Guidelines for Successful Offshore Project Management

May 23, 2006

The offshore model of projects execution is here to stay and more and more projects as well as the development of work products are being staffed by offshore consultants. Most of this work is done in India through a company's India operations. Here are some guidelines that encompass generic as well as India-specific pointers that can help while managing the offshore efforts in India and elsewhere.

1. Know Thy Partner

The resources are half the globe away in a different culture and time zone with completely different set of priorities. What is important or even imperative to us may not be so to a person so far detached! Therefore it is critical to introduce everyone as a person detailing his/her strengths and capabilities. This provides the human touch and a persona rather than dealing with just a name and a voice.

2. Role Clarity

Things are not clear for two people working in the same room unless a clear distinction between responsibilities is made. Detail out expectations and roles of EVERYONE down to the last resource in detail. For the most part people on both sides have not seen each other's face or known each other personally so nothing should be assumed.

3. Communication

Nothing is more important than regular and sustained communication. It can help to have a weekly conference call between different groups at the start of the week and a complete Project status conference call at the end of the week to check status. People need to vent out their feelings and exchange their minds - let them. Indians, and most Asians, are in general non-confrontational so be extra patient and sensitive with the offshore resources while eliciting views. More than normal communication helps catch potential problems early on.

Encourage the team members to create their detailed profile in the Project Portal (if you have one) along with their pictures. It helps to "personalize" the name people deal with. Use an IM (maybe Skype?) as the most preferred communication on real time basis - it can be fast and real-time.

4. Onshore Team Buddy/Coach

The Offshore people coming on the project onshore for learning/rotation need guidance on various issues like team policies, communication expectations, work expectations on a US project, etc. It really helps a new person to interact and discuss her/his doubts and issues. Something that may not be an issue with an onshore US resource may be a source for depression for an offshore person coming to US for the first time.

5. Detailed Tracking

Prepare three or four different metric charts, for example, on number of test cases, defects opened, rework efforts, number of rebuilds, frequency of defect arrival, duration of resolution, composite effort logged during the week, etc. Make sure people fill the metrics and circulate to all stake-holders. People need to appreciate each other's work and know the faulting metrics.

6. Detailed Planning

Provide cushion in schedules and committed dates. There is always some unexpected/urgent activity which will hurt the on-going task. We are talking about a different nation here where a lot of things may happen differently. Vacation and holiday schedules for the offshore members should be obtained well in advance and built in into the work plan. Make sure that the combined team schedule is known to everyone and posted on a common drive/access area.

Have your build schedule ready for the month in advance. This will help developers plan in advance what code they want to check in. No last minute rush or hitch.

7. Transition Planning

Plan your transition very meticulously, i.e., skills, machines, docs etc. Many people are not given opportunity to learn what they are expected to do. The out-going people don't like to spend any effort on hand-over, as they have no more stakes left in the project. Make sure that people who have made sacrifices of leaving their families and come on a project in a different culture - most of them for the first time - feel appreciated for the work that was accomplished.
Any mistakes or underperformance should be communicated when it happens and in person. Asian cultures avoid being reprimanding/informing about mistakes in public.

8. It's a Partnership

Normally, the onshore people tend to take a view that since they are facing the customer, they should decide what is good for the project. Do not let onshore people dominate or "boss" the off-shore team. If the off-shore team looses motivation or interest, the whole thing falls flat. As it is, the off-shore team is working on limitations of not seeing the client, so give them as much "light" as possible on how things are on-shore. Do not hide things from them. Let them feel a part of marketing team too. Do not treat them as back office boys. Bring them to the front line as equal partners.

9. Rotation

Have a rotation of people between off-shore and on-site team. They will appreciate each other.

The bottomline, therefore, is to prepare and plan well and be tuned into the cultural differences to use the strengths of the synergies.

Desh loves to blog on things known and unknown to him and everything in between. He comes from the diplomacy laden city of Delhi and is currently in the US. He has many blogs of which only three run daily (or somewhat!) - SAP Professional Network , Drishtikone.com and Business Musings.
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Guidelines for Successful Offshore Project Management


Author: Desh


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