Outsourcing any project – be it software development, survey data entry, microfilm scanning, forms processing, or anything – can be a boon to many businesses. Reducing costs and workforce being the main and basic benefits, outsourced solutions can also avoid delayed delivery, make use of the latest technologies and scale faster when compared to the project given to your in-house team. As there are two sides to every coin, not all outsourced projects yield the best positive outcome. There are chances that what the company delivered is totally different from what the client required.
It is not rare that your goals and expectations don’t match what your outsourcing partner understood about your requirements. While your ultimate goal might be to give a better experience to your already existing users and gain more of them, both by producing a new system, there are cases that the outsourcing partner might only ‘deliver’ a new system without understanding your core requirements. It is easy to leave the whole project with the contractor (outsourcing partner) and your in-house team has only the task of managing the contractor throughout the project. But the complexity and risks in this is as high as having your project fully developed by your in-house team.
What Outsourcing Is, and What It Is Not
According to Gregory A. Garrett, an outsourced project is a “goal-oriented undertaking of multiple tasks, often interdependent in nature, increasingly involving multiple parties, including customer, principal supplier, supply-chain partners (subcontractors), and other third parties to develop or provide products, services or solutions within a given period of time”, and has three main players :
- The client (/buyer/customer) i.e. you. The company or organization that pays for a project to be done outside.
- The contractor (/seller). The organization that gets paid by the client to deliver the project.
- The contract. A mutually binding agreement involving the scope of the project, deliverables, schedules, acceptance criteria and the cost.
It is not an outsourced project if the:
- Client buys ‘time and material’ consultants from an external consultancy firm and manages these consultants on their own. This just becomes an in-house project, just that they hired external resources.
- Client buys a product from a supplier. This cannot be even considered a project and there is no uniqueness.
In order to gain only positive outcomes from a contractor, you need to make sure you plan things accordingly and keep track of everything and anything involving the project such as its status, how it’s coming around, funds used so far, any issues that popped up – which should be resolved before finishing the entire project. Below are some tips you need to follow to avoid unnecessary negative impacts of outsourced solutions:
- Set and prioritize goals
The first and foremost thing you need to have in mind (not just in yours, but also your in-house teams’) is the goal. The objective of the project, benefits expected, and deadline – all these need to be prioritized even before or while finalizing your contractor. Also, you need to be crystal clear on what the deliverables are and when you want them.
- Make a proper project documentation
With clear written documents, nothing can go wrong. Explain everything in detail to make the contractor well aware of your business and goals. Even important elements of your customers, business processes and team can be included for the contractors to get a thorough idea about the business, not to mention the project goals.
- Let the contractor’s team do their job!
You decided to go on with your outsourcing partner probably because you researched about them and found their works promising enough. So trust them. Do not interfere with professional recommendations every now and then and make the team go crazy. Instead, the project documentation should include strict deadlines, goals and every possible detailed description. This will save both you and them a huge amount of time. And sanity!
- The virtual stand-ups
Nothing is bound to go right without proper communication. Daily stand-ups, TGIF meetings, monthly all-hands meetings will do well for your project. Ultimately, what you need is your project done the way you actually want it. Emails are good, but fixing a time for video conference is advised.
- Track the development speed
Outsourcing your project doesn’t mean that everything is left to them. It’s ultimately your project and it requires your attention. Track the development of each phase – use points per sprints. Evaluate them.
- Have your team in place
Have a technically inclined member from your own team involve with the contractor throughout the project. Understanding what you are not much aware of is very important to the development of the project. Not having one such person in your team doesn’t mean the project will fail, but you will have to acknowledge your limitations here. In such a case, consider choosing a managed team to develop your project – a team that will handle your project like their own – from planning, designing and executing with minimal interference from your side.
Many outsourced solutions offer services as required by the client. The word ‘trust’ holds significance here. Regular communication, clarity on things and clear measures are the simple things you need to follow throughout.