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Dual-Shore Project Management: Seven Techniques for Coordinating Onshore-Offshore Projects

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The geographic separation between onshore and offshore project teams, combined with cultural and time differences, will exacerbate project management problems and increase execution risks. Marcia Robinson explains how the ability to remotely manage projects and, more important, offshore teams will prove to be a powerful factor in offshore outsourcing success.
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The job of IT manager has evolved considerably as companies have worked to increase their global presence, whether for reasons of cost savings, market access, or expansion. The newest task organizations have added to IT managers' packed to-do lists and tight deadlines is that of overseeing a distributed workforce. For example, a 2005 listing for an applications project manager posted by Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield sought the following: "Technical leader with strong technology, consulting, communication, and project management skills to supervise software development and implementation efforts in a distributed environment involving onshore and offshore development teams."

So what makes managing an offshore project so different from managing a typical IT project? There are many reasons, including the obvious: language, time zones, and cultural issues (see Table 1). It's the lesser-known items—difficult communications, project management problems, and missed requirements—that often trip up the project manager.

Table 1 Typical Factors That Make Offshore Project Management Tricky

Well-Known Issues

Less Obvious Issues

Language barriers

Inherent beliefs and prejudices

Time zones

Built-in hierarchies


Attitude (e.g., attention to detail)

Culture differences

Work processes

Communication styles

Work practices


Labor laws

Security problems

Respect for IP rights

Quality discrepancies

Bad management

Let's take a look at seven techniques that help project managers improve the odds of success when working with an offshore team:

  • Define expectations up front.
  • Utilize e-tools for better communication.
  • Meet regularly.
  • Provide proper training.
  • Conduct quality reviews.
  • Document everything.
  • Select the right project manager.

As you read this article, ask yourself the following question: Has our company altered project management practices sufficiently to ensure that our dual-shore activities are successful?

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