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PM Essence
Project Management of Remote Service Delivery Projects
- Sowmya Moni, PMP

In the recent past, several Fortune 500 and FTE 100 companies have established their offshore captive centers in India. The trend is to further accelerate keeping in mind the changing forces and dynamics of the industry. As processes become more complex and integral to the organization, companies often prefer to keep processes that include core intellectual property IP and sensitive data in-house by setting up an offshore captive center. In an offshore captive model, companies are more likely to use their own subsidiary than rely on third-party outsourcers for high-end processes which are often referred to as knowledge services.


This article focuses on project management challenges of knowledge services projects out of offshore captive centers and presents a viable project management framework drawn from the experiences and successes of several project managers in the KPO industry. Based on many interviews from managers of a India based knowledge services offshore captive center of the world's top technology MNC, this article provides insights and practices on some of the project management challenges in remote knowledge service delivery.


Knowledge Services or Knowledge Processing Outsourcing (KPO) offshore captive center is an overseas subsidiary set up by a global corporation (MNC) in which the organization's knowledge-related work is carried out by the subsidiary. It is an alternative to contracting to an offshore provider. The captive model gives the parent company complete control over offshore operations. Knowledge services is not restricted to only Information Technology (IT) or Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) but includes Legal Processes, Intellectual Property and Patent related services, Engineering services, Web Development application, CAD/CAM Applications, Business Research and Analytics, Legal Research, Clinical Research, Publishing, Market Research (Market research KPO).


As per my experience, failing project management skills is the universal brake for all offshore development activities and knowledge services is no exception. While challenges such as culture, communication, multiple locations and time zones, visibility and processes, remain same, knowledge services projects come with the unique complexity of dealing with deep business domain expertise.


The knowledge services industry is relatively nascent when compared with IT / Software and there are no universal themes of project management that have emerged yet for this industry. One view, supported by a number of our case studies, is that organizations lack the means and experiential research to assign value to the knowledge they are transferring and receiving, and have no real understanding of how new knowledge can be created in off- shoring situations. And, this makes the role of the project delivery manager sitting offshore complex. IT professionals may assert that the best practices of IT offshore project management could work for knowledge services as well. The answer is yes and no and here's why. 

Yes because, while project management processes and principles are applicable, the implementation and the rigor would vary significantly to suit the needs of the business of the parent company.


Knowledge services expertise in areas like financial services requires a professional work environment and stringent performance security and control to sustain the quality of work and adapt to the upcoming changes in this growing industry. While combination of agile methodology plus homegrown processes can work, what is needed is a robust project management framework which is flexible enough to accommodate gamut of service projects. Following a gathering of corporate experiences and several project manager interviews, I worked with the leadership team of a knowledge services India based captive center to improvise the existing offshore project management model with explicit focus on building onshore - offshore partnerships. The impact of this model if implemented successfully would result not only in positive voice of the workforce and customer but also result in increased productivity, improved quality of deliverables and a dramatic reduction in employee turnover. From the pilot results, what emerged was that knowledgeintensive projects can be successfully managed offshore using a “Knowledge Partnership” approach. This approach preserves transferred knowledge, service and relationships, and establishes an offshore center capable of delivering service seamlessly on an 'as-is' basis while tackling basic elements of service project management such as transition management, governance, performance management and quality management.