The following is a public service announcement from the operations team at TaskUs:
It's Monday morning. You sit nervously hoping that your weekend festivities aren't showing on your face. Wait, is that a stamp of a unicorn on the back of my hand? Yikes. You begin to daydream when you are snapped back to attention by your superior, "[insert your name], what is the status on the [insert project] you've been working on?" You blank. Status? Not done. Wait! Before you "outsource" the blame to your offshore or internal team, remember that you could have avoided this predicament entirely by following these 5 steps:
1) Expectations (Set & document them)
Be realistic. This first step can appear straightforward and require the least amount of attention, but it is actually the most crucial. Without a clearly defined objective and a realistic set of metrics, it's very difficult to determine whether you are progressing and will meet your goal. In this step, you can never be too specific. In fact, the mere process of determining what you wish to achieve can improve your overall product, refine your daily business operations and organize company infrastructure as responsibilities are assigned and delegated.
Pitfalls: Hastily creating a quick email that states vague goals likes, "objective: reorganize sales database." Avoid that. Be specific.
2) Process (You have one, right?)
Game plan. A well-planned strategy will serve as the foundation for your entire project. There are a few key components that you will need for this step: documentation, hiring criteria and training guidelines. It's a common misconception that firing a 30-second email qualifies as good management or delegation. You could potentially spend more time answering additional questions or explaining what you actually wanted several times over. Take the time to document all of the necessary information and turn your focus to your other responsibilities as your management team implements your game plan. Don't forget to plan for potential issues and build in contingency measures in the event of losing key personnel, natural disasters and technical issues.
Pitfalls: Ignoring the intermediary steps that must be completed to reach the ultimate objective. Failing to plan for setbacks, unforeseen problems and losing team members.
3) Define Metrics & Tracking Procedures
Avoid the constant sending of status update emails (Re: Status?). Regardless of task complexity, you can always define a clear set of metrics that will indicate project status on a daily basis. Don't become complacent and resort to arbitrary completion percentages. Analyze the daily data to determine exactly how and where you will provide hourly, daily or weekly status updates (depending on the project). When working with a remote team, metrics and daily status updates become invaluable as they provide a clear indication of how things are going and alert management when they need to troubleshoot.
Pitfalls: Generalizing or vague metrics. Even larger projects with steps that require many parts should have very clear units of productivity to use as metrics.
Training is critical. Could you ever imagine reading a book without first learning basics like your ABCs? Teaching a team to work in a precise and regimented manner requires the same level of detail and explanation. You can have an army working beneath you, but the training needs to be well thought out or you could have larger problems on your horizon. It is imperative that you demonstrate how you expect work to be done and train the team on proper protocol. Utilize resources like screen share technology to demonstrate properly. A successful and effective training program can set the tone for the entire campaign and teach your team members to troubleshoot.
Pitfalls: Training that is even slightly shorter than what it should be. Do not sacrifice in any way during this step. Impending deadlines and an overall sense of urgency can ruin training. The time you save by cutting corners in training will ultimately mean more delays later from fixing mistakes
5) Resources (Do you have them?)
As in dating, there is a period of courtship. Before diving into a project, determine whether you and your team (partner) are going to be able to give each other the necessary support. It is a two-way street. If you do not have the proper documentation, time, money and miscellaneous resources to support a successful team project, then it's time to consider alternatives. Your team has the ability to successfully complete the tasks you lay before them, but they are going to need guidance. Regardless of location, internal or offshore, a workforce team can be a wasted resource if used improperly. Determine if you have the right resources and dedicate the appropriate (not bare minimum) amount that will allow your team to achieve goals and exceed expectations.
Pitfalls: Convincing yourself that you have resources when you don't.
Q: Are you going to have enough time to oversee this? A: I'll make time. (awful answer).
When deciding to utilize workforce solutions like outsourcing, an experienced project manager can be invaluable. Even when you use an internal team, take the time to appoint the right personnel to effectively train and provide the proper resources to accomplish the project goal. Follow the five steps listed here and your team will be able to meet and exceed expectations. Success!