Outsourcing Viewpoints – A Checklist For Making the Most of Your Provider Site Visits

In the wake of the Satyam scandal and the recent attacks in Mumbai, India, companies are looking more closely at being well-prepared for any provider site visits. They want to ensure they leverage their time and money as efficiently and effectively as possible.

If not structured properly, a provider site visit can be just that – a “visit” and not a well-planned and executed data-gathering mission. Your visit team should strive to make it a form of pre-due diligence prior provider selection and contract signing. To make the trip most rewarding, there are several questions your team needs to answer in advance of booking flights and setting up logistics with providers to make the site visit most effective. Here’s a checklist to start with:

  • Investment: Determine Your Budget – the first order of business is to decide how much you are willing to invest for provider site visits. This will determine where you will visit (locally or at a distance) and how many from your company (and the advisory firm) will attend. For example, U.S. based companies can figure an average of $8,000 for business class airfare per person to India. In addition, there are other expenses including accommodations, local ground transportation, food, tips, passport, business visa, and medical preparation.

    Tip: Always overestimate your expenses because you may need to adjust your schedule and extend your trip.

  • Team Involvement: Select Visit Participants – The senior executive responsible for the project should determine who needs to participate. Representatives should include executives from the functions being outsourced (e.g., the vice president of infrastructure), functional subject matter experts (e.g., the senior manager of the help desk) and business executives who will receive the services that are outsourced (e.g., the vice president of business operations). Keep in mind, the more you have attending, the more you have out of the office for an extended period of time (minimum of one week depending on number of providers visited and site locations).

    Tip: Oftentimes, staff who are impacted by the decision to outsource may be reluctant to travel, especially overseas as they may see this as a big commitment and the final step toward a change in the way they operate. The senior executive needs to encourage those to participate so they can be there to ask the right questions and see firsthand what can be delivered by the providers.

  • Purpose: Determine Visit Objectives – Your team needs to determine what your purpose is for these visits. The site visit team should create at least three primary objectives. This will drive your entire agenda going forward.

    Tip: Don’t have a small select group determine the visit objectives. Broaden the involvement so everyone owns the outcome. Otherwise, for the rest of the team, it is “their” visit, not “our” visit.

  • Timeframe: Decide When to Visit – Once you finalize your visit objectives, determine when you will make the site visits based on how you have structured your bid process. In some cases, clients want to visit all providers who are responding to the request for proposal (RFP). In other cases, the client wants to visit only those that are the two or three finalists.

    Tip: Make sure you understand if there are any national or religious holidays that could impact your trip. Don’t assume that providers will accommodate you at just any time.

  • Locations: Identify Sites to Visit – Every provider has at least one showcase location they want you to visit. To use your time effectively, your sourcing advisor should contact each provider candidate and request a list of the provider’s Centers Of Excellence (COE) for the particular industry and function your company is seeking to outsource. Once armed with this information, it is easy to decide which locations are primary and secondary candidates to visit. The provider’s goal is to get as much face time as possible in front of their clients. The theory is the more time they have, the less time other providers will have in front of the client. As mentioned previously, it is costly to make these visits so you want to maximize your return by visiting the right location(s).

    Tip: To keep your costs in line, you may need to compromise and visit a provider’s site that is not a COE. These are some of the tradeoffs you will need to make to keep your expenses in line as you move forward with the selection process.

  • Planning, Agenda & Logistics: Sooner than Later – Planning as far in advance as possible will keep your costs down (better rates on flights) and allow you the time to get your travel documentation (e.g., provider invitation letters, passports, business visas) and health requirements (e.g., shots, prescriptions, medical insurance coverage) in order. Check with your company’s travel office early in the process for the proper documentation required for the country(s) you are visiting. Coordinating business visas can be very time consuming. On-site logistics are critical to effectively manage time and meet your visit objectives. Your team should determine the “visit agenda” based on your visit objectives. This will include a daily logistics plan and specific questions for each provider.

