and direction enables its organization to succeed. The trick seems to be focusing this group’s activities on knowledge sharing and process assistance rather than on approvals and gate-keeping.
Something at stake
A final key to success in outsourcing is that the vendors should have a sense of ownership regarding their work for the sponsor. It is worth noting that the contract itself does not guarantee let alone deliver this critical sense of ownership. Ownership is the human dimension of the interaction that means that the people responsible for the delivery have personal and professional pride in what they are delivering; that they have something at stake.
Assign areas of responsibilities with latitude for determining solutions
We have seen this achieved in several different ways. For example, we have seen the vendor’s resources being fully and positively integrated into the development team. They could be supplementing skills existing in-house or they could be bringing specified niches skills to the process but in either instance, they are fully considered to be part of the development team. They are treated the exact same way; they are integrated into project meetings; their voice carries weight; expectations are high and they meet those expectations. They aren’t just given tasks to execute but rather are given areas of responsibility about which they have a fair degree of latitude in determining solutions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have requirement specifications, although we have seen several examples where that has been the vendors’ entire responsibility. What it does mean is that they succeed or fail based on their own merits and that the surrounding team(s) must interact with them on a more or less equal footing.
About the Author:
Katie Gove is the Managing Director at Trellis. Based in Denmark, Trellis helps companies to navigate the make or buy landscape. Our service portfolio enables companies to master and control their outsourcing and partnering efforts thereby increasing value and satisfaction.