Key Considerations When Choosing Team Members for Complex Projects
By Brad Egeland
Most projects are complex in some way – especially high tech projects. Not all project managers get to choose their projects or even get to personally choose their team members once they land as leadership on a project. I know I usually don’t. I get to request a warm body with a skill set, but rarely have I been given the luxury of choosing actual names. That may be the case for senior management as well – the gate keepers of projects and resources who are selecting project managers and team members for projects based on need, skill set, availability and specific requests.
What is everyone looking for? I know when I’ve been in this position a couple of times and been allowed input as well, here are a few of the criteria I’ve looked for…
Knows the proposed technology and material. Learning curves can be the downfall of a project. So can rework. And poorly defined requirements. All these things can happen if you have business analyst who is not up to the challenge of the technical material at hand and the chosen technical solution for the project. That’s why it is imperative on a technical engagement that is long, complex, visible, or all of the above, to have a business analyst assigned who is technically up to the challenge and not just “ready to learn” or “fake it till he makes it.” That could be disastrous to the schedule, budget, project manager and team…and to the customer.
Is certified. This one isn’t absolutely critical, but if you can get it, get it. Experience is critical, especially relevant successful experience. But training and certification as it relates to project management and leadership is important too, and can make a huge difference. If your team is assembled early enough, it may also make the deal happen with the project customer when it otherwise might not happen. Some of those certifications and training are about way more than PMP certification. Check them out.
Confident enough to make key tech decisions when no one is around. There will come a time on a complex technical project when it comes down to a crunch time, and the business analyst must make a “stop-go” decision or a “this way or that way” tech decision. Sure, they may get tech lead input, but may not have the project manager available to take the heat, or the CIO around to lend input to the decision-making process. It’s during those times when the business analyst that you really need in this role can rise to the occasion and say “this is the way to go” and do it with confidence…. or at least fake confidence if that’s what it takes. No one really wants to take the bullet… but being willing to is half the battle. That’s what you need from the good BA on a complex technical project.
Has connections. As important as it is to have a project manager who is well connected so that he or she can get roadblocks knocked down, financial information for the project promptly as needed and input for key decisions fast from leadership. Not surprisingly, it is just as important for the business analyst to be well connected. In the technical BA role, the business analyst needs to be well connected to people like the CIO or CTO, development managers, and other technical team leads and analysts who have “been there, done that” so that information can be shared quickly and decisions won’t get delayed. A good tech BA already has 90% of the knowledge needed, it’s that coverage and assistance on the other 10% that can sometimes keep a complex project from running off the rails.
Summary / call for input
When you read this list you can see that “experience” and the right experience is the common theme. The experienced project manager will know the technology, will have worked with the tech staff before, will be comfortable making critical decisions on his own, will be well connected in the organization and will have worked with the project manager before on another project, most likely. Certification can be a great bonus. The list can go on and on.
Readers – and business analysts – how do you feel about this list? Do you agree? What would you change about it or add to it? Share personal experiences that help generate discussion if possible…we can all learn from great discussions!