Thursday, March 4, 2010

Outsource 1 & Buy 2

One of my favorite lines from a movie was from the movie Contact; the eccentric billionaire dude said, "The first rule of government spending is why buy one when you can buy two at twice the price?" In the movie, the US really wants to send Jodie Foster to meet aliens, technological widget #1 gets blown up, but luckily they get to send her through technological widget #2.

Any company that relies on one person to do a critical skill is asking for trouble. I'm not talking about sole proprietors or skilled professionals like a single doctor; I'm referring to any company that has a team of people and at least one person on the team does something no one else knows how to do. There're reasons why commercial airlines have a pilot and a copilot, why we have two lungs, and why many people think Apple is screwed is Steve Jobs checks out permanently.

If you have a need critical to your company's operation and you don't have enough work for two people, I recommend outsourcing it. Instead of hiring a lone bookkeeper, hire Maxwell Money. Instead of hiring a single systems administrator, hire BitPusher. Need an assistant? Hire YourManInIndia.

There are so many things that can go wrong when you rely on one person. Even a person easy to replace has domain knowledge about your company. A receptionist needs to acclimate to your business processes, an accountant needs to learn your financial practices, and a truck driver needs to learn new routes.

If you have enough work for two people, hire two. When you pair two people up, one can be out sick and the work still gets done. When one person dies, the remaining person can train the newbie. When you have two of the right people paired up, they both feel less stress to know everything and be perfect. In software development there's a practice called pair programming that is becoming very popular here in San Francisco; pair coding requires more discipline, but I've seen it be very effective in cross training and increasing productivity. Pivotal Labs uses pair programming exclusively.

No comments:

Post a Comment