If you have decided to outsource some of your CAD to an offshore service provider ("OSP"), it is important that you carefully evaluate your potential partner first. Outsource to them only if they successfully pass through your appraisal sieve. Here are some important evaluation criteria and methods for assessing them:
-> Criterion: The OSP Should Be Web-Savvy Check if the OSP has a website. If they do not, in all probability dealing with them will yield a bad experience. If they have a website, check whether their postal address and telephone number are displayed on it so that they are physically reachable.
Give the OSP credit if the website has mostly text with limited graphics, has almost no animation, clearly explains what the OSP is doing and is easy to navigate. This implies detailed knowledge on website design, which increases their ‘web-savvy’ rating.
Your CAD outsourcing is most probably going to involve transferring large amounts of data over the web. This calls for an OSP who is proficient with email. To evaluate this, send the OSP a message asking for more information and see if you get a response within 12 hours. The response should be perfectly focused on your question. You have to be careful an autoresponder (ie, a web-based answering machine) is not replying to you, so formulate your question to require a tailor-made reply.
Subsequently send two more questions related to the work you are considering giving the OSP. Check whether these responses too are timely and relevant. If the OSP has a form on their website for sending them email, give them extra points (smart webmasters do not put their email addresses on their websites to discourage spam robots from finding the addresses and sending junk mail to them).
-> Criterion: The OSP Should Have a Satisfactory Profile
Email the OSP a questionnaire that gathers a wide range of information on them. Decide whether you like what you find. This questionnaire should cover address information, telephone number of the individual dealing with you, company history, financial performance, references, specific CAD capabilities, track record, installed hardware, software platforms, manpower, HRD policies, data security and physical security. (If you would like to save the extended time and specialised labour involved in compiling such a questionnaire, you can buy a bank of 200+carefully formulated questions from The Magnum Group at http://themagnumgroup.net/cadques1.htm for under $15. )
Get in touch with some of their references and ask them whether they had a good experience with the concerned OSP.
-> Criterion: The OSP Should Know Their CAD
Now it’s time to ask them for a small paid sample, preferably a minor portion of a project you plan to outsource. Check if their output is satisfactory (you would know best about this). Evaluate whether they asked you all the questions they should have before they started drawing, which is a sign of good planning practice.
-> Criterion: The OSP Should Know Their Commercial Paperwork
Send them a detailed specification of the CAD work you want done and ask for a quotation. Evaluate their quotation based on whether it clearly describes technical scope, cost, delivery time, non-disclosure, modification costs, payment terms, guarantee and mode of payment. If all these topics are overed, you are probably talking to someone with commercial competence - good!
-> Criterion:Be Satisfied with the Contact Person
Phone this person and chat briefly with him/her. Decide whetheryou feel he/she is competent and easy to deal with.
~ The Evaluation's Over: Now What? ~
By now you have an idea of how good the OSP is. Start by sending them a modest assignment. Don't be worried if there are many technical questions: these should decrease as the OSP does more assignments for you. But that's not all. Careful selection of offshore CAD service providers is not the only factor involved in successful offshore CAD outsourcing. A major cause of outsourcing breakdown is the client's failure to manage the ongoing process. There is a lot to be said here; it will all emerge in my next article - stay tuned!
About The Author
Lakshman Balaraman, MS (University of Michigan), B Tech (IIT), runs an architectural and engineering design firm, The Magnum Group, India (http://themagnumgroup.net ), that provides CAD drafting services to the global marketplace. You can freely reprint his articles in your website, ezine, or ebook.