The Myth of the Onsite Coordinator

One of the proven methods to improve quality of communications with the offshore team is to have a dedicated person to coordinate and oversee its activities from your site. This person should ensure the communication flow, act as liaison between the teams, and often interpret information from local to offshore language. Even if the both sides speak English fluently (e.g. outsourcing to India) there is lot of subtle differences in business lingo that need translation. More so the person could be charged with business analyst activities interpreting domain specifics to technical language of the development team. On my book offshore manager should have very solid PM/PMO skills, in-depth understanding of the processes such as SDLC, strong knowledge of the domain, and of course understanding of the offshore. The job description for the person quickly adds up to a very tall order. Add to it logistic challenges – this person typically ends up working long odd hours – and you realize that it’s not an easy task to find some who can do it.

Of course I am not the one who invented dedicated offshore managers, as a matter of fact even for a fairly small engagement your vendors would strongly recommend that you put a full time onsite coordinator on your team. The vendor is likely to have long list of Pros for adding the person to the team, not surprising it’s a very common add-on sold pretty much with every contract.

There are a few serious caveats here, if not to say traps. Something I have observed on multiple engagements:

  • Onsite coordinator could be just a slightly disguised sales executive with primary objectives that have nothing to do with real objectives of offshore manager.
  • Onsite coordinator could be grossly unqualified for the job but given it due to some internal reasons – for example as a holding position between assignments.
  • Most often the onsite coordinator is just that – a mere coordinator – far less than you need for the position.

Each of the scenarios above is guaranteed not to deliver on the objectives of an offshore manager and to prevent engagement failure you’ll need to invest in the manager as well, in that case why do you need coordinator?

More so, one of the biggest issues with offshore onsite coordinator is the mind set, is s/he going to have your interests at heart or interests of the company which pays him salary? When inevitable problems come up on what side s/he will be? Let’s say that problems are severe and you have to take your vendor to court, can you really count on onsite coordinator to be unbiased?

I can not tell you how many times I had this discussion with offshore vendors who continue to push for the “best practice”. Well, if that’s so helpful for you to deliver on the engagement objectives why don’t you do it on your own expense? That question typically falls on deaf ears.

When you consider expense, typically either offshore rate + per diem / hotel / car / etc. or onsite rate of ~$80 an hour you realize that it’s might cost effective to find offshore manager locally. Good offshore managers are not easy to find and they are not cheap but believe me, they are worth every penny.

8 thoughts on “The Myth of the Onsite Coordinator

  1. Nick,

    I can’t agree any less with you on this subject since me being one of the guys doing this job. It certainly adds a lot of value to both the parties and helps strike a perfect balance between their vested interests.

    I found your blog pretty interesting and added it to my favorites for weekend reading.

    Happy Blogging…

  2. Incredible insight. I liked the post. But, I don’t really agree with some of the points. If the “Onsite Offshore Co-ordinator” is ‘hired’ by the client, then s/he will have the interests of the client at heart. Provided that the person the client is hiring was part of the offshore team and has worked as the “Offshore Onsite Co-ordinator”. Remember, this person was an employee of the vendor and is now moving up to be an employee of the client, but still managing his team from the client location. What do you think of this scenario?

  3. To have an employee of the vendor as a employee of the client is not going to solve the problem as he is more an opportunist than a unbiased person. I disagree here on the onsite offshore coordinator not needed position. Of course he can turn out to be a full coordinator but the truth is most of the customers need that as they just want to verbally tell the requirements. Software engineering and development requires a lot of sync between both sides of the shore. My suggestion will be to have an onsite coordinator role but make sure you validate the person who comes on board.If it comes to a legal battle, then you better rely on yourself than anyone else.

  4. Thanks Sanjiv, onsite coordinator role is needed, how it typically fulfilled is a different story… I had some good experiences, and alas, much more not so good ones.

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