On June 11, 2010, Smallbiztechnology.com produced 12HoursOfTech as part of Internet Week. The full day event, followed by a reception, brought together speakers from Ez Texting, Kutenda, Infusionsoft, Orange Soda, Net@Work, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, IT2Max, Tap11, Affect Strategies, Pattie Stone, Odesk, Hill Data Management , Yelp, Rate Point and Antonio Neves.
12HoursOfTech was hosted by Microsoft NYC and sponsored by Net@Work
Matt Cooper – oDesk – Director of Marketplace Operations
Listen to the audio and/or read the transcript
We are going to hear about productivity tools in a slightly different spin than what is usually implied.
When starting a company you need a start up kit.
This typically includes Gmail, Google Docs, Skype – technology tools making you a lot more productive and efficient. A thing that is still generally missing from the picture is remote work, and building an online team using a distributed work force as opposed to one in the office.
oDesk is a platform that allows you to hire, manage and pay people anywhere in the world.
It will make it possible for you to depend on people all over the world for doing a large variety of work, from technology development to marketing and search engine optimization, to writing and customer service – all of this online.
oDesk has a contracting network with 600,000 people in 150 countries. You can tap into a very broad and deep skill set. It is a company with 35 internal employees and more than 9 million dollars go through the platform in an average month.
Everything related to the work process is broken down into three basic stages – hire, manage and pay.
You can find providers of various services in a sort of marketplace. You have access to the feedback and work history for every one of the providers. Thus, while hiring is very similar to the process you are familiar with and still consists of an interview, before you even start the interview you have a lot of information about the potential contractor.
Once you hire someone you are provided with some management tools.
The core of that is the visibility of what the provider is doing on a day-to-day basis. Anytime the provider is available to you as the buyer, the system is taking snapshots of his desktop at random intervals six times an hour. So the gap between an in-person relationship with somebody in a cubicle next to you and the one with somebody working from half way across the world is almost obliterated.
This visibility is also beneficial to the provider because of the access to jobs that are not available in his local market. And the visibility also guarantees payment. As long as the providers track their time using the system, oDesk guarantees they will be paid. If a buyer flunks payment oDesk will come after him, but they will pay the provider in the meantime.
oDesk really strives to facilitate that long term online relationship between the buyer and the provider. By using the time tracking system provided by ODesk, and adding to that Skype and other resources, you can actually build an online team that feels and works just as a normal team would working on the premises of your company.
oDesk offers a payment platform that works even if the country the provider is in doesn’t accept PayPal and its alternatives.
oDesk is probably one of the heaviest users of its own system and the results are really impressive. They are ready to bet the company’s future on the web of contractors it has trusting them with highly creative or strategically important work.
Mr. Cooper gives us some keys to managing a remote relationship.
First of all if you are a terrible manager in person you are going to be even worse remotely. Hiring is critical. It doesn’t work like eBay – feedback from previous clients does not guarantee a good choice. Use small sample projects and look at the results. Be sure you pick the provider who is really good for your purposes or for your product. Be specific with instructions – over communicate! Do not withhold information! Use deadlines and don’t let them slip! Take your time and make the investments necessary to make it work!
Global rates are much lower than the rates you would get in San Francisco.
It is definitely cost effective to use remote providers. With customer service at oDesk we work with people in the Philippines and we are finding better quality at 8 dollars an hour than in the US at 20, Mr. Cooper says.
External resources that come in handy
First of all Skype for communication and Google Sites for collaboration. oDesk has developed some very robust dashboards using the basic Google Sites.
Responding to a question about how to set the rates for a project if you are not familiar with the project scope, for example, a non-technical person getting quotes for developing a web site. Mr. Cooper said that for a non-technical person it might be difficult to do that and the best thing to do is to ask for an external evaluation and help from a person with technical background prior to posting the project.
oDesk is currently developing a service that will help buyers by listening to their needs and breaking down the projects into different steps, developing a functional specification for what the buyer needs to be done and helping him build a team for that purpose.