Outsourcing is pretty much de rigueur for modern startups looking to conserve capital. But making outsourcing work for your startup isn’t always easy. One of the first steps is figuring out where to outsource.
There are a lot of choices. The first major decision is geographical. Should you outsource locally, nationally or internationally?
My company, GrowBiz Media, has outsourced Web design and development, both internationally and locally. Believe me when I tell you each comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Here’s a quick overview:
When most people think of outsourcing, they envision coders in Southeast Asia working into the wee hours of (our) night. Turns out that many factors can make global outsourcing more difficult and expensive than it appears to be at first glance.
Pros: Low cost is the primary reason most companies outsource overseas. The time difference can also be a plus: You can send your changes to your team at the end of your business day, and have the code ready when you wake up the next morning.
Cons: The old adage “you get what you pay for” often holds true. Managing people thousands of miles away is difficult at best, so when calculating costs, consider that you may need to pay someone to oversee your overseas contractors. Language or cultural barriers can add to the complexity, and different time zones can cause as many problems as they solve.
Outsourcing IT within the U.S. is gaining steam. Often called rural sourcing or near-sourcing, the movement is driven partly by companies’ dissatisfaction with the quality of overseas workers and partly by a desire to bring jobs back to the U.S.
The International Association of Outsourcing Professionals named near-sourcing one of its top trends for 2012. In places like Georgia, North Carolina and Arkansas, skilled tech workers can be found for a fraction of what you’d pay in Silicon Valley or New York, according to Rural Sourcing Inc., which matches companies with workers in “second- and third-tier” cities nationwide.
Pros: Lack of cultural and language barriers make communicating with U.S. workers easier and more convenient. The time zone differential may be a slight benefit, depending on where your business and your contractors are located.
Cons: You’ll pay more for outsourcing within America than you would overseas, and if your outsourced team is across the country, meeting in person will still take time, effort and money. Be aware that some American contractors will subcontract some or all of your projects to overseas workers. This can be fine, particularly if they’re familiar with them and their work. But when this happened with one contractor we dealt with, the results were not positive.
After our negative experiences with outsourcing overseas, GrowBiz Media turned to a local Southern California business when it came time to rebuild our SmallBizDaily.com website.
Pros: Face time is the major advantage of working with a local company. While most of our communication still takes place by email and conference calls, when we undertake big projects or major changes, we can meet in person to brainstorm ideas and sketch out plans. Another advantage: If you do end up hiring full-time in the future, good contractors often turn into good employees.
Cons: By outsourcing to workers in your area, you’ll have to pay the going rate – which can wipe out most of the cost benefits. As with national contractors, some local firms may outsource all or part of your work overseas.
Since all three options come with pros and cons, how do you decide what’s best for your situation? Consider these issues:
Timeliness: Is this a rush project that simply can’t be late? If deadlines are essential, having the team accountable and close at hand could trump all other considerations.
Complexity: A simple project that doesn’t require much direction, has some “wiggle” time built into the schedule and has a bit of room for error may be most economically handled by an overseas team.
Personality: If you don’t have a problem with a more impersonal relationship with your team, overseas contractors could be fine for you. But if you’re a people person who needs face-to-face interaction, you may want to stick with local, or perhaps national, contractors.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Source: The Sketchbook of Susan Kare
For the Central US, it’s a matter of when, not if.
The magnitude 5.8 quake that struck central Virginia on Tuesday was felt from Florida to Maine to Missouri. â€œThis is probably the most widely felt quake in American history, even though it was less than a 6.0,â€ says Michael Blanpied, a USGS seismologist DISCOVER contacted after the event. The reason for this intensity is that the East Coast, like the controversial New Madrid Seismic Zone in the central U.S., is located amidst old faults and cold rocks in the middle of the North American tectonic plate, and seismic waves travel disturbingly far in such stiff, cold rock.
We would do well to take a hint from Tuesday’s expansive shake-up. It’s lucky that it struck in rural America. But a similar tremblor in the crowded cities of the central U.S. above the New Madrid zone is a matter of when, not if. And the region is woefully unprepared to mitigate the damage, as Amy Barth explores in a piece from an upcoming issue of DISCOVER:
The disastrous winter of 1811â€“12 is the stuff of legend in the Midwest. In the span of a few months, three major earthquakes rocked Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas, violently shaking 230,000 square miles stretching from St. Louis to Memphis. Witnesses claimed that the ground rolled in waves several feet high and the Mississippi River flowed backward. Some reports described buckling sidewalks in Charleston, South Carolina, and tremors that reached as far as Quebec. Had seismographs been available at the time, scientists believe those tremors would have registered magnitudes at least as great as the 7.0 quake that devastated Haiti in 2010 and possibly as high as 8.0. These would place them among the worst in U.S. history.
