Off-shored outsourcing (also known as Business Process Outsourcing or BPO) yields cost savings, increases efficiency, removes HR headaches, and provides scalable resources on demand. Who would say no?
Like most business processes, data entry outsourcing sounds great in principle but it’s difficult to do well.
This case study will show you exactly how Jeremy was able to save his startup $200,000 (and counting) by using the FORM Foundation Method to outsource data entry for his food delivery services company.
He was able to do this while managing the start-up’s fundraising process, overseeing standard operations, and taking time off for the birth of his daughter.
Jeremy used the FORM foundation method to ensure one of the core tasks of his start-up was successfully outsourced. The results speak for themselves.
Ramped up and executing in 3 weeks
Increased data entry by 600%
Outsourced more than 30 full-time working resources and scaled to more as needed
Decreased HR cost by 54% for each resource needed
US based employees were happier providing oversight and coaching only
Jeremy’s biggest problem was data entry of product descriptions and pricing at scale, so it was easy to determine what to outsource.
Massive volumes of data needed to be entered into his application so his startup could grow competitively in a crowded market place.
In this case, data entry was less about efficiency and more about survival. Each food delivery company works to increase networking effects by having the most restaurants on its platform. The more restaurants a platform has, the more its services will be used.
1: Choose a task that you know how to do very well (something you could write a manual on if you wanted). The task should be broken into a 40 hour chunk for your trial with your outsourcing company (more on this later).
2: Break the task down into multiple steps (if possible).
3: Give all the simple tasks to the outsourced team (remember, this is for the trial phase only, you can increase the task complexity once you have worked with each other for a while).
4: Never give out a task that you don’t know how to do yourself. If you can't do it internally, then your outsourced team won't be able to do it either.
In order to make outsourcing worthwhile, ensure there is enough work for at least two full time resources.
Multi-tasking isn’t a problem, but during the trial period, keep things as simple as possible by assigning only one task at a time.
Jeremy had existing admin center software, but it contained a wide range of non-data entry functions used in other parts of the company.
Instead of creating new software with limited access to the rest of the admin center, they just had the outsourcing company sign a non-disclosure agreement and trained the offshore resources to only access data entry areas of the software.
1: Review the tools currently used.
2: Move all file-based tools to online shareable documents (e.g move documents from Excel to Google Sheets).
3: Give the outsourced team access to online documents.
4: Setup a Google Sheet with the columns you need and 10 examples of accurately completed tasks. Give the document to the outsourced team to fill out.
Simply: if your tools are online, you can outsource your task.
Jeremy had a mix of simple and difficult product data to enter. It didn’t make sense to track daily metrics during the trial because the results could vary considerably.
Instead, he decided to only give simple products to enter during the trial process to more easily conduct Quality Assurance (QA).
In the end, “products per day” was determined to be the best metric to track progress for his application.
1: Look at all the measurements that you use to track your team’s work
2: Choose one :)
3: Enter it into a Google Sheet and track it daily
Don’t be discouraged if the initial volume is much lower than your existing employees. After all, they’re a new employee, too. Any comparisons in productivity should be measured against typical volume for any other new employee. The trial period is all about finding out if the outsourcing company is a good cultural fit and the trajectory of output, as well as knowledge retained, is worth the time investment.
Jeremy reached out to four data entry providers (BPO providers) and got quotes from all of them.
Trials with two providers were conducted before Jeremy decided to go with Sprightlii because he felt that he was able to connect better with their leadership team. Having worked with start-ups before, Jeremy concluded that friction related to his start-up’s flexible work mentality would not be a problem.
1: Chat with the outsourcing companies that you resonate with
2: Make sure the values and work culture of the outsourcing company align with your company
3: Conduct trials with each prospective company
You want to work with outsourcing companies that are:
Conducting the trial was the simplest part of the entire process, as the only variable to evaluate was products per day. Software needed and the determination metric was already decided in steps F (Find tasks) and O (Organize Software) of the FORM Foundation Method.
After two successful trials of one week each, Jeremy chose the company he felt could best grow with his start-up. He anticipated future customer service work could be more cost-effectively done via outsourcing as well.
1: Take the task determined in F and give it to the outsourcing team
2: Give access to the software and tools needed to conduct the work
3: Give team a data input tool with 10 records already there as an example
4: Send directions and do a screenshare walk-through of another 2 records via Skype or Zoom
5: Have the outsourcing company complete 10 records
6: Give feedback and fix issues
7: Have the company complete another 10 records (or some volume of tasks equal to 2 hours of work)
8: Repeat steps 6 and 7 until there are no questions for the task being performed
9: Communicate as much as needed with individuals working on your project
10: Review monitoring metric daily (remember: only 1 metric in the trial phase)
11: Review soft aspects of outsourcing company: leadership connection, flexibility in dealing with issues, speed to understanding task needed to be completed
12: Make vendor selection
If the FORM Foundation Method was followed, the trial phase should allow you to focus on the factors that will determine whether outsourcing was a success:
The term “Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)” accurately defines what we’re doing, but it presents the outsourced team as outsiders. Instead, think of it as “remote team processes.” This distinction encourages your outsourced resources to work and understand your product like any other employee.
Once the outsourcing company was chosen and the work was underway, Jeremy scaled the outsourced team to 10 resources in one month and 30 six months later.
Sometimes, 60 or more team members were hired when his company was entering new markets and data entry was a bottleneck to market entry. When the initial rush was over, he could scale back down as needed.
Metrics were changed from products per day to products per week, as the outsourced team was given complex products that took longer to complete and daily metrics sometimes raised false red flags for low output.
US-based resources no longer conducted any data entry work or training. The outsourced off-shore team sits next to each other and can train more effectively with the “over the shoulder” technique. Instead, the on-shore team provided quality assurance and coaching.
1: Review the work being completed and make sure that metrics are rising in line with typical performance improvements from a new employee on your on-shore team.
2: Once outsourced output is the same as the on-shore team for any given task, then increase the complexity and scope of task(s) being performed.
3: Keep in constant contact over Skype or Slack.
4: Increase resources as needed.
5: Assign Team Leads for the off-shore team just like you would for your on-shore resources.
6: Have outsourced Team Leads (TLs) review the metrics and raise red flags as needed.
Even in the execution phase, keep metrics as simple as possible. Let deep understanding of your company and product drive output from your outsourced data entry team. It will improve quality when there is uncertainty or complexity in work conducted, which is especially pertinent for a start-up.
Keep HR sourcing and training with the off-shore company—they will be able to do it better because they are physically present and incentivized to keep output as high as possible.
In the end, Jeremy was able to increase product data entry volume, save money, save time and increase onshore employee happiness by outsourcing a core aspect of his business with the FORM foundation method of offshored outsourced data entry.
Unlike outsourcing a task first and then putting out fires, the FORM method mitigates frustration and helps you to avoid potential failures, while setting you up for continued success.
What do you think of this outsourced data entry case study and The FORM Foundation method?
Maybe you have a question about The FORM Foundation method for outsourcing.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below!