Challenges in outsourcing product documentation to India

documentation outsourcing

There is a content revolution happening in India contributed by the English-speaking educated population in the country in addition to the affordable rates. This has made India a destination for companies to outsource their content writing works so as to reduce the costs incurred from content creation.

Even though Indian content factories can churn out content faster than onsite companies, outsourcing product documentation to India comes with serious quality problems. Scott Abel, content management strategist, writes that even though some Indian writers do produce good quality works, others seem to have serious quality issues.

For example, in the case of technical writing, which requires high quality, clear and concise content, many US writers have lost their jobs in favor of their Indian counterparts. The lucky ones who were spared seem to have found that their wages lowered as well.

The US employers outsourced the content to hundreds of affordable Indian writers churning out large amounts of content as opposed to content from small, slow and expensive teams of writers back home.

However, even though there are cost benefits to offshore outsourcing, it has been offset by the quality problems of many Indian writers who do not have command over Americanized English. As a result, even after the content has been created, it becomes subject to much more editing, restricting and sometimes, complete rewriting.

Displaced technical writers argue that technical writing is a skill as opposed to being a commodity. They are baffled at why companies consider cost-reduction as priority considering the huge quality issues that the content created by Indian writers posed. They claimed that the job required experience, training, understanding of audience, niche market knowledge etc., most of which are lacking in the writers at Indian content factories.

However, the blame lies not only with Indian writers. According to Alyssa Fox, director of information development, NetIQ, poor quality content can be produced by American tech writers as well. She said that the problems are not dependent on location or nationality but the management, training and planning problems. She blames the managers for not imparting adequate training to writers for improving their skills.

When a company in US outsources content creation to manifold offshore writers as compared to domestic writers and reduces the timeline of project significantly, much time cannot be allocated to planning, training, strategy and so on. This, by default, gives time only for the writing part, with the result being poor quality content.

Paul Perotta, who is the director of Information Experience Shared Content Services at Juniper Networks, enumerated the problems that accompany outsourcing content creation overseas. He said that the challenges include hiring practice differences, management and governance issues, time zone differences, quality checks, expenses, volatile labor pool etc.

However, Perotta added that outsourcing product documentation is not a bad idea if reasonable goals are set, the power of the new workers is leveraged and successful teams are created. The problem lies with leaders who, without adequate preparation, end up blaming the off-shore writers for poor planning skills and lack of imagination.

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