Researchers sifted through a whole lot of AT&T mobile phone data to find out who’s talking to who—or, really, where’s talking to where. The Connected States of America, as the project is called, has produced some amazing maps showing clusters of communication, from the surprising—neighboring states like Oklahoma and Arkansas pair off, chatting mostly with each other—to the expected: the flood of continent-spanning calls between New York and San Francisco.
Editor’s note: This post is a response to an ongoing educational debate over the efficacy of Peter Thiel’s fellowship, which encourages young entrepreneurs to “stop out” of school. The post addresses Vivek Wadhwa’s post “Friends Don’t Let Friends Take Education Advice From Peter Thiel” and Sarah Lacy’s “Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.”
Dale J. Stephens is a 19-year-old educational deviant and entrepreneur leading UnCollege, a social movement supporting self-directed higher education. He’s working on building a platform to validate lifelong learning.
Over the last two days I’ve received dozens of messages from friends asking my opinion about the conversation between Vivek Wadhwa and Sarah Lacy on TechCrunch regarding the now-controversial Thiel Fellowship. So many people have sent me links to these two articles because I am one of the finalists for the Thiel Fellowship.
I was unschooled for half my life. For those not familiar with the practice, unschooling is a form of homeschooling wherein the learner directs her own education. Self-directed learning has been my shtick for the last eight years, and I believe that the world is my classroom. Self-directed learning does not mean solitary learning: unschooling never involved learning in my pajamas. To the contrary, unschooling allowed me to learn in the real world—how, where, and when I wanted.
I am biased against institutionalized learning. I disagree with Wadhwa’s implied notion that education should only be gained in school.
I dropped out of liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas because I’m behind a social movement called UnCollege which supports Mark Twain’s mantra: “I have never let school interfere with my education.” I am not part of the academic binary: I do not believe that college is all bad, nor that college is everything.
I believe that learning is everything but should not be limited to academic institutions.
UnCollege is about enabling people to value learning that happens anywhere and everywhere — be it inside the classroom or in the world. Universities should not limit how we learn or live. Ultimately, I hope to change the notion that obtaining a college degree is requisite for professional success.
Wadhwa writes that “the best path to success is not to drop out of college; it is to complete it.” I do not think everyone should go to college — nor do I think everyone should drop out of college. Pedagogy should not be applied ubiquitously.
Education is not the place for generalizations. There is no best path. Everyone learns differently.
Individuals should take whatever path to success — irrespective of how you define that term — that suits their learning style. For most people who have come from classically educated backgrounds, college is the accepted path to adulthood, but there should be more to college than putting one foot in front of the other.
I do not think that universities today are preparing students to face the world, a point that Jim Plummer, the Stanford School of Engineering dean, would debate. A dichotomy has arisen between “college” and “life.” This is not an artificial crevasse I have imposed. I hate drawing this distinction: I think that life and learning should be mutually inclusive. I always operated on this assumption until I went to college and met students who dreaded “life in the real world.”
Academia gives students a false sense of security.
Laundry, cooking, and paying bills are but three things that most college students do not think about. When we keep students from directing their own education, how can we expect them to direct their lives post-graduation? Plummer says that “if universities … are not providing the kind of life skills that will serve their students well … then universities should change what they are doing.” I hope he’ll be open to listening to my comments as an unschooler.
College isn’t Dying
Plummer continues that “the students who drop out of college learn many life lessons and move on to either the next venture or in some cases . . . return to school.” School isn’t going away anytime soon. Millions have found success through the school system, and I am the first to acknowledge its virtues.
Friends have asked me what I will do if my plans go awry. The worst case scenario? I can always go back to college. It’s not going anywhere.
People assume that because I’m leading the UnCollege movement I’m against school. I’m not against school; I’m for learning, and I think that learning happens everywhere — not just in the classroom.
There is value in structured learning: I went to public school through 5th grade. School taught me how to follow directions, meet deadlines, and work in groups. These skills have proved invaluable, but these skills do not take twelve years to master — a few well-taught classes suffice.
Skill or Knowledge?
You can gain knowledge through many methods: structured learning, individual study, mentorship, service learning, project-based learning, group study.
