IT organizations are conducting fewer site visits before signing new offshore outsourcing deals. IT leaders \u201cdue to a sense of urgency in the sourcing and selection process, lack of time and the cost of the travel investment\u201d are less inclined to take the long-distance trek, says Steven Kirz, managing director at outsourcing consultancy Pace Harmon. \u201cAlso there is a perceived lack of benefit from these trips.\u201d\nBut the main reason this important due diligence step may have failed to deliver in the past was that the wrong person was making the journey at the wrong time, says Kirz. \u201cThis type of trip is not for the CIO \u2013 it is for the key IT staff members who are tasked with making the outsourcing relationship work and will be engaged with the service provider on a day-to-day basis,\u201d he explains. \u201cAlso, the best time to go is before final section, when there is a short list of providers, as the visit allows direct interaction with the provider team leads to judge quality and identify and resolve potential issues before final selection.\u201d\nWhen companies opt out of paying a visit to potential providers offshore delivery centers, they can get hit with any number of surprises after they sign a . The team leads proposed on paper aren\u2019t the team leads that show up on day. Cultures clash. Transition plans are built on false assumptions.\nWith the right approach, onsite visits can be a critical part of the outsourcing decision making process, turning up the kind of information that helps IT organizations select the appropriate partners. \u201cThe clients that go to India have a much smoother transition and deal overall as they have already figured out issues and how to work together to resolve them,\u201d Kirz says.\nFollowing are some guidelines for getting the most out of an outsourcing vendor visit:\nWhen to go\nBook your travel when negotiations are almost complete \u2014 that is, before the lawyers get involved, when you\u2019re working through service requirements and key contract provisions with a short list of providers. \u201cThis is the sweet spot for outsourcing provider visits as providers that know they are shortlisted, but not yet selected, make the investment to put their highest quality resources forward to win the business,\u201d Kirz says.\nWho to send\nThe IT staff members charged with making the outsourcing relationship work day in and day out should conduct the site visit. \u201cCIOs can make it easier on those responsible for the site visit by making sure their day-to-day responsibilities are backfilled during the trip and recognize that the individuals will have extremely limited access and time (that means no time) for any other obligations,\u201d says Kirz.\nWho to meet\nMake sure the supplier involves the team leads and as many of the team members who will be responsible for the project as possible. The provider will likely insist on having key executives and sales people participate, but push back on that. \u201cIt remains difficult to convince the supplier that the best way to winning the business is to let the customer team have focused time with the provider team,\u201d says Kirz, \u201cbut we overcome this every time.\u201d\u00a0\u00a0\nWhat to look for\nForget about executive decks and sales presentations. \u201cNothing should be done on the site visit that could have been done at home,\u201d advises Kirz. Most shortlisted vendors will have similar capabilities in areas like backup power or physical security. This should be a practical visit for getting to know the proposed solutions, detailed project plans, team members, and tools. \u201cIt is the only way to get a real sense of the ability to succeed,\u201d Kirz says.\nMeet and rate the quality, experience, expertise, and cultural fit of the proposed team, particularly their ability to collaborate and add value. Review the details of the proposed solution and transition to determine how practical it is to your company\u2019s specific situation. Observe how the service provider actually deploys and uses the proposed tools with other clients and determine how or if they will work in your own environment.\n\u201cAll the providers should look relatively the same in terms of pricing, requirement and terms, until those visits,\u201d says Kirz. \u201cCustomers typically meet with three to five shortlisted providers and by the end of the trip have clear frontrunners.\u201d If a visit is absolutely not possible, some suppliers are open to flying their proposed team leads to the U.S., or in the worst case scenario, conduct video conferences.