Profitability on our projects is always a goal – especially as our senior management looks at our portfolio of projects. And there is probably no greater factor into that profitability than our own human resources that are charging to our projects. So, in terms of technical projects…one thing that many organizations consider is who to utilize when developing software on a project. Do we use in-house resources (if we even have in-house resources…depending on the organization type, of course)? Do we outsource it locally or nationwide? Or do we utilize inexpensive offshore development resources?
It is that last option – the offshore team – that I want to focus on for this article. Not about whether we should use them or not…that’s a call each organization has to make. My focus is more on what the project manager needs to be considering and focusing on once you’ve already made that choice to go offshore. I’ve been there, and for me it comes down to five key things to look at and consider or incorporate into the project….
Identify a leader
As the Project Manager, it is critical that you identify a strong leader among the offshore team to act as your primary point of contact. It’s hard enough to work with a group of developers on the other side of the world and 12 hours away without having to oversee the work of the entire staff for the duration of the project. Identify a leader that you can communicate regularly with and make that person responsible for all updates and reports. That will be the individual who is available to be on customer calls and report development status as needed. If there is a US-based lead developer this offshore team lead will be the person who is available to that lead developer during the delivery team’s workday schedule.
Manage scope extremely carefully
Communication is always going to be an issue whether it’s across cultures, time zones, pure distance…whatever…there is always the risk that it can present some sort of roadblock. Since that is the case, the Project Manager must manage scope as though their life depended on it.
It’s a given that scope must be managed with the customer. Rarely do you think of it in terms of managing it within your own team. But when you’re dealing with offshore development in the form of a 3rd party organization or just developers working for your company who happen to be in another country, it can also be an issue for your team members.
Miscommunicated or misunderstood requirements can cause scope issues. Poor oversight of the offshore activities can strain the budget and timeline and thus create scope issues. Sheer distance coupled with a lack of identified offshore leader (see above) can result in renegade developers who think they know best what to do (but really don’t) moving forward too fast and down the wrong path which will also ding the budget and timeline and result in scope issues. Keep a tight rein on the project scope and schedule and communicate well and often and you can mitigate this risk.
We’ve looked at the first two areas of concern and oversight on my list when managing offshore teams. In Part 2 of this two part series we will look at three more things the project manager needs to consider a bit differently when working with an entire offshore development team.