Project Management

Managing an Outsourced Project – what are the issues?


Outsourcing of project work is more common today than ever. However, even though you outsource the work, you cannot completely outsource your obligation to make sure the project is progressing smoothly. If all goes well with the outsourcer, you do not have much work to do. Unfortunately, in many instances, the outsourcing vendor does not perform against expectations. If that happens, you want to know about it as soon as possible. For the purposes of this discussion, let us assume that your company has outsourced a project, or a portion of a project. Your company has also asked you to manage the relationship to ensure the vendor performs as expected.

Many people are not sure what they should be doing when they are asked to manage an outsourcing relationship. Part of the uncertainty is because some of the project roles are reversed when you outsource work to a third-party. On a normal internal project, the project manager assigns the work and manages issues, scope, risk, quality, etc. The project manager makes sure work is done on time and the project is progressing as it should. He is held accountable for the success of the project. Other people perform a quality assurance role to make sure things are progressing as they should.

With an outsourced project, the vendor takes on the direct management of the outsourced work. The client project manager is now the one that has to ask the quality assurance questions to make sure the vendor project is progressing as it should. Some of the up-front questions to ask include:

  • Is there a contractual agreement that spells out the expectations of both parties in terms of deliverables to be produced, deadlines, payment schedule, completeness and correctness criteria, etc?

  • Has a comprehensive project schedule been created?

  • What is the Project Management Plan the vendor will use to control the project?

  • Has the vendor been clear on what resources will be needed from your company and when they will be needed?

  • Have a number of agreed-upon milestones been established to review progress so far and validate that the project is on-track for completion?

Ongoing Questions

As the project is progressing, you must continue to ask questions to determine the current state of the work. You may have status meetings weekly, but there should be a formal quality assurance check at the end of every agreed-upon milestone. The types of questions you would ask at every milestone include:

  • Have the deliverables specified in the Project Charter been completed up to this point?

  • Have the appropriate deliverables been agreed to and approved by the company?

  • If the vendor has met expectations up to this point, have any interim payments been released?

  • Can the vendor clearly explain where the project is vs. where it should be at this time?

  • Will all the future deliverables specified in the Project Charter be completed?

  • Are issues, scope, and risks being managed as stated in the Project Management Plan?

  • Should the contract or Project Charter be updated to reflect any major changes to the project?

Once you understand your role on the project, it is easier to ask the right questions to make sure that everything is progressing as it should.



October 7, 2008 Posted by | Outsourcing | , | 3 Comments