So, how do you outsource a project successfully?

Outsourcing - especially if it’s your first time - can be daunting. You might be looking to scale up faster, add expertise to your team quickly, save money or focus on your core competencies.

But there’s a lot to consider, and it’s easy to get put off thinking about the things that could go wrong. For example, will you have enough management oversight? Will you have the same level of data visibility that you have now?

It’s also easy to worry that you won’t get suitably qualified people working on your project, or that the finished product won’t be as flexible or as upgradeable as you want.

But thankfully, by choosing the right partner, being clear about your goals and maintaining open communication, you can be pretty confident about getting the right result.

We’ve put together our top tips for successful outsourcing.
So let’s get started!

1. Define the project thoroughly upfront

Be clear about what you want, why you want it, and how success will be measured before you start talking to an outsourcer. Defining these things internally will increase buy-in from your team.

There’s also a less obvious benefit. When your team members interact with the outsource team, they’ll act as better relationship managers if they understand (or even helped set) the parameters and objectives for the outsource team.

They’ll also be better at flagging up relevant issues early, and help keep the project on track.

2. Keep things flexible

It’s important to make sure there’s flexibility built into your outsourcing contracts.

It’s almost inevitable that the scope of the project will change as you go along. If it’s a long project, the needs of your business itself might change. In IT, where market demands shift so quickly, that’s especially likely.

In those circumstances, having the ability to be agile can be hugely beneficial.

3. Treat outsourcers like regular members of the team

Bringing a contractor into your team is almost like a hiring an employee. It’s fine to be picky and to ask similar questions to those you’d ask in an interview.

4. If you can, start small

Especially if this is your first time outsourcing, it’s a great idea to start with a simple project that is relatively easy to define and quick to deliver. That will give your internal and external teams a chance to get to know each other and work on a live but not business-critical task. In the process, they’ll have the opportunity to iron out any wrinkles in project management processes.

5. Define, implement and update project milestones

It’s easy, especially in the middle of a project, to overlook project milestones. Sometimes at the start of the project, they can feel arbitrary and ill-defined. Once the project is live, milestones can easily become irrelevant or overtaken by events.

They’re most effective if they are used as a live barometer of progress that you update regularly during dialogue with your outsource team.

Good milestones can act as a really useful ‘central organising point’ for everyone involved. If you tie them to payments, you can also ease cash flow and give yourself extra protection.

5. Be absolutely sure about who is responsible for what

Any time you add more ‘cooks to the kitchen’, projects can get messy. One of the most common problems is when ownership of individual parts of a project isn’t clear. That can lead to mistakes, frustration and a breakdown in relationships.

When that happens, things go south quickly. Ideally, use project management software where both you and your outsource teams can keep tabs on who needs to do what and by when.

6. Be clear about after-sales support

For bigger projects or end-products that don’t dovetail with your existing systems, you might need to factor in more handover time and staff training.

For a big project - or a final product that doesn’t dovetail neatly with your existing systems, you might need to factor in more handover time. That might include staff training, but the big thing is having an arrangement in place to deal with issues the emerge when the project is live.

What often emerges are niche use cases not identified in the project scoping. Getting post-launch support agreed means more accurate quoting, clear expectations on both sides, and a smoother project implementation.

7. Bring your team in from the start

Get your team involved early. Not only does that create vital buy-in, but it also surfaces important information early. Bring in the people who actually do x in your team into the process, and they’ll often identify important hurdles and stumbling blocks. When they do that in the scoping and planning phase, it saves you money.

8. Engage fully with your outsource team

If you can, go visit them. Work with them the same way you work with anyone else in the organisation. As well as giving them feedback, also ask for their feedback. They might have ideas about how some processes could be made to be more efficient.

9. It shouldn’t just be about the money

It’s true that in a lot of cases, outsourcing can save you money. But it doesn’t need to only be a cost-saving effort.

By working with outsourcing who are experts in their field, you’ll also get the benefit of their know-how. Find the right partners and they’ll act as part project team, part consultants, helping you define and design the project based on what they know works.


We hope you found that helpful!

Ready to talk about outsourcing? Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about what makes for a successful outsourcing experience. So, whether you need a single expert or a whole team, tell us about what you’re trying to achieve.

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