Back to the question of who is best to manage your offshore team (Assumes you have a dedicated team that works only with your company, the same as your in-house team, but sitting in the offices of your outsourcing vendor, in another country.).
Reasons you may want to outsource project coordination with your offshore team:
1. Depending on the work load of an internal manager, it may be more difficult for them to set as their number one priority; answering questions, reviewing work, etc., of the offshore team in order to make sure that the team is working productively every day. Other priorities can tend to get in the way, especially if part of their work includes their own coding which they may like to do better. Even with a fairly large team, coordination with the offshore team will not necessarily be a full-time position which means they will be juggling the priorities of their work load. An outsourced project manager will have as their number one priority, for a maximum of x number of hours a week (a number than can be agreed upon ahead of time between your company and your vendor and can be based on the size of team and range of duties). The objective of an outsourced project manager is to make sure that their client gets x number of productive engineering hours a day. For example if the team size is 8 persons, everyday their client needs to get a minimum of 64 productive engineering hours. With an internal project manager, this same objective may take a back seat to other internal activities which can be more visible inside the company than dealing with an offshore team.
2. Working with a remote team can at times mean extra time needs to be spent on explanations; it can also mean occasionally connecting with the team late in the day or early in the morning, depending on where they are located. An internal project manager may get sick of what can be seen as “extra” work more quickly, given their other work load. For the external project manager that is an integral part of their job description from day one.
So how does your company decide whether or not to go with an internal project manager or an external project manager?
Assess the quantity of questions that an offshore team may have during the knowledge transfer phase, by asking the following questions.
1. When we have brought new software engineers in to the company in the past, how long did it take them to get up to speed on our applications?
2. Does the offshore team have specific experience with our business domain, or only technical expertise? Will they need a lot of explanation on business concepts?
The more work that is needed during the knowledge transfer and initial team start-up phase, the more you may need assistance from your vendor to provide a project manager as an interface.
Next determine if a potential manager is available internally and how your company’s internal structure is prepared to help them be productive:
1. Determine if the company has a possible person who can be this internal project manager.
a. Do we have a person willing to do this work, or would they have to be “volunteered”?
b. What is the extent of their applications knowledge? They should have as thorough knowledge of the applications as possible, so they can answer as many questions as possible themselves.
c. They should be knowledgeable on the internal structure of the engineering department today, who is responsible for what so they know who to go to for questions.
d. Do they have experience writing specifications and coordinating work internally with business experts and with customers as required?
e. Do they have management experience or do they like working alone?
2. If your company is able to identify an appropriate internal person, determine if the company can provide them with the following:
a. Not overload them with coding tasks of their own.
b. Can the results of their work be measured by the results and effectiveness of the entire team, if so how?
Here the solution is obvious, do you have someone who meets the criteria to be an interface person or no. If not, it may be effective both in terms of cost and productivity to use a project manager from your outsourcing partner.