Outsourcing tasks

Why can’t design consultants outsource the “services” part of the business just as corporations are doing?

Hush! Seriously though, I think it’s because some of the design is cultivated during those production phases. The intern renders something wrong but then we look at it and say hmmm, sparks an idea, then you go back into it and refine it. There’s a lot of back and forth in the consultancies, sourcing that would be too troublesome. The closest you can do is hiring freelancers to work in-house. That way they get the personnel flexibility but still have the back+forth workflow instead of the coloring book type some places have where they try to outline everything, then pass it off.

But what if we outsource the work, say to India, then go back and forth over the internet at one tenth the cost of what it would take to do here. Wouldn’t that work?

I think you lose that real-time interactivity. Similar to what happened when 3-d modeling became big, lots of people thought it could take the place of sketch models thinking they could go straight from paper to cad to production. You can but then you end up with things that don’t fit the hand well, proportions and scale are off, etc…

You also have the cultural translation issues. Production things are one thing, design is another. If you set parts of a project up to be cookie cutter / fill in the blanks, then I think it could work. But I think that’s only a short term tactic because eventually, they’ll see how much the american companies are benefiting from it and they’ll ask for more until it’s not the gold pot that it is now.

Plus you can’t beat the social and cultural emersion that’s key to effective communication. We take lots of parameters and “known” info for granted that when trying to communicate to foreigners can be a bit troublesome because you have to constantly “translate” everything that someone else from your area already “knows” just from the society and lifestyle. We have various groups in our own country that all speak the same language that have issues communicating clearly because of the cultural and differences in accepted meanings and norms.

I’ve had problems with chinese vendors who misinterpret a 3-d drawing and make the part as if the 3-d view was flat, because from what I hear they do most stuff just from the ortho views so that’s how they’re used to looking at it and interpreting it.

I think in the end it all depends on what your end goal is. If you’re willing to go through the translation issues and difficulties that come with it just to get a lower immediate cost, then I guess this may be the way to go. Although the benefit may be lost with an increase in revisions and fixing misunderstandings. I think it would only really benefit if it really is just a coloring book job. Stuff like giving them all files for a brochure + a printout, sample of the paper, and then saying okay give me 10k of these.

i think consulting is an outsource itself. so the process gets smeared in a way.

nevertheless, i’m sure most consultancies are aware of the advantages of outsourcing when they get to the part of the process fitting that criteria for instance when considering things like mold/machinning/prototyping it’s much cheaper in china; it would be crazy to do it in US, unless you got your own equipment.

Mark, this may no longer be the case but for a time there were several firms outsourcing certain portions of their services. Or maybe collaborating is a better word. The one I am most familiar with is JDK in Vermont and there connection with a firm in India which they helped set-up.

We are currenly in the process of starting a similar alliance with a service provider in China…it has not been easy but that ROI potentional is promising.

For now, outsourcing has too many hurdles, as stated by skinny. But let’s say communication is perfect, and you find someone in India to live on pacific coast time, to accomodate you. Does outsourcing work?

I’d still like to say the correct answer is no. Saying outsourcing is a viable alternative for design is saying that design is a commodity (an argument in itself), with the BEST design bieng that which comes out of the cheapest designer! If that’s the case, we are all in for it, as these other countries become more and more competitive.

I think for a designer to have a long term future, they need to figure out what makes them different and BETTER than anyone else. If there is nothing that keeps a random designer from doing their job, then yes, outsourcing is an option. But for a competive designer with unique talent, outsourcing should never be an option or threat.

Koshman is correct. Being unique and better is the key regardless of where you are located.

I think often times the problem with outsourcing compared to completing a task in house is the relationship the employee/company has with this individual or organization. I personally believe it’s better to complete most design tasks in house then to outsource it elsewhere, often times to someone not as familiar with the project.

I am sure there are places where you could cut out some mundane chores. Perhaps this could be renderings and animations? You have to tweak and jiggle so many parameters. This could be a potential bottle neck.
What about the 2D renders-granted this takes a little more understanding f form. Project Administration-time-keeping and billing? Cold calling for business- hey that’s a crappy job. Pay extra money for an Indian who has a better speaking accent. 70% of time is spent drumming up business right? Perhaps there is an opportunity. After all we are designers not sales people. Website organizers and analysts. Web Research-that’s another major part of what we do. Researchers here would be most helpful observing users in their environment. Internet information gathering can be painful. Get the Indians to do this. This information need not be analyzed merely assimilated into a more concise book of information, reviews etc: that can be analyzed by the outsourcing design firm. I am sure that a lot of stuff we do IS cookie cutter- probably something we would not enjoy doing anyway. Hold on to the things you love doing and outsource the rest.

By that logic, all design firms should fold since they’re the recipient of work outsourced from a corporation.

It actually depends on what function of a company are they going to outsource. We know that outsourcing gives you staffing flexibility that just doesn’t exist with in-house employees. Offshore Business Processing allows you to tailor your service consumption to your needs. The industry needs a real-time interactivity and back office work like data entry, IT or call center are the ones that can be outsource in this kind of project.

I can’t believe this has changed in twenty years, but most firms are 2-3 people. Unless you accidentally land the Tesla account, you are probably working on projects that require 1-2 designers to complete. Considering the communications lag, I doubt you’d see any real savings even at 1/10 the cost on a small scale.