Project Management

5 Simple Steps for Successfully Working With External Teams

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

The first project I ever worked on involved an external team at a software vendor. The project I consider to be my career-defining moment relied heavily on an external vendor team. And the largest project I ever worked on involved multiple vendors, partners and consulting teams. Beyond the fact that they all involved external teams, these projects had some other things in common: All of the relationships with those external teams were severely strained at times, and none of the projects would have succeeded without those external teams.

I don’t have statistics to back it up, but my sense is that an increasing number of projects are relying on vendors, partners or similar external parties these days. Organizations are increasingly outsourcing non-core elements of their operations, and that means working with external teams both operationally and for projects.

That in turn means that project managers must be able to manage those projects and teams effectively—and that can be difficult to achieve at times.

The “them” and “us” factor
Firstly, there is always going to be the potential for the two teams to experience conflict. Different perceptions of the nature of a problem, or why that problem has occurred, can quickly result in disagreements and the taking of sides. Often those disagreements are around fundamentals—requirements, …

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