Successful Software Outsourcing Requires Change Management

I often say that finding the right provider is the most important step in software outsourcing. But finding the right provider does not mean your projects will succeed, it only gives you a better chance.

A significant and necessary piece of the puzzle is successful change management within your organization. Too often managers tack-on outsourcing like a kind of appendage, that has no real link to their management-style, communications, processes, attitudes, and that of their in-house staff. On the contrary, the success of your outsourcing initiative depends upon how you change these factors.

As a manager, the effort begins with you. It depends mostly on how you facilitate change. Are you willing and prepared to introduce change, to oversee it, to help your employees integrate change and empower them to offer creative solutions?

For your project to succeed a well executed change effort is needed. Development and project managers will need to adjust their management methods, working processes, and learn to collaborate with remote partners. Software analysts will need to adjust their focus and change how they communicate. Developers will need to learn to work as mentors or within a distributed team framework. These changes are deep and cross-disciplinary and therefore warrant a change management process.

If your modus operandi is to set your people and projects in motion and let them govern the outcome, you’re in for a very rough ride. Outsourcing often entails changes that are too significant to delegate. That’s the point of change management – you need to get involved.

Get into the trenches and work closely with your team. You need to know what they’re undergoing so you can provide support. There will be issues with work habits, attitudes, and miscommunication that will require your involvement to overcome. Your staff will look to you to react rapidly and approve changes to methods and procedures that are no longer effective.  Frequently, you will need to work the other end, with the provider’s management team to resolve issues.

In fact, the initial setup of your provider’s team absolutely requires your involvement. The more involvement you have with their decisions, especially at the beginning, the more likely their team will be well-structured and prepared to work with your team.

Breaking out of a single-unit or in-house development operation is challenging. Whether you are sourcing across town or across an ocean, it takes a good deal of un-learning and re-learning to make it work. It’s entirely appropriate for teams to rethink their development methodologies, communications, and processes if they want to create a pattern of success.

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