Best Practices For Outsourcing Your Project Management
By: Eileen O’Loughlin
If you’re considering outsourcing project management tasks, there’s a wealth of information out there to help you weigh the pros and cons:
For those businesses where the pros win out, we’ve created this article to help you get started.
We highlight what to look for in contractors you hire, as well as the capabilities you’ll need from the tools you’ll use to collaborate. We’ll also provide three best practices to help you structure and refine your processes.
See the Next Steps section at the end for a checklist of outsourcing best practices.
For insight into how real companies approach outsourcing project management, we spoke with industry experts to learn their tips for collaborating with contractors.
Collaboration Capabilities to Look For
Before you start, it’s important to consider the collaboration capabilities necessary to get the job done. This includes both the qualities you should look for in contractors as well as the tools you’ll need to do the job effectively.
In People: When outsourcing some or all of your project management (PM), it’s essential that outside parties can communicate and collaborate effectively with in-house staff. Look for the following qualities when evaluating potential project contractors:
To help you evaluate whether a contractor possesses the above mentioned qualities, eCameron’s Williams recommends asking them the following types of questions:Framework for Evaluating Collaboration Qualities
1. How do you handle a customer/end user that is uncooperative in getting you information?
2. How would you address an executive sponsor that is not engaged in the project?
3. What do you do when someone on the project does something wrong?
4. What techniques do you use to enhance teamwork on the project?
In Tools: Consider tools with the following capabilities when you’re choosing a collaboration platform:
|Communication||Coordinate and communicate about projects in real time. Features include private chat/messaging, group chat, videoconferencing and activity feeds.|
|Planning||Roadmap an entire project or focus on a specific phase—map out the critical path and identify any dependencies and constraints. Common features include Gantt charts, backlog tools and boards and calendar integration.|
|File sharing and document storage||Create and edit documents, upload files, share with other users and store them in a centralized location. Features include version control, change tracking and tagging.|
|Workflow management||Define known workflows and processes. Users know where an item came from and where or to whom it goes next.|
|Task management||Create and assign tasks to users. Set a task deadline and track progress of that item. Often includes automatic notifications alerting users of status changes to tasks.|
|User management||Set user permissions, allowing admins to restrict or grant access to project information based on user role. Features include administrator roles, guest access and user-specific security settings.|
Three Tips for Effectively Outsourcing Project Management
Now that you know what contractor qualities and software capabilities can help you when outsourcing PM, let’s review a few best practices that should govern this endeavor.
1. Plan First, Avoid Questions Later
When an organization is using multiple tools, e.g., a small business using social collaboration tools rather than one formal PM solution, it’s essential to establish a communication plan and hierarchy.
Take the time to review communication strategies with contract workers at the start of a project. You’ll want to address:
By doing this, you can increase productivity by reducing redundancies and questions sprouting from tool confusion.
2. Location, Location, Location
This doesn’t refer to the geographical location of your team, but rather the centralized location of your project documentation.
If your contracted workers are remote, PM tools can help facilitate the shared workspace enjoyed by co-located employees.
Choose one tool to act as the document management and storage system and enforce this policy. According to eCameron’s Williams, unless all documentation is stored in one spot, the tool is useless.
“From the start of a project, I refuse to accept documents that are not in the tool or that have had change tracking removed,” he says.
3. Access Makes the Work Go Faster
While absence may make the heart grow fonder, restricted access certainly doesn’t make it easier for contract workers to do their job.
This is where user management capabilities, such as guest access and user permissions, can be a huge asset for your team. Alternatively, consider tools with subscription licensing, which allow you to purchase an additional software license for the contract period.
How can you determine the appropriate level of access for contract workers? According to Brolik’s Monte, decide on how much access they need to do their work efficiently.
He notes that most outsourced talent charges on an hourly basis (unless working under a fixed, per-project contract). As such, it’s important that contractors aren’t wasting time tracking down information and resources required to complete their tasks.
“The cost of a subcontractor doing poor work stemming from inadequate access to information or tools is much greater than an additional monthly subscription to a piece of software.”
Jason Monte, Senior Account Executive at Brolik
Next Steps: Download Checklist
Although outsourcing PM may not be right for everyone, for those that choose this route, Brolik’s Monte says that bringing in outside talent can sometimes take a project in a new, and perhaps a better, direction.
He uses a potential contractor’s software development skills as an example. “It would be great if a [contract] developer was proficient in PHP for an application we’re looking to build in PHP, but if they’re a whiz at Ruby on Rails, let’s talk about the pros and cons of building it in each and make a decision on how best to move forward from there,” he says.
If you’re considering outsourcing project management, download a copy of our checklist so you can reference our tips for evaluating contractors and effectively collaborating with them:
If you have questions about our best practices, or want to discuss the tools available for collaborating with contractors, email me at email@example.com. I’m available to answer any questions you may have and can help get you set up with a price quote or product demo if you’re ready to compare solutions.