Creating a project team can be the most important and challenging component of your SharePoint implementation. Your team members can make or break your entire project. How do you ensure that you have chosen the right project manager? What about the developers? Do you choose someone based on industry knowledge, business knowledge or SharePoint knowledge? What if they have two of the three qualities, or worse yet, none of three?
As a consulting firm focused on SharePoint deployments and doing it “right,” we get asked by many clients what the “right way” is to select project team members. This article is being written to address some of those questions that occur during the on-boarding of project team members. For this reason, we ensure that reviewing and vetting the project team members is a part of each discovery we do as an organization. There are two elements to take into consideration: What is the skill-set of the individual, and what does the project need in order to succeed?
Let’s start off discussing the optimal team structure for a SharePoint project implementation. Like any project, you will have team members at various levels, some which are known by the business and employees, others which may not be. For example, not everyone is aware of the true definition of a “stakeholder,” and therefore become confused about who is and who is not a stakeholder on a project. My definition of a project stakeholder is, in fact, anyone who is involved in the project, from project manager to end user, senior management to developer—everyone!
This point is debated by some, who feel that the term stakeholder should only be used at an executive level. The fact is that I’m comfortable using whichever definition is agreed to; however, a simple inclusion of “senior” as the prefix to “stakeholder” will solve the issue before it begins. This being the case, the SharePoint team structure that I recommend is at three levels: stakeholders, core team, and extended team.
The senior stakeholders are those key business leaders who hold ultimate accountability for the success of SharePoint’s implementation. Their role is pivotal to the project as it provides the high-level guidance and support that the team requires. They will also serve as critical information partners to share information that the project team may not know. These are the people who you may see in an elevator who ask for a quick update, the people at the end of the table with an approving smile at the progress of your SharePoint project, or those you seek help from to remove corporate barriers. Additionally, they will likely hold the budgetary keys, should your project need additional funding or financial support.
The core team is made up of your key individuals on the project who are responsible for the design and implementation of a turnkey SharePoint solution. These people are working on the requirements, functional specifications, technical design, user sessions, delivery and training. You know who these people are, but it’s important that the business and users are equally aware of whom the core team members are. One way to accomplish this is to have a project team site created which features your team members. This creates an open environment where users and company employees can see the team, and learn more about the project. What you are trying to do is create an environment where people are aware of and excited about SharePoint and what the project team is doing to improve core business functions.
Defining the business need, then overlaying that need onto your project team, is a delicate process, which may be difficult to accomplish. For example, if you are deploying a pilot environment, how will you ensure that the team members working on that phase are required for future phases? If you are able to define the business need (business and technical requirements), your purpose and justification for having a team member on the project long-term may be obvious. Having that knowledge will ensure a smooth transition between phases.
If you have heard me speak at an event, you will have heard the following, and it resonates with every business and commonality that we as individuals have: People get hired into businesses because, at one point in time, their background and resume matched the requirements and skill set of an open position with a business. That is the core concept of getting hired: a match between skills and availability.
However, the reality is that, once people are in the business, there isn’t much done to manage their progress or internal progression. When staffing your project team, look for the team members who can make the most impact on your implementation. Assess their backgrounds and competencies carefully, and don’t just take their experiences within your business at face value. As you look for team members to join your project team, find the right mix of personalities and skills that combine their knowledge with that of the business strategy and SharePoint direction.
Eric is the EVP of Systems Integration for Concatenate, a software firm focused on maximizing SharePoint through product innovation and systems integration based in Toronto. You can reach Eric by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @rizinsights. Read his other SharePoint thoughts on his blog at www.ericriz.com.