LinkedIn Q & A

I think fewer people read the "Offshoring and Outsourcing" forum in LinkedIn than read this blog, or at least the overlap is low, so I thought I'd cross-post a question and answer from there today. You can read the original question, and a few more answers here.

The question, which I think quickly gets to the core of a "sourcing program" was this:

What part does offshore program management play in success of a project ?

I think this is such a good question that I'm going to make this my theme for the week. My first answer, from Linked In, follows below:

If you are talking about a small-scale, well-contained PROJECT, then program management may be overkill, and may in fact be detrimental to the success of your endeavors, since it adds a lot of second-order work not directly related to the making of software, or the delivery of service. (presuming you're talking about IT outsourcing).

However, in my own experience small scale projects are seldom worth the effort, travel and organizational turmoil required to set up an offshore team. So my advice to firms contemplating a first offshore project is to "go big."

This involves planning from day-one to achieve the largest scale they can conceive of, and setting goals and decision points that would allow them to grow their offshore presence based on successful execution. That is, I counsel organizations to start with a small, well-contained, low-risk project, then grow if and when that project meets or exceeds documented expectations.

With this "growth through small victories" model in mind, program management is critical. It will be the program manager (our Sourcing Manager, or some business leader only tangentially involved with the project), not the project staff, who will keep front-of-mind all the meta-goals around long-term staffing strategy. Your program managers (what ever their job title) should be concerned about:

- managing the cultural impact of introducing an outsourced offshore team to the mix.
- determining and documenting performance goals for the entire project, or at minimum for the offshore team.
- measuring and documenting performance against these goals.
- performance correction where necessary.
- communication and socialization of performance.
- creation of "esprit de corps"
- management of the business relationship between the client and the offshore vendor.
- a whole host of due diligence activities, such as security and background checks, data privacy, network security, IP protection, etc. (all the boilerplate stuff you'll want in your contract).

With this in mind, and with the notion that offshore outsourcing is not worth the effort at a small scale, I'd say that qualified, experienced and talented program management is critical to the success of a program, but not explicitly for a given project within a program. (that is, you might get lucky and have a successful project without a program manager...)

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