Using Offshore Teams to Enhance Onsite Research

All research requests are not created equal. Some require a deep understanding of an organization’s history and business operations, or detailed knowledge of a specific topic or discipline; others can easily be addressed by someone armed with basic reference skills and general knowledge of the subject matter.

Although the use of offshore teams is controversial in some circles, many libraries and information centers hire them to answer basic research requests. Such is the case at PwC, which hired an offshore team in 2011 and spent the next two years training the new staff and integrating them into PwC’s research operations. By 2013, the offshore team was answering more than 80 percent of research requests, allowing U.S.-based researchers to focus on more complex inquiries.

“Adding this offshore capacity enabled us to handle twice the volume of research requests as when we first began the transition process in 2011,” writes Helen Poot in the March-April issue of Information Outlook. “Managing the requests queue became a shared responsibility between the onshore and offshore teams based on timing, sources required, and the level of research complexity.”

All was proceeding smoothly until 2015, when changing client needs forced the research team to re-evaluate its processes and deliverables.

“Our onshore research team needed to be part of interdisciplinary teams combining data, analytics, traditional research, and visualization skills,” Helen writes. “After close and careful review, we determined that our existing offshore team could not meet our new requirements without a significant investment of time and money.”

Rather than make this investment, PwC chose to hire a new offshore team that could provide a wider range of research support services. The new team went “live” in April 2016; today it triages all requests, with the onshore team assisting on an as-needed basis.

“By leveraging our offshore team for basic research requests, the onshore team has been able to address rapidly changing and more complex requirements from our constituents,” Helen writes. “The onshore research group has also been integrated into multidisciplinary teams (along with data and analytics specialists) that can provide more analysis and insight to key stakeholders.”

To learn more about managing offshore teams and using them to enhance the capabilities of onsite researchers, read Helen’s article in the March-April issue of Information Outlook.

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