Onsite vs. Offsite – can a project be successful if all team members aren’t together onsite 100% of the time?

addtoany linkedin

This blog post is the third in a series of implementation best practices. The way projects are run have changed significantly since I started consulting 19 years ago. In those days, it was unheard of not to be onsite at the client Monday through Friday working on a project. Even though during that time you may only spend a few hours directly with the client. Of course with the advances in technology (laptops issued to everyone, VPN, mobile/smart phones, VOIP, etc.) the consulting world has evolved. While we once had to be onsite 100%, that then changed to 75-80% (7-10 years ago).

Clients sometimes let the consultants work from home one day a week. The clients still had the mindset that they wanted to see the people who were doing work for them to ensure that the work was being done and they got what they paid for. Fast forward a few more years to implementing Software as a Service (Saas). The world changed again. Most Saas vendors have an implementation approach that has much less onsite activities than a traditional software implementation. Consultants typically will be onsite for specific activities or milestones while the remainder of the work will be performed remotely. With access to servers in the cloud, web conferencing products, and more standard implementations due to less customizations, the need to be onsite is less critical. I certainly do believe there is less need for onsite work for a Saas project; however, there are critical activities which I do believe should be performed onsite:

  1. Project Kick-off – the entire team should be onsite to set and hear expectations for the project. Also to build rapport amongst the team and document how the team will work together during the project.
  2. Requirements and Design – all requirement review and design sessions should be performed onsite so the teams can ensure both sides have an accurate understanding of the requirement and how it will be satisfied.
  3. Testing – during end-to-end and acceptance testing the teams should be together to provide knowledge transfer of the solution, answer questions and troubleshoot and resolve issues quickly.
  4. Production – during production cut over it is important for the teams to be together to resolve any production issues quickly and answer questions.

These may not be the only times when the teams should be together, but I believe these are the most critical. If the client is struggling with understanding the solution and taking ownership of the solution, then more onsite work may be required. Consultants need to watch for this and be flexible to change the schedule to best meet customer needs. In order to make this model work, it is critical to set the appropriate expectations in the sales cycle.

Most clients will agree with the approach once they understand how it will work. Clients are also increasingly budget challenged and the cost savings of not having all consultants onsite every week will be attractive. Although, cost concerns should not outweigh whatever is required to make the project successful. What are your thoughts and experience with performing remote work?


John Nunes
- December 06, 2010 at 11:44am
Given my current involvement in a multi-year global implementation of a web-based decision support system I can tell you that it's possible to be successful with a very high percentage of off-site work. By off-site I mean that the team is not always co-located. They could be at home or otherwise away from the central site. More mature clients realize that with the right team and the right collaboration tools, off-site can be very effective.

Leave a Reply