How to manage outsourced projects

Part 1 – Introduction and Description of the problem
Part 2 – Requirements and you
Part 3 – Tracking Features and Bugs
Part 4 – The little black book that could
Part 5 – Your developers – Don’t be a prick
Part 6 – Wrapping up

Introduction and Description of the problem
In this series of articles (yes, this is going to take a while) I am going to give away advice on how to manage those freelancers.
Some people who know me for a while do know that I am an IT Project Manager at day, and an affiliate marketer and SEO freelancer at night.

I have also given away free advice regarding project management.
As this was often the case in answer to some thread complaining about idiot programmers or stupid Indians, it normally fell on deaf ears. Because – let’s face it – what the people wanted was someone to chime in, not someone to tell them they have been doing it wrong.

Now, this series of articles is going to be about how not to get burned when using freelancers to outsource your work.

Every article is going to present some problem you will encounter in your outsorucing and also provide a pointer on how to avoid or remedy that problem.

In this first article in the series, we are going to take a look at

Why outsourcing sucks – the root of all evil

Looking at the complaints about outsourcing, it seems as if it is a really, really bad idea.
And often times, it is:

  • The workers speak another language
  • The workers do as little work as possible
  • Corners are cut whenever possible
  • The end result is not what was expected
  • Work is not finished
  • Work ends up costing more than planned

The sad truth is, that all of these are traits that are inherent to outsourcing.

Like an ugly child, outsourcing was born like this.

To understand my point, we have to look at the model of outsourcing, as it is done on the web nowadays.

Person A <— fixed offer <— Person B
Person A —> requirements —> Person B (worker)
Person A <— finished product <— Person B
Person A —> fixed payment –> Person B

What we see here is a crude diagram of how it is supposed to work. As the employer, I have an amount of cash, which I am going to spend for a product or service. The worker is supposed to deliver the products of his work to me when finished. Depending on the product, I will also have the right to some minor edits before signing off on the work, or to refuse to pay when the work done is abysmal.

This, however, is a fairy tale dreamt up by some stoned economics majors seeing pixies in the sky.

In the real world, this model quickly dissolves into a pile of horse manure. And, believe it or not, all the reasons can be found in that diagram without altering any of the ingredients.

Now, of course, comes the point where I dissect the problem. I will do this by pointing at the elements in question and explaining the real world equivalent.

It starts with the amount being paid.
This amount can be the outcome of a bidding war (freelance sites), or a fixed offer by the employer. Anyhow, this amount is often times a slap in the face of any real person having to buy food, etc. This is also why freelancing work often wanders to countries such as India or Russia, where the mighty US $ can still buy stuff.

This is also the root of all your worries. That, combined with your requirements.

The requirements are supposed to build the basis of the work. They describe the product as it should be, the form the matter on which the amount for the work is based and also serve as the document on which faulty work can be disputed.

Also, the requirements I have seen on the net so far can for the most part be described as a giant load of horseshit served with a side of sucking sweaty donkey balls. Don’t even ask about the dessert.

Combine these two and you get the current state of outsourcing:
Worker B will cut any corner he can find in the requirements to be able to still make a living on the shitty amount employer A is willing to pay.

Mostly, this state of affairs doesn’t make anyone happy.

The following articles will try to help you find a way to make it bearable, or even succesful.