Is a project manager really needed for an outsourced engagement? What happens in his absence?
Many companies looking for software outsourced services believe that they just want technology experts whom they can manage. However, in a typical offshore engagement, it is not practical for the sourcing company to maximize a relationship with an offshore team.
The project manager is the mediator, communicator, and the owner. He is responsible for final delivery and it is his onus to ensure that the project does not go beyond the budget, that the team is working efficiently and that the client’s requirements have been understood clearly.
There are examples of projects where a client in the US hires a team of testing engineers to run a set of tests on the product. The team in India perform test automation but bugs continue to appear. The team in the US expend a lot of time and energy in identifying the bugs and resolving them. Suddenly they realize that the testing team is not doing as much as they wanted or expected.
The engagement is not successful.
Enter project manager. He listens to the sourcing companies’ actual requirements. He does not see it merely as a testing engagement. He sees the product and understands its real requirements. He knows that the end result is not a set of tests but testing to ensure that the product works perfectly. He selects the team who will perform testing but he will also be there to ensure that they are not testing a `product’ but testing it from the end-user perspective. The original bugs are now compounded by several new bugs which the client had not even expected. These bugs if not identified now would have shown up after the product is launched. The client would have suffered from bad end-user experiences, loss of clients and a lot more than the company originally even imagined.
The project manager’s role, therefore, transcends managing a `team of engineers’ into ensuring that the client is completely satisfied with the engagement. The project manager does not select his team only based on the years of experience, technology expertise or such established norms. He looks beyond this to put together a team of engineers who can work together to find bugs, resolve them and look beyond what is visible to identify hidden bugs. This extra effort on the part of the project manager may, at first sight, seem unnecessary and costly. But not having this person, can be more expensive in the long run.