Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Relationship Management IV – Project Management
So you’ve outsourced HRIS, or payroll, or H&W benefits administration, or applicant tracking, or any one of numerous HR functions and now your job is finished, right? Well most of you know the answer to that is no.
You still have plenty to do as work through data scrubbing, conversion, or ongoing vendor relationship management. The one function you probably have not given much thought to, unfortunately, is project management. Reasonably, you figure that is in the hands of the experts now. Your outsource provider that promised best practices certainly has project management down to a science as they have performed this function hundreds if not thousands of times before.
Well, you are in for a surprise. Based on my experience, the dirty little secret in the world of outsourcing is that effective project management is in short supply. Providers don’t seem to have standard project management approaches to implementation, ongoing administration or special projects. Despite what you have assumed based on the SAS70 you so carefully studied, you are, to put it simply, lucky or unlucky based upon who has been assigned to your account.
Just last week a client asked me: “who is responsible for managing all these special projects we have waiting to be completed? Because it seems we just don’t make the progress I think we should!”
There isn’t an easy answer to this. If I asked you who in a marriage is responsible for paying the bills, you might say traditionally the man. And yet in many households the woman pays the bills (after all, anyone who has worked with 401(k) plans will tell you women are much more responsible savers).
Traditionally, the outsource provider is expected to provide the project management in an administrative relationship. You would think the client is paying for it. But I will tell you that the client has the most to lose if administration goes bad. If projects don’t get completed, the employees suffer. To my thinking, the answer to the question of who is: “whoever is best suited.”
Every relationship, whether personal or buyer/supplier, comes to an equilibrium based on the specifics of the situation. Clearly, clients cannot abrogate responsibility simply because they have outsourced a function. At a minimum, closely monitored project management is called for. Joint management is reasonable, and if necessary, take over the project management yourself.
You’d be surprised how fast a provider finds the right people to manage your account once you have determined that you need to take project management into your own hands.
Regardless of where there equilibrium ends up in your relationship, make sure you budget for project managment as you build your business case for outsourcing. No one likes big cost surprises after the decision has been made.
Oh, and by the way, if you are lucky enough to have a gem of a project manager on your vendor team, please tell your outsource provider loudly and often. They need to know!
About the author – Donald Glade is President and Founder of Sourcing Analytics, Inc., an independent consulting firm specializing in helping companies optimize their HR / benefits / payroll service partnerships through relationship management, financial analysis, and process improvement.