    Tip: Check your company’s overseas medical insurance coverage. Ask if your policy applies overseas and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.

  • Evaluation: Assess Providers’ Capabilities and Culture – Providers should be evaluated after each interactive session across three primary parameters:
    People – Is there a match between our company cultures? Can we work with this team?
    Process – Will they leverage industry standard processes effectively to benefit our project? Will we have to alter our methods to adapt to the provider’s process?
    Technology – What technology does the provider bring to the project that will give us a competitive advantage in the marketplace?

    Create evaluation criteria and ensure it maps to your visit objectives and each item in your agenda. This step cannot be understated.

    Tip: Each provider should be objectively scored after each visit and discussed in a daily debriefing session. It is best to capture this information while it is still fresh in the minds of the visit participants.

  • Travel Safeguards: Register with Your Country’s State Department – It is recommended that you register with your state department so they can better assist you in an emergency.  This will help them contact you if there is a family emergency in the United States, or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.

    Tip: Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends so you can be contacted in case of an emergency at home.Provider site visits are only one element in the overall decision making process. Whether you travel a long or short distance for a provider site visit, there is a significant expenditure of time and money. The adage, “what you put into something has a direct correlation of what you get out of it” is most certainly true with provider site visits. When conducted properly, the investment you make now will give you a good return on investment in future years.

Social Media Marketing – How to Use Free Online Tools For Site Promotion

Discussing, promoting and sharing information are some of the advantages in social media marketing. It includes social networking, social bookmarks, forums, wikis, and blogs. Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo and LinkedIn are few examples of websites used for social media marketing.

Small and big businesses are now using social sites as tools to spread brand awareness and discuss their products and services. The best part of these applications is that they are free of charge. It is a great advantage for small business operating on a low marketing budget.

Social media requires long term commitment and consistency. Business owners should also have done research on selecting the appropriate social applications in line with their company’s mission and goal. Here are some popular and successful social media tools for small business.

  • Create a Blog The sites that receive the most traffic are blogs. A blog is like a journal that is written by an individual and is regularly updated. Your company can use or create blogs to share multimedia, news and information about your business. Through the use of blogs, a small business can develop a specific image or personality and educate people about their products and services or the industry in general.
  • Use Twitter Twitter is a micro blogging and social networking service that allows users to read and send messages to the public. By using Twitter, you can promote your products and broaden brand awareness. Twitter is a fast-growing online community and its popularity is still on a rising trend.
  • Facebook Fan Page Most people are now using Facebook. Facebook is the most well-known social networking site in the world today. It is not only known for personal profiles but also for business profiles. This social media tool allows you to share your company’s videos, photos, event posts and concise wall posts. By replying to the fan’s questions on your wall post, your customer service will be enhanced.
  • Use LinkedIn LinkedIn launched in May 2003. It is a business-oriented social networking site and is usually used for professional networking. You can post your resumé and receive approval or recommendations from fellow employees, clients and business partners. This is also an efficient way of hiring competent employees and recognizing business opportunities. Users can make connections and interact through LinkedIn Polls, LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers.

Social media is now a fascinating tool in the world of business today and is modernized to meet the consumer’s demand. It is highly recommended to do research on the effective tools in social media to promote your company’s services, products and brands to your target market.

The Best Way To Use An Online Classified Ad Posting Site

Business is no longer conducted in the manner it used to be a few decades ago. Today, the Internet is at the centre of all major and minor business operations including product planning, promotion and marketing and sales. This change in business models has necessitated a change in the methods and mediums of advertising. Online advertising has come to complement traditional methods of promotion and in many cases has overshadowed it completely.

Classified Ads are an attractive and cost-effective deal for small and home businesses that are restricted because of their stringent budgets. Most classified sites offer the posting service free of charge. This way, you can convey your message to a larger target audience without having to bother about the overhead expenses. Contrast this to placing an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine. Charged by the word or line, the longer the advertisement, the more you should expect to pay.

