Offshore Account Manager

A few days ago an interesting question came over email –

Hi Nick,

Thank you for your valuable inputs and keep them coming as usual at your blog..I have been reading your blogs for sometime now and I enjoy reading them as the info provided are very helpful for me.I have recently taken a new role into account management. My task is to define the scope of account management.
Though I have some specific areas in mind; acct governance, acct communications, acct performance & reporting.. do you have any advise on what should be also included? Might you know if there are any interesting online account management portals/association i can get into?

Your advise will greatly help.

Thanks,
AH
Singapore

Account Manager is somewhat ambiguous position with often very unclear job description. Well, when it comes to job descriptions many companies stay at very high level not providing employees sufficient understanding of the expectations and expecting employees to fill in the blanks. That’s in particular common in management positions (take a look at my post Manager, the Job Description).

As a matter of fact Account Manager (AM) is an exceptionally important role, especially in the Offshore Outsourcing world. There are several definitions / understandings of the role, ranging from “a sales person dedicated to existing accounts” to “a customer advocate”. I think it’s not one or another, it’s the entire spectrum and in that light AM responsibilities include many dimensions, the list below includes the most important three.

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Peace in Metrics

Agile techniques and approaches are marching across the software land conquering more and more territories. It was not a blitzkrieg forefathers of agile has dreamed of but it is a successful invasion. Along with true agile aficionados with their well thought out and understood processes the crowds of software anarchists disguised as agile evangelists are capturing organizations by storm. Picking selected items from the agile menu they bask in glory of self-respect enjoying coding / refactoring dance leaving aside schedules, deliverables, and milestones. While religiously following 40-hour work weeks and iteration retrospectives they enjoy weeping sounds of deadlines as they fly by.

While agile made a huge positive impact on software development as any other broad initiative it created some serious problems and could not avoid significant collateral damage. One of the first victims to the new brave world were the software metrics. Indeed, why do you need metrics in a self-monitoring organization with a clear measure of success – the working product? Even Tom DeMarco backed off from some of his ideas, why should not you? … And maybe that’s why it took agile community such a long time to figure out that test-driven development is ridiculously expensive…

Combining agile and offshore is not at all impossible. It is however complex and requires a plenty of prerequisites, including serious agile maturity of the on-shore team. You should think twice before eliminating “overhead” of the waterfall on your offshore projects. And specifically, forgoing the metrics can be detrimental / border line juvenile delinquency.

Of course the topic metrics is also complex and rather controversial. What to measure? How to measure? What to do with the results? Here are a few tips to consider:

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Bidding Sites and Building Frustration

A couple weeks ago I put an RFP out for a very specific set of SEO activities on one of bidding sites. This SEO project was for my darling app – WWHOW!.  Since WWHOW! is based on user generated content it offers serious SEO challenges. Having spent a few months fighting those I knew fairly well what I was looking for and did not make a secret out of my expectations. To no surprise my straightforward SEO request generated a lot of responses primarily from India-based providers. I just finished going through all responses I received to date and it looks like I will have to go through bid-response process again, maybe I have to try a new bidding site, maybe change my request format, content, layout… Frankly, I doubt that changing much on my side will affect the dynamics of the campaign and quality of responses. I might need to change the target development community…

The fact that I received not a single proposal that I could remotely go with was quite irritating. One of the reasons I was annoyed by it is its effect on my “buyer’s reputation”. In some way majority of established bidding sites penalize buyers for not accepting proposals. Some of them will even cut buyers off if they do not meet some criteria, e.g. certain percentage of project acceptance. It appears that they will cut you off independently from the reasons you do not accept the proposals. It happened to me on www.eLance.com a little while ago and since despite multiple attempts I could not reach the customer service I ended up moving to another bidding site.

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