Managing and Implementing Outsourced Projects

Using an offshoring management framework

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  • Project planning and tracking: Tools for time and effort tracking including time entry, tracking schedules and milestone can either be custom-built or acquired commercially off the shelf [3].
  • Contract management: Project managers need to be aware of intricacies of contract management from both ends of the offshoring spectrum.
  • Technical tools and templates: Organizations have extensive collection of tools and templates for managing projects that managers need to be aware of. Refer to the case in point section below, which highlights some of Infosys' [4] tools and processes.
  • Quality Assurance: Automated testing, validation and verification tools can aid productivity and help deliver quality code. Tools can also aid in bug reporting, configuration management, defect tracking, issue tracking, scripting and test automation.

Case in point: Infosys' tools and processes. Infosys' processes and in-house tools help managers and project teams work toward consistent end-to-end delivery. Pankaj Jalote [5] in his book Software Project Management in Practice has articulated some of the key processes and methodologies at the company, including the process database (PDB), the contents of the process capability baseline (PCB), process assets and the body of knowledge system. The book explains the project process along with a highlight of the organizationwide process and includes sections on requirement change management and effort estimation and scheduling. It also talks about Infosys' quality planning, metrics and statistical process control (SPC). Some of the key highlights of Infosys' tools and processes to facilitate its proprietary Global Delivery Model (GDM) include the following:

  • Strong quality and project management processes that ensure consistent delivery.
  • World-class knowledge management practices and systems that facilitate knowledge sharing and cross-pollination of ideas among teams.
  • Processes for interaction and communication within teams make it possible for globally distributed groups to interface and collaborate seamlessly.
  • Tools that monitor projects to track defects and benchmark them against estimates.
  • Tools such as Influx for scoping, requirements gathering and impact analysis.
  • Tools to monitor efforts, schedule adherence and slippages.
  • Process-asset systems and tools to efficiently store and manage project documents and data.
  • Specialized tools to track individual service projects like application maintenance.
  • Tools to monitor automatic scheduling of audits based on detailed guidelines, followed by tracking of audit results, nonconformance reports and corrective actions.
  • Tools such as Performance and Registration Information Systems Management (PRISM) to automate the workflow for senior management reviews, in line with engagement schedules and plans.

Experience and Knowledge

Mentoring and learning from peers is a valuable technique to build strong management skills. Large service organizations employ dedicated teams of people who benchmark best practices in project management, review tools and recommend them for internal use. Project managers at such service organizations have the benefit of gaining from experiential learning of their peers and colleagues. While managers at smaller service-providing organizations may not have the same edge in terms of formal training and access to tools and frameworks, there exists sufficient body of knowledge, published case studies and reference material capturing the best practices across the industry.

Case in point: Knowledge sharing at Infosys. Organizations in highly dynamic and innovation-focused industries such as telecommunications and networking have long used knowledge systems and repositories. KShop (Knowledge Shop portal) at Infosys is one of the many innovative tools the organization uses to facilitate greater reuse of best practices existing in pockets. Based on principles of knowledge management, the system reduces risk and helps build the robustness necessary to thrive in a changing environment. KShop serves about 20,000 requests a day, translating to an average or about one document from the portal reused every two work minutes. Content of various formats from sources across the organization are vetted, reviewed by peers and added to the database. Another focus of KShop has been to minimize the overhead associated with creating content. For example, KShop generates project snapshots on the fly from existing Infosys project databases, thus minimizing the need for manual compilation of these snapshots. By institutionalizing best practices existing in pockets, facilitating greater reuse and improving virtual teamwork, knowledge management at Infosys improves the ability to deliver quality and achieve faster time-to-market. Within a relationship, knowledge management processes operate at three levels:

  • Project level: Teams have a project management coordinator for each project, and specific knowledge management related goals within projects. Periodic project reviews cover project management as well.
  • Account level: Customer accounts at the company have a knowledge management road map drawn out for them. Teams within accounts draw heavily on the Infosys knowledge management systems. Knowledge sharing is strengthened by a range of methods such as orientation training programs, online discussion boards and collaborative environments within projects.
  • Organization level: The KShop portal hosted on the intranet encourages organizationwide knowledge sharing and management ethos. This also ensures that the teams have access to best practices and the collected learning from client organizations.

Infosys recently joined the elite group of knowledge-focused organizations by appearing in the Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise listings. Others that have made the list include technology-focused organizations such as Lucent Technologies Inc., Nokia Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and BT Group PLC.

Globalization and Cultural Awareness

IT project managers around the world are coming to realize the impact of globalization and offshoring development and maintenance operations. Managers increasingly need to be aware of trends in the global marketplace, as well as have a good grounding on aspects of managing cross-cultural and geographically dispersed teams. Managing global teams also involves emphasis on cultural awareness, nuances of language, communication media and use of technologies to facilitate remote communication.

The offshore application development model hinges on reducing costs by managing people in different corners of the globe. This also means that project plans will attempt to minimize cross-country travel during the course of the development life cycle. Managers need to be extremely empathic towards members of team who are located remotely.

Conclusion

Managers and executives tasked with strategizing and planning for projects spanning geographic and cultural boundaries are beginning to look for tools and best practices. The offshoring management framework with its focus on the four major areas of global management¿governance layer, management layer, technical layer and communication layer¿and developed by observing some of the trends and best practices in the field is expected to complement the research in this nascent area and add to the body of knowledge and practice in the field. The management layer of OMF that extends the five key process groups of PMBOK is expected to continue to evolve as the best practices from the field add to the general knowledge base.

Mohan Babu K. has extracted the key inputs for this article from research for his forthcoming book on this topic, Offshoring

IT Services: A Framework for Managing Outsourced Projects (McGraw-Hill, India), scheduled for publication in early 2006. Although the author is a senior project manager at Infosys' Technology Consulting Practice, the views expressed in this paper are his personally. Contact him at mohan@garamchai.com.

[1] "It is to anticipate the next mega trend, and yet not get distracted by the noise of a hundred talking heads." Annual report of Infosys Technologies Ltd., 2003-04

[2] A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Project Management Institute Inc., 2000

[3] "Shaping Corporate Strategy With Internet-Based Project Management" (The Future of Project Management), PMI Research Series, 1999

[4] Infosys: www.Infosys.com

[5] Software Project Management in Practice, by Pankaj Jalote, Addison-Wesley Professional, 2002

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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