Online classifieds are similar in structure and layout to a classified section featuring in a newspaper or magazine; the difference is only of the medium. Advertisements are organized under categorical listings. It dispenses with the need of having to scan long lists; buyers can simply click the category they are interested and look for the product they want. A few sites allow you to post two ads at a time. The form format further increases convenience to customers. Individuals are provided with a ready-form when it comes to creating ads.

In addition to sites dedicated to posting classified ads, there are other private websites that rent ad space to business owners. It could be free of charge or for a reasonable cost. Business owners should consider posting advertisements to such sites as it garners a good amount of traffic. One should post ads to sites that are associated with the business. For example, if you offer auto services, you should consider sites that deal in automobiles. In this way, you will be able to reach your target audience faster.

A Link between Customers and Vendors

When we speak about a classified section, we only tend to look at it from the perspective of a vendor and rarely bother to trace it down the other end. A customer can benefit from using a classified ad too. A customer or a buyer considering the purchase of a product or service can create a “wanted ad” in a similar manner that a vendor or business owner would do.

The Best Way to Use an Online Classified

Irrespective of whether you are vendor or a buyer, there are few tips that will help you make the best use of an online classified.

  • You should customize it to a specific geographical location.
  • Your ad must contain a description of the product or service you want to buy or sell.
  • It should be of a suitable length.
  • It should be too the point.
  • It should include popular keywords; the right keywords will keep your ad from getting lost in the fray.
  • It should be well formatted providing necessary details at a glance.
  • An attractive catch-phrase will earn brownie points for your ad and your business.
  • You should provide accurate and up-to-date contact information.

If you’re looking for a network of free classified ads, there are plenty out there. A Google search will display all of them to you in minutes. To save you time, we’ve listed 9. There is Craigslist, Quikr, Gumtree, OLX, eBayclassifieds, Adsglobe, Oodle, Classifiedads, Sell and Look Classifieds.

Small Businesses – Web Site Promotion Ideas

You’ve already figured out that your small business needs a web site to compete with the big boys and maintain every aspect of your relationship with your customers. But once you have your web site up and running, you’ll need web site promotion ideas so that people know about your web site. After all, no one will visit your web site if they don’t know it exists. The first of your web site promotion ideas is submitting your web site to all the major search engines. Search engine traffic is a major draw to web sites and most web masters will tell you that the vast majority of their traffic is coming from search engine clicks. Most of the major search engines have a specific page you can use to submit your site. Once it’s submitted, it will usually take a few days to a week before it starts showing up in keyword searches.

Other web site promotion ideas include advertising your web site on internet message boards and discussion forums centered on subjects related in some way to your business. For example, if you run a small business selling pet supplies, you could go to message boards and discussion forums frequented by pet lovers. Other tried and true web site promotion ideas are banner exchanges. You can contact other web sites involved with the same target market and ask to exchange banners on each other’s web sites or you can sign up at a banner exchange portal that will automatically generate banners for other sites on your site and banners for your site on other participating sites. Some other ways of promoting your new web site however, going the route of affiliation. This is a good method of not only promoting your new site but an easy fashion of making some quick money as well.

How this works is you sign up for an affiliation to a site, generally you will want to find a site that has some relevance to the site you are trying to promote. When ever someone goes to the site you are affiliated with and they link on to your site by pay per click method it takes them to your site and right into the thick of your content. The the unfortunate part of this method is that whenever someone clicks onto your site from your affiliate, you end up paying the affiliate for the transfer of sites. Although this could easily be a very small fee to the affiliate, the point to remember is if they click and you pay the affiliate, there is no guarantee that they will make a purchase from you. For even more web site promotion ideas, there are many online resources dedicated solely to teaching people how best to create awareness of their web site through the internet at large and strategies for attracting more visitors to their web site. There are other resources for web site promotion but then start with these basic ideas and when you’re ready, explore for more! To Your Success.

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