An outsourced project is out of your hands, right? Well, no, not entirely. In fact, that belief is a common misconception that can lead to trouble.
Until the contract is signed, outsourcers and systems integrators are often vague about the amount of resources that you the buyer will have to provide to assure a successful project. Many organizations, particularly small and mid-tier ones without much experience, believe that the vendor will take complete responsibility for implementation and transition to the new services. Even large organizations sometimes are placated by assurances that project execution will require little support from their staff.
Such assurances are not necessarily ill intentioned. Rather, outsourcers and systems integrators can underestimate the degree to which they need support from the customer's staff. Even when potential customers explain that their current technology base is old, complex and poorly documented, vendor sales teams are typically optimistic about the effort required for implementation and ongoing operation.
As the buyer, you need to be prepared. During contract negotiations, require the supplier to estimate the amount of time needed from your staff. Although the vendor's representatives will protest that they have not yet built a detailed work plan, they should have enough experience to provide a rough estimate and allow you to begin designing your project team.
Keep the following guidelines in mind as you do that:
- Staff the critical roles. At a minimum, every buyer's project team needs a project manager, a business analyst, a corporate communicator and a subject matter expert. In larger projects, more than one person will be needed for each role, while in smaller ones, one person may have to take on several roles.
Even if the vendor's project manager is highly competent, you need your own, experienced project manager to verify that the project plan is complete, realistic and being followed. Moreover, during the project, you need someone who places your organization's interests ahead of the vendor's when trade-offs are required. And make your project manager a peer to the supplier's project manager. Although the supplier's project manager probably will have more experience within the scope of the particular project, your project manager has organizational creditability. Don't make the mistake of having your project manager report to the supplier's project manager. This usually damages your project manager's confidence, autonomy and sense of value. More importantly, it limits your employee's ability to negotiate with the supplier.
Subject matter experts are valuable for their understanding of the subtle effects of current processes, particularly outside of IT. Politics and personalities always come into play, and it's helpful to have someone who understands the history when analyzing current processes and preparing to design new ones.
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