Beyond the obvious steps of identifying vendors with the right skill sets and project histories, Swaminathan says companies should also evaluate "soft" issues like culture and communication that so often impede understanding and success.
"Identify who the team members are," he says. "Talk to them and to the senior executives about who will constitute the team. Try to see what the team members are like."
Once an offshore company is under contract, "be absolutely explicit about every single detail [of your project]," says Lawrence Gelburd, a lecturer in entrepreneurship and business at Wharton Business School. "You don’t realize how many concepts and terms are implicit."
Two metrics—yours and the provider’s—hold the real secret to success, according to Gelburd. "Ask the other party what would make this a successful project for them," he says. "Hardly anyone asks that. It treats your outsourcer like human beings, motivates them and helps you figure out how to achieve both agendas."