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Managing an Outsourced Project

The web developer has been chosen, the bid was approved and the papers are signed. Let's get started!

It's common nowadays to hire someone who lives and works far away and to never speak to the person or company you've hired. If you use Elance or find someone through Craigslist, the entire process is handled with email and/or through the Elance system. Don't worry, there is very little risk to this new-age manner of hiring help, especially if you use Elance or a similar site.

If you are not comfortable with this, find someone local and follow these steps:

Have a Kickoff Meeting

In your first meeting, it's important to set the right tone. This meeting should strike a balance between a high-level overview and expected next steps. No one should leave this meeting wondering what they're supposed to do next. At the same time, this shouldn't be the time for every task to be spelled out. Just get people moving forward.

Find a Gatekeeper

At the kickoff meeting, appoint a key contact person from each organization who is responsible for being part of every information exchange, be it a meeting, call or e-mail. Unless the project involves dozens of people, it's important that this one person be the keeper, if not the conduit, of all information.

Share Contact Info

Make a list of all contact information for each person involved. Keep it up-to-date. If time zones or work hours vary, include this on the contact list.

Establish a Regular Meeting Schedule

It doesn't have to be too frequent, but you should confer regularly. You can always supplement with additional meetings, if needed. Organizations being what they are, it's hard to squeeze meetings into full calendars, so the sooner you schedule your meetings, the greater the likelihood that you'll avoid delays in search of mutually agreeable times.

Make sure you schedule regular meetings, in advance. You don't need to clog up your schedule with meetings every few days. Just plan to meet often enough to keep the project on track. Scheduling your meetings in advance will help prevent conflicts down the road.

Keep Track of Progress

One of the best ways to keep a project on track is to use a shared project management tool. The more project people who have access to this tool, the more likely it is to be kept up-to-date. We've had good success with Basecamp.

You can track a single project for free or pay a reasonable amount per month to track several projects.

There are several good books about project management. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • "Web ReDesign : Workflow that Works," by Kelly Goto, Emily Cotler (ISBN 0735710627)
  • "Web Project Management: Delivering Successful Commercial Web Sites," by Ashley Friedlein (ISBN 1558606785)
  • "Real Web Project Management: Case Studies and Best Practices from the Trenches," by Thomas J. Shelford, Gregory A. Remillard (ISBN 0321112555)

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