PM Essence

Operational Challenges in Acquiring and Developing the Team

- Arivazhagan Chokkappan, PMP, Infosys

While the Global delivery model emphasizes the distributed team across locations, many organizations have started adopting agile methodologies in their projects. The key success factor for agile development is the collocated, self-organized and multi skilled team. How can we ensure the success of agile projects with teams spread across multiple locations?

The customers are having challenging requirements. The talent market is very competitive and Organizations are finding it difficult to attract the right talents in time. Dependency on the 3rd party vendors for the talent fulfillment is increasing for the niche skills. In spite of having a large resource pool in the organizations, project managers are struggling to find the right talents for their projects. Not fulfilling the talent requirements on time in certain projects leads to termination or losing of the contract.

The focus of the organizations is now on leveraging support from near shore or from other countries where right talents are available at cheaper cost. The project manager has the challenge of managing the cultural differences between his own team located at multiple countries and between his team and his customer. Team has challenges in terms of understanding the team charter.

Social networking sites play a major role in connecting to people. The team that is distributed across locations joins together in those sites. Organization can make use of  the social networking concept in acquiring and developing the teams.

Leading the teams that are distributed across multiple geographical locations, culturally different and working in different time zones is turning out to be very challenging. According to Forrester by adopting the following five best practices we can overcome the challenges - staffing the team thoughtfully, building trust, communicating robustly, managing time zone differences, and using technology wisely.

A project manager has to spend quality time in identifying the right team members for the project. If the team selection is not properly done then the project is exposed to high risk and the project manager would be spending most of the time in resolving people issues.

Setting the right expectation is often the key to manage diverse team. In some cases, the expectation can be set during the college/university time itself. Some of my point of view on this is described below.

Education System – Point of View

It is high time that we need to look at tweaking the higher education slightly to make it completely relevant to the actual industry outside the university. Let's take IT industry as an example. Infrastructure management services are growing rapidly compared to Application development and maintenance. The curriculum in most of the universities revolves around software development and testing. An engineer comes out of the university with a mindset that he would be developing high end software applications. However in reality since the demand for Infrastructure services is huge, many engineers ultimately get in to infra services.

The education provided in the universities is different from the actual work. He or She wouldn't have much idea about the infrastructure services. This leads to potential employee dis-satisfaction, low productivity and project failures.

Universities should include infrastructure related subjects (e.g. Servers, Storage, Datacenters, Production Support models, etc…) in the curriculum to create the awareness. Should teach the industry and market trends to set the right expectations with the students. This would greatly reduce the efforts of a project manager in finding a right talent for the project also would help to increase the productivity to a great extent.

Few key challenges in identifying and acquiring the project team

1. Project Timelines
2. Skill set – Common skills Vs. Niche skills
3. Organizational policies
4. Dependency on the 3rd Party vendors
5. Market Conditions
6. Type of the project and Execution model
7. Organization's talent pool

Team Development

Once the project is appropriately staffed, the project manager needs to focus on the team development. Create a common platform for the team members to collaborate and increase the interaction between teams. Team should start trusting each other. Make them understand the objective and the goal of the project. Everyone in the team should realize the importance of the project activities assigned to them. All these are the responsibilities of a project manager however it is not easy always. There are few challenges that a project manager has to address effectively to build an efficient team.

In the current scenario most of the project teams are multi-disciplined, multi-cultural, distributed across multiple geographies and working in different time zones. All these factors make the team development process a little intricate.

Critical Success Factors for team development

Listing few of the critical success factors for developing a team

  • Appropriate team selection
  • Continuous training
  • Effective management of cultural and time zone differences
  • Improve the team networking and communications
  • Well defined career path
  • Effective collaboration between various departments of the organization
  • Better understanding of Organization's policies and procedures

There is no standard way of resolving an issue. Same resolution to an issue would not work all the time. The resolution techniques and styles would vary person to person and depending on the situation. The challenges and the best practices discussed in this paper are based on author's experience. It would give a lead to resolve similar issues however the resolution steps have to be taken based on the situation.