May 17, 2020

Overcoming Outsourcing Language Barriers

Outsourcing Problems
Outsourcing Solutions
Freddie Pierce
2 min
Make sure to follow these top tips to help overcome language barriers when outsourcing
It is estimated that there are over 6,000 languages spoken in the world. In todays global business climate, companies do their best to reach all parts...

It is estimated that there are over 6,000 languages spoken in the world. In today’s global business climate, companies do their best to reach all parts of the world to maximize profit.

That’s where outsourcing comes in. Countries like India have long been outsourcing hotspots, due to cheap labor and infrastructure capabilities. But India has largely been an outsourcing leader because of the prominence of the English language in the country.

With some outsourcing companies doing work in over 70 languages, overcoming language barriers can be a mountain-sized task. Here are some top tips to help you reach the outsourcing summit.


If you’ve looked into outsourcing at all, you already know that different countries have different labor pools that specialize in completing different tasks. The same is true when trying to overcome outsourcing language barriers.

Managing cost is only part of the equation. Finding a country that has skills in whatever you want to outsource for cheap is one thing, but finding a country that is both skilled and has language compatibility is an entirely different animal, one that requires hours of dedicated research.

If you’re outsourcing call centers to reach specific demographics, language compatibility goes one step further, as you’ve added another language to the equation.

Do the research, and find a location with a best fit for your company’s language needs. It all starts with choosing the right location.


One of the biggest mistakes a company can make when outsourcing to a country that speaks the same language is to assume that there are no language barriers.

Heather Robinson, who has worked with DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Nokia, Pepsi and Boeing, feels companies are setting themselves up for failure by focusing on solely the spoken or written word.

“Outsourcing is not simply about the English language, but involves other aspects such as building international teams through developing cultural general and cultural specific skills,” Robinson told Business Line.

Robinson suggests companies hire intercultural consultants to help bridge the cultural gap between both parties, which includes language barriers.

“(The companies) need to find a balance between the two situations, and this is where intercultural consultants can help,” Robinson explained. “The ability to communicate, collaborate and create across cultural difference is being recognized as a critical professional, personal and societal competence for this century.”


Outsourcing gives companies to opportunity to focus on core business, taking normal business functions and paying another company to do them. But every company is different, and every outsourcing contract is different.

Go over the basics of your business with the company you’re outsourcing with. Take your time, and pick the right words. Make sure they know exactly what you’re about, what your goals are, and what you’re hoping to get out of the entire outsourcing process.

Be specific, and frequently check for understanding within the outsourcing company. If you’re not sure they got something you articulate, they probably didn’t Ask for clarification if you need to. Remember, overcoming outsourcing language barriers is not easy; it takes constant dedication and practice.


You used to actually have to pick up the phone and punch in a number to reach someone on the other side of the world. Not anymore. Thanks to email, texting and social media platforms, we now have more choices for communication than ever before.

But these new revelations aren’t without consequences, as complexity has been added to the communication process.

Stick to a basic principle. As the saying goes, the written word is more powerful than the spoken word. That’s also true in outsourcing. While certain words can be missed in lengthy discussions, long emails will have everything on the record that you’ve communicated.

Also, just like in the dating world, try to find one form of communication that works and stick with it. No need to add anymore complexity to an already difficult process.

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Jun 11, 2021

NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience

6 min
Joey Dean, Managing Director of healthcare consulting at NTT DATA Services, shares remodelling strategies for more resilient supply chains

Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.

The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.

A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach

“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.

“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.

But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?

“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.

Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes

So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry

“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality. 

“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”

Evolving Procurement Models 

From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view. 

“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.

“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”

“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”

But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?

“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.

The Challenges

These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.

On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.

Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”

He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”

As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”


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