Friday, 8 July 2011

Project and Programme Management #07: Project Board and Team

In my last article I looked at stakeholder analysis as a means of identifying the key people that you need to communicate with in your project: part of the “who” in a business case. The business case also needs to consider a more detail a subset of the “who”: those responsible for actually doing the project work. This splits into two groups: those responsible for the decision-making and those responsible for delivering the project’s products or outputs. If you use a formal project management methodology like PRINCE2, the former will be the project board and the latter the project team. The project manager forms a bridge between them.

The project board

All projects, even the very smallest, require a project sponsor (also called a project executive or a senior responsible officer). The sponsor is the (usually senior) person who will pay for the project and who will make decisions about costs, timescales and quality. A small project may only have a sponsor, and the “project board” will be the interactions between the sponsor and project manager.

In larger projects it is useful to have additional senior people to represent the user community that will be using the projects outputs and the supplier(s) of the project products. PRINCE2 refers to these roles as Senior User and Senior Supplier.

If a project is going to cross over several parts of the organisation, it may be hard to identify a single person to act as Senior User. It is acceptable to have two or perhaps three Senior Users on a board, but if the figure is larger it makes sense to instead have a user group made up of relevant representatives across the organisation, and one person from the group on the board as Senior User.

Similarly a project may have more than one supplier – e.g. there may be an internal team and an external supplier; or perhaps more than one external supplier. Normally the Senior Supplier is an internal manager with enough seniority to allocate and prioritise internal resources, and who might also be the contract manager for the relevant external supplier(s). Where the external supplier role is very complex (or where there is a longstanding, good partnership) it may be possible to have an external Senior Supplier on the board.
Thus the ideal project board for larger projects will have between three and five board members: the Sponsor, one or two Senior Users and one or two Senior Suppliers. The project manager reports to, but is not a member of, the board.

Many projects fail because of poor project governance – i.e. the board is not effective. There can be many reasons for this, but the two most common are lack of commitment and lack of role understanding. The latter may arise because senior managers do not like to admit ignorance, and will accept project board positions without fully realising what their roles involve. However it’s vital that project board members understand their roles and formal “job descriptions” can help in this respect. Below are links to job descriptions for the three roles.
The business case should include and organisation chart showing members of the project board and links to any related bodies, e.g. user groups, programme boards.

The project team

It is unlikely, when writing a business case, that the project team will be known, but a start should be made. Eventually you should have a complete team and as project manager your job is to ensure:
  • Team cohesiveness: Do they work together well? Are the linkages properly defined? Do members of the team understand their relationships?
  • Communications: It is likely that team will come from different parts of the organisation and they may not be housed together. Keeping them up to date is vital, as is ensuring that they communicate effectively what they are doing (especially any problems).
  • Tasks: The team should know exactly what they need to do, and by when. They should also know how their contribution relates to the project as a whole. Documentation might include the issuing of work packages – unambiguous statements of the work to be done – but it is vital that the project manager checks that the team understand what they need to deliver, and checks up on progress.
In the business case, you should include an idea of the resources required to make up the team, and identify which parts of the organisation they should come from. The project manager should also speak informally to managers in those areas to get an idea of resource availability. Any potential problems should be noted in the risk log, but also highlighted here.

The business case, once agreed, gives you the mandate to use those resources, and part of the project board’s role is to ensure the resources are released. It is vital, therefore, that the board is aware of what is needed and of any potential problems in getting the resource.

There are many excellent books on team building and team management, but one I can recommend is People and Project Management for IT – don’t be put off by the “for IT” – the book is applicable to project teams of all natures, and although it’s a few years old (published 1995) it is still very useful.

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