Forrester published a report in June (*updated 3 August 2015: no longer online) that concluded that IT projects were people projects. People management skills are crucial for the successful design and execution of the project. This is common sense, and it’s something that experienced project managers will be able to see. Technology is rarely what causes projects to fail. In fact, studies show that technology is the least contributing factor to project failure.
This is what we all expect to be true. The Forrester study does not add much to the world of project management knowledge. What is interesting is how Forrester supported their conclusions. Knowing something is true because it’s how it works in your office is one thing, but being able to prove it is another. It’s important to have more research to support the idea that people are the most important thing in projects. The Forrester research focused on the use of third-party partners to deliver IT projects. This is a new angle.
Forrester surveyed 25 companies that had implemented SAP in Australia and New Zealand with external partners. The majority of respondents agreed that it was important to work with external partners for SAP implementations.
You can have input on who works for you. IT partners are team members for a long period of time. You need to feel confident that they will be a good fit for your existing team.
A good project manager for your partner.
You will have a complete view of the activities and progress of your external team members. This will allow you to spot potential problems and avoid them from becoming major issues. You don’t have to rely on them directly, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t monitor them.
According to the research, project managers should have a screening process in place for external consultants joining an internal team. Forrester suggests this includes:
This is a minimum list of requirements that all external consultants must adhere to. These requirements don’t go into great detail, but they would include language proficiency, professional background, skills, and sector experience. You can have a different one for different positions.
A person specification that considers fit with your existing team and the right temperament to work in your corporate culture.
If you are unhappy with your partner’s project manager, you can replace them. Even though you may not need it, it is best to have this resolved in advance.
Introduce your processes and procedures to ensure external consultants are familiar with them.
It can be difficult to hire consultants. You pay them a lot and expect them to do a good job. However, you have a lot to ask of them in IT projects. It is important to establish the ground rules upfront. This will make it easier to get the right people and create a more productive working environment.