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Typical Factors That Make Offshore Project Management Tricky September 13, 2005

Posted by Coolguy in IT Offshoring, Project Management.
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Well-Known Issues

  • Language barriers
  • Time zones
  • Distance
  • Culture differences
  • Communication styles
  • Etiquette
  • Security problems
  • Quality discrepancies

Less Obvious Issues

  • Inherent beliefs and prejudices
  • Built-in hierarchies
  • Attitude (e.g., attention to detail)
  • Work processes
  • Work practices
  • Labor laws
  • Respect for IP rights
  • Bad management

Techniques that help project managers improve the odds of success when working with an offshore team

  • Define expectations up front
  • Utilize e-tools for better communication
  • Meet regularly
  • Provide proper training
  • Conduct quality reviews
  • Document everything

Define Expectations Up Front

  • Nothing sets up projects for failure quicker than requirements and expectations that are not established and communicated to both parties in advance.
  • Detail clear and precise programming requirements.
  • Determine timelines for each project deliverable.
  • Define reports for communicating project status
  • Develop a procedure for managing project changes
  • Document procedures for escalation emergencies

Utilize E-Tools for Better Communication

  • Voice over IP (VoIP) and other infrastructure capabilities, instant messenger service, email, and organized video sessions between onshore and offshore teams are powerful ways to compensate for less face time
  • Setting up a regular call schedule
  • Taking advantage of instant messaging, email, and chat sessions
  • Instituting periodic project reviews
  • Providing face-to-face feedback, rewards, and recognition

Meet Regularly

  • To make sure that team members communicate with one another, schedule regular meetings even if just to get a status update
  • Keeping your distributed team apprised of what’s happening is crucial. When all team members are located on site, it’s easy to grab everyone and have a quick meeting in a conference room. When people are distributed across the East Coast, West Coast, and Russia, keeping the team in the loop is not as easy
  • Simple, short communications can boost the productivity and performance of the global team and should be encouraged. They supply team members with a way to demonstrate interest and ownership in the project’s outcome and to recognize problems before they escalate.

Provide Proper Training

  • Conduct knowledge transfer that includes coding standards, product
    architecture, special tools, and hardware and software environments.
  • Technical training. How to use tools, applications, or proprietary software.
  • Process training. How to handle technical support calls and follow escalation procedures.
  • Company-specific training. How to achieve brand-specific messaging and consistent interactions with high-value customers
  • Responsibility based training. How to train people based on their roles. For example, IT architects need training in listening to business users.
  • For example, employees in the United States understand the U.S. healthcare system, such as HMOs and co-pays, even if they don’t work in the industry. This basic understanding of the U.S. healthcare system cannot be expected from offshore resources. Therefore, if you’re outsourcing the development of a healthcare application to India, basic education about the U.S. healthcare system will need to occur before the Indian IT professionals can start.

Conduct Quality Reviews

  • Unstructured, free-form status reports are the enemy of project quality.
  • Use a standard report that clearly spells out how the project is going with respect to different milestones
  • Whenever a task is reported as completed, an onshore team member should check that the corresponding deliverables are accurate, accessible, and documented correctly. Depending on what skills you need to check (such as programming code, offshore project management, or testing routines), make sure to actually review the deliverables.

Document Everything

  • Onshore project managers should confirm that requirements for documentation are understood by the offshore team, including technical specifications, deliverables, due dates, and problem-resolution procedures.
  • With escalating attrition rates in many low-cost locations, make sure that the offshore team also has documented training manuals and escalation procedures for recurring problems

Summary

  • Communication is the key.
  • Meet Regularly
  • Clear written requirements and good documentation
  • Train the staff properly
  • Have a proper in-house team to manage the relationship
  • Use technology to bridge the communication gap
  • Understand culture: Housewife, reluctance to challenge authority
  • Overcome time differences
  • Complete one full cycle quickly
  • Agree on the processes
  • Budget for offshore visits
  • Maintain constant contact
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