What is the perfect project team?
A great digital workspace does not just happen; it requires talented people to plan, deliver and then manage it. In particular, the “delivery” is important. Digital workspace projects can be challenging, and it takes a great project team to achieve digital workspace success.
Of course, project teams are also critical for all kinds of other initiatives across organisations and for delivering services and products to clients. Project management is usually regarded as very important and organisations invest in project managers, often having a Project Management Office (PMO), and develop project methodologies. Apps and tools are also key, and here the digital workspace can play an important role in providing online spaces and capabilities that can help project teams meet their milestones.
Assembling a strong project team
To ensure projects are successful, organisations spend time on assembling the right team. In this article, we’re going to look at what makes a successful project team, some of the key roles and what their responsibilities are.
Defining the perfect project team is difficult to ascertain because every project is different, and every organisation is different. Budget, resourcing, availability of staff and project milestones are all going to have an impact on the project team you choose. Also, different organisations have ways they want to work, which may also define the team shape. Projects also vary from huge multi-year projects involving external organisations, to smaller internal initiatives that may only have a core project team as small as two or three people.
However, there are a number of approaches and consistent methods which tend to have value whatever the project you are choosing.
Four principles for selecting the right team
There can be many project management challenges including resourcing, tight timelines, project risks, managing projects virtually, and accessing the right talent. Selecting the right project team can help you overcome many of these challenges. Following four key principles can help.
1. Distinguish between the core team and the wider team
When some people think about projects, they tend to think just about the core project team. But actually, many complex projects involve a much wider group of people who may only be involved for part of the project, or in a less significant way. When considering the team composition, consider both the core team and the wider team. Each is important, and you should consider both together. For example, gaps you may think are in your core project team may be “filled” by those in the wider team.
2. Think in terms of skills and experience
In a project team, each individual member brings something different to the table. Consider the skills, experience and specialist knowledge you require to deliver your project and ensure these are covered by the people making up your team.
3. Diversity delivers better projects
Having a diverse project team with a range of different specialisms, perspectives and experiences is powerful. It means team members can learn from each other, there is often a broader range of knowledge available to a team, and ultimately diversity leads to better outcomes. Ensuring your team is diverse will deliver results.
4. Check availability up front
It might sound obvious, but up front do ensure the people you want to assemble have the availability to be on the project team. This helps speed up the assembling of your perfect project team.
What are the major roles and responsibilities of project team?
There are some important roles in any project team that have some associated responsibilities. Let’s start with the core project team.
The project manager
Without doubt, the most important project team role is the project manager. They are the person who pulls everyone together, keeps an eye on budgets, coordinates meetings, makes sure people carry out their tasks and so on. Without a good project manager, a project may fail.
A project manager will usually have some kind of relevant qualification (Prince 2) or experience. However, sometimes they may be a specialist who is the best qualified for the job; for example, an intranet manager may sometimes be the project manager on an intranet project.
A project manager tends to have a set of responsibilities, including:
- Assembling the project team
- Setting up meetings, a place to communicate and more
- Planning a timeline and related project streams
- Reporting to management
- Identifying and mitigating risks
- Managing budget and resourcing
- Ensuing milestones are met and modifying the project timelines as they go
- Leading the project team
- Finishing off the project and conducting any closing-related processes
- Doing a million other little things on a project that nobody else does!
A project manager is critical and for some organisations is what formally characterises a piece of work as a ‘project’; it has an assigned project manager.
A project champion or sponsor is not always considered a core part of a project team and in practice may not be as involved as other team members. However, they are very important and are core to its success. A champion or sponsor will tend to be more senior and is often the person who controls the budget. They may play a senior “steering” role in providing input into decision-making and they may also represent the project and its interests in talking to other senior stakeholders. In some larger organisations and for some major projects there may be an even higher level “Executive Sponsor” at the board or C-suite level, who further acts as a champion.
A champion or sponsor may have the following responsibilities:
- Make high level decisions or give input into key decisions
- Sign-off on the project or stages of the project
- Represent the project team and its interests with other senior stakeholders
- Support the project manager in helping to resolve issues
- Provide and approve budget
- Communicate about the project across the organisation and be a “champion” for the project.
Individual team members will have a defined set of responsibilities that may be related to their area of expertise or “day job”, but responsibilities can specifically evolve during a project. A project team member may also be assigned or even lead a particular workstream within a project or be part of a sub-team working in a particular area.
In particular team members will:
- Deliver on individual tasks
- Give input, particularly in areas of expertise
- Lead a particular workstream, if applicable
- Work as part of the overall team to deliver the project.
Not every project has a business analyst (BA), but those that are focused on technology will tend to have a BA. They play a really important role in building requirements, carrying out user research and more. On smaller projects and in smaller organisations the role of a PM and a BA may overlap.
Developers and designers
With digital workspace projects, you will have a number of technical roles that are integral to the project, including front-end and back-end developers, and quite possibly a designer.
Often third parties may be involved in different parts of your project; they may be part of the core project team or not. For example, you may be working with a software provider or digital agency who are providing technical development, or a product vendor who provides key support during a project. Individuals from a third party may indeed be a core member of your project team.
What other major projects roles are there across the business?
Now, let us consider the wider project roles outside the core project team. These will vary from project to project.
Every project will have different stakeholders who may need to be involved in different degrees. Some may need to give input into specific decisions while others may just need to be kept in the loop. You can use a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) to determine the level of their involvement in your project and the communication path you need to keep.
For larger projects you may have a cross-functional steering committee who represent different stakeholders and give input or who are tasked with more strategic decision-making. A steering committee may be specific to your project, or have a wider focus, for example right across your digital workspace or digital transformation strategy. Typically, a steering committee might involve IT, HR, Communications, Finance, Real Estate, Lines of Business and more. In some very large organisations and for some large projects there might be two committees – one more senior, and one more operational.
A steering committee might:
- Give input into or make strategic decisions
- Validate and sign-off output
- Discuss and resolve issues which have been escalated to it
- Ensure the project continues to meet its objectives
- Provide feedback or concerns on progress.
Communications and change management experts
Many projects, especially in the digital workspace, may require communications and a change management effort to help with Go Live. Sometimes it helps to leverage the skills of communication and change management expertise within your organisation and let them give input into, or even carry out, your launch and adoption plan.
Subject matter experts
Often you will need input from different subject matter experts on a range of topics. Generally, these people will:
- Give specialist input when needed
- Help support decision-making
- Review particular output when required.
In technology projects, power users can be a very important group, as these are the people who can give feedback and input based on platform knowledge and are usually instrumental in driving usage and adoption. Usually power users:
- Provide feedback and insight
- May be involved in testing
- May be involved in launch and adoption activities
- May be part of a support community after launch
End user groups
As well power users, groups of normal end users can give vital feedback and be involved in testing to make sure your solution is focused on user needs. Involving users also gives legitimacy to your efforts and can help drive adoption. Typically, user groups will be involved in:
- Providing feedback and insight into requirements
- Usability testing
Many digital workspace projects involve champions, who tend to be volunteers. Teams can leverage the enthusiasm and energy of evangelists to help drive adoption; there may be some overlap with power user and end user groups. Typically, champions may:
- Give input and feedback
- Act as “local” experts and evangelists for a team, location or function
- Get involved in launch activities.
Building the best project team
Project management is essential and building the right team is often the magic ingredient that makes a project successful. While every project and organisation are different, we hope some of these tips help you to build the best project team you can to meet project milestones and deliver great results. Good luck!