This is How You Put Together Your Project Team!


Acquire Project Team

“The staffing ramp-up plan is to start with a Technical architect and one Senior Engineer, from the first of March for a 8-week period to complete the technical feasibility study and design phase. I will be doing requirements collection and product definition for the first 4 weeks during this phase. Post design phase we will be adding two junior engineers and one senior engineer every 8 weeks till end of December. This team will then run for next 5 months and then we move towards production release. We will start reducing team size from there, starting with the Architect, over a period of 3 months. We will end with 4 member support team”, said Steve, presenting his staffing plan to the project sponsor and internal stakeholders.

Steve was assigned the responsibilities of managing the project to build a cloud-based SAAS platform that helps universities implement new education syllabus recommended by Ministry of Education, across all of its colleges.

His primary challenge was to get the Technical architect and a competent senior software engineer for the initial R&D and Design phase. He knew that it set the foundation for entire project and had to be done right, by the best of the people. From there on it was easier to fill rest of the team with engineers coming out of couple of projects that were coming to closure.

Steve had his eyes on Mike and Anil for these respective positions, because he had worked with them in an earlier project and knew they fit the bill very well. However the challenge was to make them available since they were engaged on another project. He had to understand the impact of pulling them out from that project, and work with the project manager there to create alternate plans. Since that project was on its last leg, he could get a junior architect and junior engineer; give them 2 weeks overlap with Mike and Anil. Steve hoped that he would be able to pull off this arrangement.

The plan-B was to get a good consultant from outside the organization as Technical Architect. Other option Steve explored was to outsource the design phase to the development partner organization of his company and have them support his development team during execution phase. But this would increase the project cost substantially.

As it turned out Steve eventually got Anil, the senior engineer, but not the Architect. He could not find a decent consultant too. Then John, VP of Engineering, suggested a plan. A top notch Architect was to come on board by the end of February, but work from the other development center, 3000 miles away. Using Skype, teleconferences, daily stand-up meetings and weekly meetings, they could pair him up with Anil here and get the Design phase with relatively lower cost than other options. Steve got a nod from the stakeholders and went ahead with the plan.

Putting together a project team could be a challenge when you are in need of best of the talent (for mission-critical projects). Some amount of negotiation, persuasion and collaboration with other project managers, functional managers and people in decision-making positions in the organization would help project manager assemble the right team for her project.

What do I need?

Human resource management plan from Project management plan is the primary input for this process. Human resource management plan defines the roles, responsibilities, skills and competencies required for various positions in the project. It also contains information such as the project organizational structure and reporting hierarchy.

Enterprise environmental factors that contribute are company’s staffing status – information about people in the company with their skills, competencies, availability, and cost. Policies related to outsourcing, remote working, facilities extended to people working as virtual teams (located in different geographies), etc.

Other policies of the organization that may affect team acquisition will be the Organizational process assets to be considered.

How do I do it?

Pre-assignment from other projects

When you are able to get a commitment on required people to come on board when you need them to, you have them pre-assigned to your project. When this happens you go ahead and update staffing plan with information such as specific names and committed start date, availability duration.

In the example above Steve pre-assigned Anil and the new Architect coming on board.

Negotiation with other project/functional managers

Most often than not this is the main technique that comes into play to get the people needed for the project. In a matrix organization project manager may need to negotiate with functional managers or resource manager to allocate right people for the duration needed on the project. If getting consultants, you need to negotiate on the getting competent people at good rates with the consulting organization. The same holds good if you are looking to outsource part of product to a vendor company – negotiation becomes key factor to get suitable procurement contract terms in place.

In the above example Steve tried negotiating with the other project manager to get Mike and Anil, but he was not successful.

Acquisition from outside the organization

Don’t let the name mislead you. This would not need you to acquire another company or something such to staff your project. Acquisition refers to getting people from outside the organization on a consulting basis, or even giving out the work as a sub-contract to another company. This happens when competent people are not available within the organization or they are assigned to other projects with no possibility of contributing to your project.

This was the plan-B Steve had.

Virtual teams

This has been a trend more often seen in software companies. With multiple development centers across states or countries, people working on full time or part time basis on any given project, this arrangement helps to have the right mix of talent on the team as people can work remotely. The down side could be lessened productivity due to lack of personal one-to-one interaction, communication overhead but the advantage would be quicker solutioning and faster progress on the project.

Working-from-home also contributes to forming virtual teams, and of late this has been a debatable topic after companies like Yahoo and Best Buy decided to abolish the policy, while Sir Richard Branson and others have spoken against this step.

Finally, this is what Steve was able to work out. New Architect recruit was to work from the other office remotely with Anil from Steve’s location.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

This tool is about employing different selection criteria to choose the right talent required for your project. The specific criteria and importance of each may depend on your project specific needs.

Some of the criteria are –

  • International factors
  • Attitude
  • Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Ability
  • Experience
  • Cost
  • Availability

The mind map below captures necessary questions to be asked to find out whether the criteria is relevant for your project, and also to select a person based on those criteria.

Click on the image to open in bigger resolution.

 multi-criteria-selection-analysis

Figure 2: Different criteria to consider while getting a team member on your project team

What do I get in the end?

Staff assignments document

This indicates fulfillment of staffing need of the project. When you get the people you need on the project, you update staffing plan with specific names, their competency, costing and availability duration information. Send out formal communication about their release dates from current projects and joining dates to your project (some may want to take a vacation between projects) to their current project/functional manager(s) and HR staff.

Project resource calendars

This indicates who will come into the project team at what time, how long will they be there and how will they ramp down and released.

Also, potentially you might end up updating human resource management plan. The information you update could be about refined team structure, additional skillset need you discovered etc.

Putting together a project team can be quite a challenge for project manager. What has been your experience of getting the right talent?

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