However, the skills you learn from each method are different. Skills do not relate to knowledge but to ability. If I learn through group study I develop leadership skills while if I learn through individual study I develop concentration skills while if I learn in a mentorship relationship I develop interpersonal skills. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of learning, but we should understand which learning styles lead to which skill outcomes.
Plummer goes on to say that “one should not take Peter Thiel’s advice” because “the value of education is intrinsic and an end in itself rather than a something to be measured by its career financial return.” I agree that we should not assess education in terms of earning potential (even though we as a society continue to do so—see the methodology for any college ranking), but I do not think that learning is an end in itself.
I’m a lifelong and lifewide learner. I believe there is no end to learning.
Plummer uses his observation as a reason to pursue education, which he presumes to be narrowly defined in a collegiate context. But if he is arguing that we should learn for the sake of learning, shouldn’t he support people pursuing whatever type of education allows them to learn best, even if that education happens outside academia?
Wadhwa ends his post noting that “There is almost no chance you’ll make it past HR” without a college degree. This statement is sad but true.
The college degree functions a signal to society. It says, “I’m arbitrarily trainable, can meet deadlines, and follow your directions.” It does not convey information about you or your talents. As we asymptotically approach a point at which everyone has a Ph.D, how are we going to choose between potential employees?
Require everyone to get two Ph.Ds, then three? I hope not. There will come a point when society realizes that our accreditation system is a functioning fallacy.
I’m leading UnCollege to hasten that realization and prove that a college degree is not requisite for success. I do not want to burn down classrooms. I do not want to put professors out of work. I do not want to do away with college or university.
While going to college is the societally accepted path to professional success, it is not the only path. I want to help others understand that obtaining a college degree is not the only path to professional success. I believe institutionalized higher education limits possibilities, and that if we allowed people to learn from life instead of confining them to academic intuitions we could unleash human potential and allow everybody to change the world.
- What’s the News: After tracking baby gray catbirds with miniature radio transmitters, biologists found that cats were by far the #1 bird killer: 47 percent of the birds died at the paws of pet and feral felines (out of 80 percent that were killed by predators in general). This echoes some biologistsâ€™ view that cats are a destructive, human-assisted invasive species: â€œCats are way up there in terms of threats to birds â€” they are a formidable force in driving out native species,â€ said one of the authors of the study.
- What’s the Context:
- Previous research suggested that cats kill around 1,000 times more birds than windmills do.
- With an estimated 500 million birds killed every year by cats, felines also cause far more deaths than more spectacular (and media-friendly) events, like theÂ 2,000 bird carcasses that recently rained down on Arkansas.
- Not So Fast: While cats were the biggest threat to birds in this study, the lead author notes that the biggest culprit for bird deaths over all is still building collisions.
Reference: Balogh, Anne L., Ryder, Thomas B., and Marra, Peter P. 2011. Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks and domestic cats. Journal of Ornithology. DOI 10.1007/s10336-011-0648-7 (pdf)
Image: flickr /Â emilydickinsonridesabmx
Dan East writes “In a fashion worthy of a King or Hitchcock novel, blackbirds began to fall from the sky dead in Arkansas yesterday. Somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 birds rained down on the small town of Beeb, Arkansas, with no visible trauma. Officials are making wild guesses as to what happened — lightning strike, high-altitude hail, or perhaps trauma from the sound of New Year’s fireworks killed them.”
adeelarshad82 writes “PCMag recently put internet browsing speeds to the test to see which ISP was the fastest. The results were based on a quarter million tests run between May 1, 2009 and April 30, 2010 by over 6,000 users. The tests were carried out using SurfSpeed, which takes into account the complete, real-world download time of a web page to a browser. According to the results, Verizon’s FiOS took the top spot as the nation’s fastest ISP, with a SurfSpeed score of 1.23 Mbps. Interestingly though, off all the regions where Verizon’s FiOS is available, its dominance is only seen in the northeast and the west, whereas cable service from Cox and Comcast won out in the southern region. Moreover, cable through Cox and Optimum Online beat AT&T’s fiber optic service in the nationwide results, with SurfSpeeds of 1.14Mbps, 1.12Mbps and 1.06Mbps respectively. The worst results mostly consisted of DSL providers, bottoming out at 544 Kbps from Frontier and going up to 882Kbps by Earthlink. Other interesting facts noted in the test were that broadband penetration was highest in Rhode Island and lowest in Mississippi, while the average Internet bill was highest in Delaware and lowest in Arkansas.”
Source: The Fastest ISPs In the US