How’s that project outsourcing working for you? In my experience, entire projects or just some of the project work can be outsourced for a number of reasons. Sometimes organizations are required to outsource project work due to a lack of resources, lack of skills or a need to reduce costs. Whatever the reason for outsourcing all or part of your project work, project managers need to be prepared for an additional layer of complexity within their project structure once outsourcing takes place.
I grew up working on Information Technology (IT) projects, and it was no surprise for me to read that IT takes first place in most studies for the percentage of outsourced jobs. According to many of these studies, the most popular destinations for these outsourced jobs these days are in India, China and the Philippines.
Let’s take a look our projects and see where outsourcing might have an impact on our project, our project plan and our internal project team members. There are three key parts of our project life cycle: the controlled start, middle and end of the project.
Controlled Start. The controlled start to a project includes the pre-project activities where we determine if this is a viable and worthwhile project for the business. A project’s controlled start where we do more detailed planning for both our overall project and the next stage. At the end of initiation, we should have our project scope finalized, our project plan built, and be ready to get to work. Outsourcing can add some serious tasks here, such as making the decision to outsource work in the first place. Once the decision is made, we need to get the approval and the funding for the outsourcing that is to take place. Then it is time to find the right contractor, consultant or consulting firm to work with. Vendor selection requires negotiating the proposals, bids and resulting contracts. And don’t forget to clearly define and agree upon the requirements for the scope of work.
Controlled Middle. The controlled middle of a project is where the technical work gets done, one stage or phase at a time. The project manager is using the plan to measure and monitor project performance and to control what is taking place. When we are outsourcing project work, everything we do needs to include the vendors – regular status, informal conversations, checking the health of the project, dealing with stakeholders, forecasting future performance, and dealing with issues and risks.
It can be challenging to rely on an external person or a company to get your project work done. Outsourcing adds some overhead to the project manager’s day job, including managing the administrative overhead of outsourcing for accounts payable purposes. Someone has to educate the outsourced staff members on our internal project processes, procedures, goals and operational requirements. It can be a challenge to track project progress without direct authority over the outsourced staff members. What do you do when you find yourself, the project manager, relying on project team members that may not be “visible” to you or that you have never actually met face-to-face? You may find yourself juggling priorities as you managing your outsourced team, your in-house team and any resulting issues that occur.
Controlled End. A controlled end to a project is when we are wrapping up a job well done. We are taking stock of achievements, reporting on the effort, ensuring objectives and acceptance criteria are met and transitioning the final product of our project into its operational life. If you are outsourcing work, be sure to plan for knowledge transfer to operationally maintain your project’s solution and deliverables after your outsourced team is gone.
Seems like outsourcing is just like any other tool project managers use for project definition and delivery. As such, outsourcing must be carefully weighed, planned and managed as part of your project to ensure project success. So, how’s that project outsourcing working for you?