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.
Many people are not sure what they should be doing when they are asked to manage outsourced work. With an outsourced project, the vendor takes on the direct management of the outsourced work. The client project manager (you) is now the one that has to ask the 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?
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 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?
- Are issues, scope, and risks being managed as stated in the Project Management Plan?
- Is the vendor communicating proactively so that you feel comfortable you understand the state of 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.