Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Why Outsourcing Fails, Even with Good Project Management

~ By Steve Mezak

Dictionary definition of succes on orange button

The programming press and IT journals are full of stories about the failure of software outsourcing. The statistics are sobering. Less than 50% of outsourcing meets financial objectives. The outsourcing of many business processes besides software development also has the same less-than-stellar results.

Forrester reports the top three causes of outsourcing failure are:

  1. No process for specifying the work to be done
  2. Poor project management
  3. No metrics for measuring success

In my opinion, unless you solve the first one, then being excellent at the other two won't make a difference.

Is That Specification Finished, Tolstoy?

Some people believe you need hundreds of pages of detailed specifications as complex as War and Peace to make outsourcing work. Then they hire inexperienced junior programmers that will do only what they are told, at least most of the time. Creativity and innovation are not required or even welcome.

These people get what they deserve, boring software that is never complete and sometimes never even used! That's because there is no way you can think of everything before development begins. It is virtually impossible to describe everything you need in a specification and then use it alone to govern the software development process.

Software development in its most powerful form is a creative and collaborative process. The trick is to specify just enough to move your programmers in the right direction and unlock their creative powers. It is not a carte blanche to let your programmers to do whatever they want. The best specifications contain guidelines and a good description of the end goal or vision of what the software will do. It's the how and why of the software your customers will use.

Just Tell Us What You Need!

You see, for an engineer the fun part is not figuring out what to do. The fun part is figuring out how to do something, how to achieve the goal that is clearly defined for your software users.

I remember the first Russian software development team I worked with. I was unsure they could implement the software I needed. Sensing my skepticism, the team leader finally said, Look, we can do anything! You just have to tell us what you need.

He was right, they were amazing programmers. I never had to tell them how to do something. I just had to tell them what I needed. That responsibility was put back on my shoulders, where it squarely belonged.

The Most Important and Often Missing Piece Is What Your Customers See Everyday!

Luckily, I had enough experience with software development that I knew what to give them to get started. But many people don't, as indicated by the Forrester discovery that most of outsourcing fails because of a lack of process to describe the work to be done.

The most important missing piece is to describe how you want your software to behave when your customers use it. It is the use cases and user stories, the sequence of steps the various kinds of your users will carry out in going from screen to screen of the application to accomplish the tasks, goals and dreams that the software can do for them.

You must have a description of how your users will actually use your software screen-by-screen, with as many details as possible.

Without This…

  • Your project management will fail or more accurately you will be managing a project destined to failure
  • Your metrics will measure only your delays and rework required before working software can be delivered

In my opinion, the main reason for failure of outsourced software development is not bad project management. It's not having a clear definition of success.


Steve Mezak is CEO of Accelerance, Inc. and author of "Software without Borders."


Comments (1)

Topic: Why Outsourcing Fails, Even with Good Project Management
4/5 (1)
Gravatar
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarEmpty Star
25th February 2020 9:26am
Aditya Joshi (Kolkata) says...
Totally agree with the points. Mostly it is the lack of proper governance which leads to the failure of IT outsourced projects. However, now times are changing with the addition of advanced SaaS tools, which not only helps in complete governance of the project, but enables automation at various major stages.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
What is the day after Friday?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Top 10 Qualities of an Excellent Manager

The word excellent on a virtual interface with a businessman standing behind it

What are the most important qualities of an excellent manager that allows them to tap into talents and resources in order to support and bring out the best in others.

Demand a Strong Project Plan

Gantt chart

What to look for to advance your consulting projects from contract to execution.

How to Become a Project Manager

Senior lecturer in front of his class

If you're new to project management don't be bamboozled by all the jargon. This article sets out the skills needed to become a competent project manager.

Undertaking a Successful Project Audit

Audit checklist clipboard with checkboxes marked for related concepts

A project audit provides an opportunity to uncover issues, concerns and challenges encountered during the project lifecycle.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Muhammed Ayub commented on…
Understanding the Project Management Triple Constraint
- Fri 9 October 8:54am

Emily commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Wed 7 October 7:03pm

Jeannine Rutledge commented on…
The Project Go/No-Go Checklist
- Wed 30 September 5:21pm

Latest tweets

Psychology for Project Managers https://t.co/pLmcD9yVTo Psychology is present in the everyday life of a project man… https://t.co/jJjpg2j66w about 1 day ago

RT @girlsguidetopm: Learn the 7 steps to earn PDUs fast! https://t.co/j2kvX2c0Qd about 1 day ago

Business Book Reviews • Making It Happen: Reflections on Leadership https://t.co/0qBBpV9LCj about 3 days ago