office and the offshore location. For example, the few seconds
a signal takes to get to India or China from North America can
cause some systems to fail or not function properly.
Make It Work
As globalization becomes the norm, companies and their
project managers will be relying more on teams working in
distant countries. Here are some steps to help ensure offshored projects come in on time and within budget:
1. Pick your projects carefully. What a company chooses
to offshore is as important—or sometimes even more
important—than how the team manages the engagement. Select projects that are self-contained, not overly
complex and don’t require too much communication
with the onshore organization.
2. Vet your offshore partner. Vendors often have access to
sensitive information and they can make or break a project,
so be sure to carefully evaluate them. Experience, specialization areas and track records can vary greatly.
3. Select the right onsite team. Offshored projects require
support from the home office, too. Project managers,
subject matter experts and business analysts at the client
company all need to be part of the offshore project team.
4. Set up team exchanges. With all the potential communications problems, nothing substitutes for face-to-face interaction. It might take 10 days of calling back and forth for
an offshore team to resolve issues that could be resolved in
a day—if the right person was onsite. Bringing someone
from the offshore team to the home office can also facilitate
5. Assume a learning curve. Some organizations make
the mistake of assuming the offshore team will be more
productive than the one in the client office. The offshore
vendor may have certifications
and some very bright people,
but there may also be many junior team members. Build concrete deliverables, demos, iterations or phases into the project
plan from the onset so you have
a true sense of project progress.
6.Establish governance processes. To minimize confusion
internally and ensure that
documentation can be easily
integrated, try to use your
own organization’s methodologies. Also, be sure to institute escalation paths—if there are
problems, you need to know who to go to.
7. Track consistently. Distance makes it more difficult to
truly monitor progress offshore—you can’t walk around
to see how things are going. Consider using iterative or
phased approaches such as agile. Breaking up the project into small pieces lets the team see results earlier and
make any necessary adjustments for future phases.
Despite all the inherent risks of outsourcing, the
industry didn’t grow to where it is today without measured successes.
Offshored jobs are often some of the best and highest
paid in the host countries, which means the people working on your project will usually be highly motivated.
They’re often willing to work long hours and weekends to
meet deadlines—I had an offshore project manager who
would e-mail me at 2 a.m. his time on a regular basis.
Outsourcing can work. Project managers just have to
figure out the right techniques to master the obstacles. PM
Pedro Serrador, MBA,
PMP, is president of
VOICES ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT
RAISE YOUR VOICE No one knows project management better than you, the practitioners “in the trenches.” So PM Network launched its Voices on Project Management column.
Every month, project managers will share ideas, experiences and opinions on everything from
sustainability to talent management, and all points in between. If you’re interested in contributing,
please send your idea to