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Tips and Tricks for Outsourcing Research and Development
Tips and Tricks for being happy with your consultant
We want you to have the best experience possible, even if it's not with us. Make sure to keep these factors in mind when setting up your outsourcing / consulting relationship.
  • Be prepared for "scope creep": Scope creep is the gradual introduction of unanticipated requirements or work. The most common complaint we hear when people come to us from other groups is that scope creep makes everybody unhappy. The client is unhappy because they see expenses rising and the outsourcing team is unhappy because they see more work and know they will face a skeptical client.
There are two main defenses against scope creep: project definition and task based management.

Project definition is best used when there are clear goals and tasks that need to be completed. The challenge is to make sure there is maximum clarity around the scope of service. The term "design review" can mean very different things within different organizations, for example, and the experience is unpleasant for all involved if the service provider discovers that extra work will be needed. Any customer specific documentation requirements should be defined up front with examples and the customer needs to understand that meetings and documentation require time. A project definition document can easily reach 10-40 pages in length. Project definition is often not feasible for agile research and development tasks.

Task based management, the second scope management technique, is often more suited to an R&D effort. One can break down the initially targeted effort into tasks and price by task, then include arrangements for adding tasks as they arise. As task needs become clear they can be individually discussed and approved. This requires a bit more communication but is often far more flexible and attractive for research and development work.

  • Have an exit strategy: Many customers come to us after trying another group first. We recommend that for any contract you have considerations of how a transition will work if the effort is brought back in house or moved to another vendor.
It is also worth asking your service provider how they deal with the "end of outsourcing" if the project is successful. At Ardent Research we pride ourselves on frequently helping customers findfull time replacements for ourselves when a project reaches a maturity level that warrants building an internal organization. We often help by placing calls to our industry contacts and for full time staffing needs we endorse MEMStaff.

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