How to project manage an offshore IT team

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Will Astbury
by Will Astbury 29 March 2017

Every IT leader knows it can be beneficial to outsource some of your projects to an offshore IT team.

Not only is it more cost effective, but it can free-up your internal IT employees to work on other projects, give you access to knowledge and skillsets that are not within your internal IT team, and help you to deliver the project more quickly.

However, it can be difficult to manage a project when part of your team is based overseas. Things go wrong in most IT projects, here are some actions you can take to ensure your offshore partner delivers your projects successfully:

  1. Plan thoroughly: Computerworld suggests that before starting a project you should have an in-depth meeting with the offshore account manager and project manager that will be overseeing the delivery of the project. Confirm project outcomes and KPIs, pricing, timescales, the process, delivery dates, and expenses and resources estimates. You should also assign roles to the members of your internal IT team that will be involved in the project. Before going ahead with the project, make sure that you are confident that all objectives will be achieved.
  2. Plan offshore visits: As part of the planning process, set dates to visit your offshore partner, aligning the dates to your project deadlines and objectives. The team delivering the project should know who you are and be able to communicate with you. We recommend that you hold project walk-throughs, reviews, and testing at the offshore location. This will give you confidence that feedback is understood and incorporated accurately in a timely manor. Your presence will also add a sense of urgency to the project. Budget for additional unexpected visits to be on the safe side.
  3. Anticipate changes to the plan: During the project things will change and some tasks, which you had thought would be implemented offshore, will have to be implemented in-house. Remember that this does not matter if you deliver business benefits, but budget accordingly so you can handle cost overruns.
  4. Maintain constant contact: Good communication is essential if you want successfully deliver your project offshore. Make sure you communicate important information at times of the day when you and your outsourcing partner will both be working. In your communications, continually review progress rigorously and stay focused on metrics to ensure that deadlines are met and quality is achieved.
  5. Complete a full project cycle ­- quickly: The best way to check whether outsourcing works for your organisation is to go through a full project cycle as quickly as possible. Go through all the usual steps leading up to the ‘go-live’ stage and identify opportunities for improvement in the process. For example, the integration and interfaces of your applications may work in the test environment but fail in production. It’s a great way to anticipate and avoid costly surprises on bigger projects. Involve your internal team, quality assurance people, compliance team, and user groups if you want the first cycle to be a success.
  6. Allow room for innovation: When the offshore team deliver their solution, it is likely that users will identify opportunities for improvement. If you don't have room in the schedule for incorporating improvements, you may lose this opportunity. Let your offshore team know you welcome their ideas.
  7. Develop your relationship with your offshore partner: The decision to work with an offshore outsourced supplier is often part of a long-term strategy. If you want this relationship to be fruitful, embrace the offshore team as one of your own. Share your vision and plans with them. Major initiatives and organisational changes may affect your outsourced projects, so keep the offshore team informed. Sharing information will help the them better anticipate and respond to the change. Finally, provide them with regular feedback but try not to micromanage too much, this will ensure continuous quality.

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Topics: Offshore IT, Project Management