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When you hire a testing service, you must decide whether to manage the project work internally or pay additional for an external project manager. What are the advantages of managing the team using an internal SME (subject matter expert) liaison as opposed to paying for the testing service for a project manager?

First, determine the size of the testing project. Find out how many personnel resources are part of the testing team, and then how many internal team members are needed to support a successful project. It’s likely a business analyst, internal QA team member, and a development resource would be involved during the life of the project. If you determine the testing service project is large and involves multiple internal resources for support, then you need to decide to manage it with an internal or external management resource. If you determine the project is small or medium, you can choose to skip a managing team member and assign an internal resource for support. The risk with this approach is, should the project scope expand, then you’ll be looking at extra charges for a Project Manager to keep the team productive and organized.

Pros - Assigning an internal liaison for project management

One advantage of using an internal liaison to manage the testing service team’s work is the management is contained internally. The internal liaison works on the same time and schedule, and can be contacted in the office environment. It’s likely they already participate in daily development team meetings, so there’s no additional work in getting them onboarded to the team.

The biggest advantage of an internal SME liaison role is creating a single point of contact for the testing services team. A single point of contact keeps other team members from being distracted by issues that are handled by the SME liaison. In other words, the reporting and answers come to a single person rather than the entire team. Additionally, there is one responsible resource so the rest of the team can focus on their work. Granted, sometimes the SME may need support, but they should be largely independent and self-contained.

Another advantage of having the internal SME role for the outsourced testing team is a single point of contact. There’s less time wasted by the testing team trying to figure out how to get the information needed for their work. The SME provides training, support and a direct line of communication. Only the SME needs to be available for meetings and training schedules. It’s easier to build a strong business relationship between teams with a dedicated internal SME.

Cons - Assigning an internal liaison for project management

The con for using an internal SME to manage the project is simply assigning a resource. Assigning a resource takes that resource away for any existing projects they are on. Another con may be the workload. If the testing service project grows out of scope, it may end up being a large amount of work for a single resource.

Pros - Using an external Project Manager

One advantage of using a Project Manager from the testing service group is they are familiar with their resources. In a similar way to an internal SME, they provide a single point of contact for the testing services team and a single place to get information and assistance with questions, support, and training. In a similar fashion, the external project manager is the only resource you need to invite to team meetings and receive progress updates. All the internal information needed can be gathered from the external project manager.

Another advantage to an external project manager is not having to assign an internal resource for management. For example, if you don’t have resources which are SME’s and not already booked solid with work, then this is a definite advantage.

Cons - Using an external Project Manager

One significant con of the external Project Manager may be feeling you don’t have control over the project. It may seem that the project is outside the team, or outside the team’s control. They may lose touch or become disconnected with the testing service project.

One con may also be cost, or a continuous variance in cost if the project grows out of the planned scope. Before signing a contract, be sure to calculate accurate cost projections with the vendor. Make sure you understand the cost and how it may be impacted by changes in scope and schedule.

The biggest con with using an external project manager is they aren’t an SME in your application. They’ll need additional training and support in order to understand the business needs. Understanding the business need, and the application, are critical to team productivity and overall project success.