by BOŻENA DUŻYŃSKA – Future Processing
TECHNOLOGY CAN BRING REAL VALUE TO YOUR BUSINESS, BUT ONLY IF YOU HAVE AN ADEQUATE TEAM IN PLACE RUNNING YOUR TECH PROJECTS.
Along with the exponential growth of technology, software development projects have grown immensely. Since technology now drives central operations of most businesses, long gone are the days when IT was constrained to the walls of IT departments.
Instead, many forward-thinking organisations are outsourcing development to specialist IT companies. One of the reasons for this is that, with their wide reach, projects like this have a potential to seriously damage, or even bankrupt, a company.
Following their research, McKinsey & Company listed mastering technology and project content by securing critical internal and external talent as one of their four key dimensions for delivering large-scale IT projects on time, on budget and on value. They estimate that appropriate experts can raise performance by as much as 100% through their judgement and ability to interpret data patterns.
One thing is clear: whether your organisation decides to outsource, or stay in-house, it is absolutely crucial to ensure that your IT projects are in the hands of a capable team of experts. We’ve compiled a list of 10 team-related factors to take into account to make your project a success.
What to consider for a successful software project team?
1. UNDERSTANDING OF BUSINESS ISSUES
First of all, you need your team to understand business issues. This not only applies to Business Analysts or Project Managers, but also to the core development team, testers and quality assurance experts. When working, rather than concentrating on the technicalities alone, the entire team must constantly keep in mind the end goal of the project which is to meet the needs of your business. This will ensure that your project progress is aligned with the desired result.
2. KNOWLEDGE OF THE INDUSTRY
Secondly, it is important for the team to have domain knowledge. Your internal team will most likely meet the criteria. If you are considering an outsourced team it is important to seek whether they either possess the knowledge of the sector, or are willing and able to gain it. Outsourcing companies will usually have case studies of clients that let you see which sectors they know and have worked in. You may also want an outsourcing team to visit you to gain a more in-depth understanding of your business, which is why it’s good practice to look for those that are willing to travel and are relatively closeby.
3. TECHNICAL EXPERTISE
A shortage of IT-literate staff can be a hindrance to any organisation, but this is even more important when a piece of software is the centre of the entire operation. A question to ask here is: ‘Does my team have adequate skills and enough technical expertise to extract the highest value from technology?’
It is good to consider this question holistically, taking into consideration not only programming languages and platforms, but also areas of technical expertise, as well as specific methodologies. As an example, before embarking on a project in-house, you may want to assess whether your team includes experts in Java, PHP or Microsoft, in desktop, mobile or embedded platforms, in the area of security, cloud or automation, and has the knowledge of Agile and Scrum.
4. ATTITUDE TO TECHNOLOGY & LEVEL OF EXPERTISE
Another thing to consider is the level of expertise and attitude to a given technology. Are the team members proficient in a given methodology or language? Are they excited and passionate about it? You may also like to consider your team’s willingness to work in the specific programming language or within a given framework. After all, an unhappy team, means a demotivated team, which can be detrimental to the success of your project.
5. PROJECT ENGAGEMENT
The team’s engagement in a project is crucial if you are interested in the best results possible. Unless you are already working on a project or have worked with a given team before, project engagement can be difficult to assess. It can, however, be predicted. Look out for a team that is displaying an attitude of commitment through dedication to quality and taking pride in what they do. Engagement can also be checked during the request for information/proposal stage if you decide to outsource your development – questions asked earlier on and quick reaction time are generally a good sign!
6. TEAM THAT CHALLENGES YOU
Many businesses nowadays appreciate proactive teams – i.e. such that will challenge them through questioning ideas and offering their advice on the best way forward. As one of our clients (Parkeon) said: “ My preference is to have a partner who is quite direct and will say ‘yes’ when they mean yes and ‘no’ when they mean no, and explain issues and engage on the level of wanting to see the overall project to be successful rather than just maintaining a happy meeting for the sake of it”.
Teams that challenge generally have the technical confidence and maturity. This also, to some extent, eliminates the dangers of finding out about a problem too late in a project.
7. TEAM PLAYING
The atmosphere of the team can have a major impact on any project which is why it is vital for your team members to be open, supportive and willing to share their areas of expertise with others. If you rely on your in-house team, create a culture of openness – a collaborative environment where people feel appreciated and are happy to share knowledge. When considering an outsourced team, you can use an RFI to check whether the organisation supports a collaborative environment through its values and vision. It is also a good idea to look out for ‘good employer’ awards which indicate employees are working in a supportive environment.
Effective communication within a project team is key to the success of the project. For both in-house and outsourced teams, an open and inclusive team culture, regular meetings and project collaboration tools can be the difference between project success and project failure.
An even more obvious thing is, of course, speaking the same language. While this would not normally be a problem with your in-house team, it is especially relevant to overseas suppliers whose level of language proficiency can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Before deciding on an outsourcing company, do some research – check their website, arrange a phone/video call, or simply pay them a visit!
Cultural proximity is another thing that can have a huge impact on communication. Finally, there is geographical proximity which, with large time differences, will slow down communication between the teams.
9. PROJECT MANAGER VERSUS SOFTWARE PROJECT MANAGER
Volumes of literature have been written on effective project management and the importance of a Project Manager in a successful project. But beyond the usual skillset of a project manager (leadership, time management, interpersonal skills, etc.), a software project manager will have an extensive background in software development and significant IT domain knowledge. If you are thinking of running a software project, your in-house team should have one of them. If it doesn’t, it’s worth considering to outsource. Good outsourcing companies will be able to provide such experts who, beyond knowledge of technology, will often be highly specialised in methodologies, such as Agile project management.
10. TEAM SCALABILITY
A perfect project team would, for many executives, be one that is easily scalable allowing them to add more team members as project requirements grow. With a general shortage of IT resources in the market, coupled with slow speed and high costs of recruitment and training, the situation is far from ideal, especially when you need to adjust team size dynamically. An alternative option would be to go with an outsourcing partner who will help support team size and provide an opportunity for adding additional team members, especially if they have a buffer.
With the scope and complexity of an average software project today, it is more important than ever to have an adequate team in place which will ensure investment in technology brings real value to the business and makes it ready for the future.
Hopefully this overview has given you a valuable insight into the factors that need to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to use an in-house team or an external outsourcing partner.
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