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Outsourcing IT Projects: Questions to Ask Service Providers

By: Mike Wendt

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When it comes to outsourcing IT projects, it’s important to work with a vendor you can trust. Undertaking a new IT project is a big deal, and depending on the scope, may require a significant investment of your organization’s time and resources. It can often be an uphill battle to get the project approved. However, you’re not alone.

The Dataprise Project Management Office (PMO) runs hundreds of projects each year, and we continually learn from our industry-proven experience. We’ve assembled the top five questions to ask yourself as you prepare to undertake a new IT project and top five questions to ask potential project vendors.

How to Prepare Internally for Outsourcing IT Projects?

  1. Is this the right project?  In other words, does the project align with your organization’s IT strategy? If you don’t have a strategy, the project is less likely to be successful.
  2. Is this the right time to start this project?  Does the project align with your organization’s 3-5- year IT roadmap? What other needs are coming down the pike in the next 3, 6, or 9 months?
  3. Will the project create value for the business?  Do your executives understand the value? If not, this may become your “pet project” and ultimately your “problem” if it fails.
  4. Is the organization willing to make the investment required to support the project? It’s not just about money – even if you’re outsourcing the IT project in full, it still takes time to monitor progress. If your Project Manager recommends weekly status calls, can you commit that amount of time?
  5. How will you measure success?  This is more about outcomes than timelines. How will you know that you have achieved the intended business value (see #3)? If the project will help you solve a specific problem, what does the IT landscape look like once that problem is solved?

Questions to Ask Your Outsourced Project Management Vendor

  1. Will this project have a dedicated Project Manager? There’s nothing worse than juggling a handful of business cards during a project. You should expect one Project Manager (PM) who acts as your main point of contact for the project. It’s okay if the PM is managing several projects, but it’s not okay if your project has several PMs.
  2. Do your resources act as Project Managers and engineers? The attributes of a great project manager are not the same as a brilliant engineer’s. If the same people fill both roles, it can be a sign that the team is small or stretched too thin. The PM managing your outsourced IT project should keep the lines of communication open, even while the lead engineer is “in the weeds” doing technical work.
  3. How will you manage project communication? Trick question! The communication management plan should be based on a conversation between you and your dedicated Project Manager. Some projects may require daily phone briefings, while others may require weekly email reports. Other IT projects may require something completely different. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to communication style.
  4. Can you guarantee that we’ll meet this timeline?  If a vendor commits to a timeline during the sales phase, it may be a warning sign. Good Project Managers will want to understand your organization’s unique challenges before they forecast dates. Besides, every project has issues; it’s foolish to think otherwise. While your PM will work with the project team to anticipate and prevent as many issues as possible, they provide just as much value when they quickly mitigate the issues that can’t be prevented.
  5. What documentation will I receive at the end of the project? Read your scope of work and contract carefully. Has the IT project manager built in time to develop technical documentation? Determine what you will need to be able to support the environment post-project and set expectations during the sales process to avoid surprises later.

Choosing the Right Partner to Outsource IT Projects

Outsourcing IT projects can be a daunting task, but we’re here to help. Using our series of questions, you can determine if your organization is ready to dive into a project and confidently select a qualified IT vendor. So, are you ready to take the plunge? Checkout Dataprise’s Project Management Methodology.

Corresponding Content:

IT Project Management Methodology

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