In this paper I will describe the process I followed to assign team-roles for an upcoming project. Available personnel and their jobs are a project’s most basic preconditions (Bars, W., 2006). I had three such jobs to assign, and five vendors to choose from. The positions were 1) end user; 2) business analyst; and 3) team leader. It was essential that my decisions be made correctly. Success for the project depends on it (Powell, R. & Buede, D., 2010).
The problem is to match each person with the right job. The first position, that of end-user, is simply the person who is going to be doing the work the project itself has been designed to facilitate. The end-user of a car is the purchaser and driver. However, in this case, the end-user is not going to be an actual customer. The end-user is going model the customer, thinking like a customer, testing the product by doing things and following expectations that that a typical customer would do and expect, and anticipating their reactions to how well the product meets those actions and expectations. This is standard for project managers (Royce, W., n.d.).
For the position of end-user I decided it would be best to use one of the most experienced yet potentially the most change-resistant team-member. My reasoning is that the customer-base may well include people with plenty of experience with the product or process, but, equally important, are either uninterested in learning anything new or are actively resentful of having to do so. For this reason I chose Pat as the hypothetical end-user. Pat is described as comfortable with the legacy system (the system already in place), sees no particular benefit in adopting or adapting to a new system, and feels that most of the new systems users will feel the same way. Also, he is described as having experience as a tester. So Pat is the best choice to model the limits of customers resistance to and acceptance of the new system. He will put the new system through its paces, and will have an incentive to stress the process in the hopes of showing that it is unnecessary and/or unhelpful for the greatest number of actual end-users. He will be the devil’s advocate.
The next position to fill was that of business analyst. I chose Robin for this position, because she was the business analyst for the previous two upgrades of the same system now the subject of this paper. So she will be able to best monitor and project costs. It is essential that there be someone who has both the technical competence and desire to learn yet who will also work on a cost-basis approach: she must make sure that the new system is cost-effective, and that any “mission creep” be kept to a minimum and that cost-overruns be held in check. And she is familiar with the system in that capacity already. By contrast, Terry has also been a business analyst, but for other systems. Also, this seems a good fit for Robin as she wants to expand her area of expertise to Web programming, and this position will allow her to do that.
I chose Terry for the position of team leader. This was because her concerns about the needed levels of computer skills that end-users must have mirrors the skepticism of Pat, but without Pat’s vested interest in a certain personal comfort-level with the legacy system. So unlike Pat, Terry is open to the new system, but will keep her eyes open as to the realities of customer acceptance. This is important, because we can see that the planned upgrade still may not succeed — it’s not a done deal yet. Pat and Robin, working together, will ultimately decide.
In choosing Terry for lead, I realize that I am taking a bit of a risk, because there is no information given about whether there are any personal conflicts among the three, or indeed whether she has any definite leadership skills. None of them are listed as having lead or senior management experience. I take this to mean that they are more or less equal in this area. In the end, I selected Terry for Lead more through the process of elimination than because of anything uniquely positive. I will have to keep an eye on this matter, and stay flexible on this choice, as indeed on all three choices. This is typical in project management. Vendors are often dropped in mid-stream. This is not preferable of course, but something of an occupational hazard. This will not be the first time that a Lead was chosen this way. In project management as in politics, it is often the least objectionable left-over candidate that is selected.
In making these choices, I was not guided by the hour-availability of each vendor, nor their rates of pay. The hours given are the maximums. Robin will be available for 30 hours each week, taking in Pat and Terry’s availability. As for the pay, I did not take Pat’s premium of $15 to automatically entitle him to the Lead position. I disregarded it, first because pay-rates are not typically publicly known in the workplace, and there is no reason to assume that they will be known here either. But also because the total hours worked will vary. A premium rate of hourly pay won’t necessarily translate into a bigger weekly paycheck. Instead, I was guided overall by the fact that Pat, Robin, and Terry are, apparently, roughly equivalent in skills-sets, and have obviously worked together on an ongoing basis. Chris and Jan would be new to the others and to each other. So basically I chose those most familiar with the product and the people they will be working with.
The conflicts I encountered here were only in choosing among three people who arguably could have each been assigned any of the three positions. In the end, I had to follow one of the most basic rules of project management: allocate my resources as best I could to let my team do its job fully and independently of me, without my hands-on guidance. (Hurley, L., 2010). This is the other half of project management: once you have hired the best people you can find and afford, leave them alone to do their jobs. Check in routinely, but do not hover. This will be my guiding principle for as long as it works.
Bars, W. (2006). Preconditions. Retrieved from http://www.projectmanagement-training.net/
Hurley, L. (2010). Project Business Solutions: Tips for Project Management. Retrieved from http://www.iproject.co.za
Powell, R. & Buede, D. (2010). The Project Manager’s Guide to Making Successful Decisions. Retrieved from http://www.maxwideman.com/papers/successful_decisions/intro.htm
Royce, W. (n.d.) Managing the Development of Large Software Systems. Retrieved from http://www.cs.umd.edu/class/spring2003/cmsc838p/Process/waterfall.pdf