Solid Concept - The First Milestone in Product Development
 Professional Innovation

The recession has made available a great pool of marketing talent that can now be acquired at reasonable rates and as a business expense. So the outsourcing of product management is far more economical than building in-house staff today. You can actually build a stronger team because of the strength of the talent pool.

  • You also don't have to outsource your strategy. It is possible to set boundaries between decisions about product direction and executing the tasks those decisions need to be successful. The former you can keep in house using a small team. The latter you can outsource.

  • Product management task execution is no longer strategic because the pool of people in the market is as good or better in some cases than what's left in-house. They will network and form alliances and in a few years the freelance PM role will be as much a staple as market communications freelancing is today.

For companies looking at a slow recovery and/or a shift in their profit margins coming out of the recession, the economics will drive this evolution.

By Phil Casini, Managing Partner - Advance Tech Marketing


Managing Outsourced Projects

Many people are not sure what they should be doing when they are asked to manage an outsourcing relationship. Part of the uncertainty is because some of the project roles are reversed when you outsource work to a third-party.

In this situation, even though you may be asked to "manage" the outsourced project, you really take on the quality assurance role.

You should ask the right questions to make sure that the vendor is doing his or her job correctly.
You do not necessarily need to know all the details of how he or she is managing and executing the project, but you must feel comfortable that the project is progressing as expected.

What to Look For at the Beginning

First, look for the up-front deliverables that you expect all projects to have. For example, is there a Project Definition document? You must make sure that the vendor has defined the project correctly and to your satisfaction. You should approve this document. The vendor must also have a project work plan.

As the project moves forward, you must be aware of the key milestone dates, and there should be a formal checkpoint to ensure that the deliverables produced up to that point are complete, correct, and on time. You and your sponsor should formally approve the important ones. If there is a partial payment being made at a milestone, you ought to ensure that the criteria for payment are defined and that they are in fact completed.

Depending on the nature of the project, you may require regular status meetings and formal status reports.

Questions to ask at the beginning of the project include:

  • Has a Project Definition (or similar document) been approved by the appropriate stakeholders and managers at your company?
  • 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 work plan been created?
  • What project management procedures will the vendor 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 milestones been established to review progress so far and validate that the project is on-track for completion?

Questions to ask at every milestone include:

  • Have the deliverables specified in the Project Definition been completed up to this point?
  • 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?
  • Will all the future deliverables specified in the Project Definition be completed?
  • Are issues, scope, and risks being managed as stated in the project management procedures?
  • Should the contract or Project Definition be updated to reflect any major changes to 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.

Adapted from "Managing Outsourced Projects" by Tom Mochal
International Community for Project Managers
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