Getting it Right on the Third Try | Article

Digital Information StreamGuy Felton has a love-hate relationship with the Internet. The chief executive officer of Sol Participations SA believes he can remove all the things he hates about the Net by making it a two-way communication medium instead of a one way street. “There’s no dialogue, no back and forth on the Net,” he carps. “There are a lot of people in the world who have the same interests I have. But there’s no civilized way of communicating with them.”

His pet peeve is email discussion lists and Internet forums. He detests plowing through every message to find the one posting he wants to read. If he answers a post, he wants the ability to track every response, once again without having to wade through the detritus to get what he wants.

To add insult to injury, once Felton makes a post, spam starts clogging his server. He typically deletes 95 percent of the email that arrives in his mail queue every day. “That’s too much for intelligent people,” he says.

So Felton decided to do something about this. Sol Participations, which finances his projects from Luxembourg, the capital city of Luxembourg, is developing Internet group communication software.
From the outset, he knew he would have to hire offshore “coders” to complete his project. “It’s hard to find the right people here. Luxembourg has 400,000 inhabitants. We are famous for our banks. Every coder here works for a bank,” he says.

Finding the Best Person for the Job

Felton, who has been using offshore programmers since 1996, says he finds offshore outsourcing “very practical. It doesn’t matter in the end where the coders live. If they are not working in the office next to mine, I don’t care if they live on the moon,” he says. And he likes the idea that he can select the right person for the job from anywhere on the planet.

Felton first hired an Indian outsourcing firm to code his program. But there was a failure to communicate. After six months, they parted company. “They wrote excellent code, but never understood what I wanted. I tried to tell them about something that doesn’t exist yet. It was like trying to explain color to someone who can not see,” says the entrepreneur.

So he turned to an English outsourcer to try again. This company “understood the concept but could never get it quite right,” says Felton. Sixteen months later, he was back to ground zero. “The initial budget was down the drain,” he reports sadly.

Felton says in the old days software programs were built by people like Bill Gates who had ideas and knew how to code. He compares software programming to cars in the days of the Model T. Back then someone who drove a car also had to know how to keep it running.

Things have changed in the last five years in the programming world, he reports. Today, people with one talent (the ability to code) typically don’t have the other (the ability to conceptualize). But his project needed a company that could do both.

Undaunted, Felton turned to the Net and found eJobShop, a Java specialist in Los Altos, California. EJobShop works with its customers to define the parameters of their projects. Once Felton defined all the elements of his job, eJobShop posted his project for bidding by the independent contractors who had registered on its site.

Felton selected the winning bidder. Then the work, which had pre-defined milestones and code deliveries, began. He didn’t strike out this third time at bat. Instead, he hit a home run. “They understood the concept. They always found the right people. Now I can concentrate on the essentials of my project while eJobShop makes sure the coding goes ahead as planned and budgeted,” he says.

Felton loved the fact that eJobShop was the only respondent to his initial email announcing it was unsure exactly what he wanted. The other offshore prospects told him, “Great. We can do this. Let’s get going.” Instead, Felton and eJobShop had a dialogue for months, which laid the foundation for a clear understanding of exactly what Felton wanted.

Second, eJobShop found the right programmer for the task. Felton is almost incredulous that that happened after his first two abortive attempts. “They found the right guy,” he says again and again. “I don’t want a lousy programmer in Luxembourg if I can have the best programmer in California,” he adds.

Felton was impressed that the California vendor has been able to work within his budget restrictions. “They talked to me about cost every step of the way,” he reports. EJobShop managed the contractor payments and stepped in where necessary to smooth the process.

Thanks to this two-way communication with his vendor, Felton will be able to fulfill his dream of creating two-way communication on the Net.

Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:

  • Buyers living in small countries like Luxembourg with limited job pools like to outsource offshore so they can hire the best person for the job.
  • Unless the buyer and the programmer are going to work in close proximity, the Net allows offshore outsourcing to occur anywhere.
  • Communication is key if the project is to be completed according to a buyer’s requirements.

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