Thursday, March 10, 2016

In a project team, who is the “Number One?”

“Number one” is a reference to Star Trek Next Generation’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s name for Commander Will Riker. Riker was always Captain Picard’s “Number one” when he needed to get something done. So, in a project, whom does the Project Manager (PM) rely on as their “Number one” to interface with the client when he or she is not available? Is it the Business Analyst (BA), or is it the Technical Analyst (TA) or the Systems Engineer (SE)?
I will use my fall back answer that you, the reader, should be used to by now: It all depends. It depends not only on the type of project the PM is managing, but also the fit of the individual being considered.

Is the project a “technical” project?

What do I mean by a technical project? A technical project is an upgrade of an existing product that is for technical reasons and does not enhance the product. For example, most of us know that Microsoft is discontinuing support for Internet Explorer versions older than version 11. If a product has to be upgraded so the user interface (UI) can be compatible with IE 11 but does not change the UI, then this is a purely technical project. If that is the case, the technical resource, be it the TA or SE, would be my first consideration. Why? Because most likely the client project team would be staffed mainly with technical resources. If the PM has to take some time away from the project, the client will most likely interact with the technical resource on the project and that resource can update the PM when he/she returns. There may be a business user on the client team, but I have found that when the project is technical in nature, that business user usually interacts most with the client technical team.

Is the project a “product” project?

Product projects are most often a pure implementation or a product upgrade. In this case, the main resources on the client project team will be business users. Yes, there will be technical resources, but they will not be the main resource. In this case, when the PM is unavailable, the most likely Number one would be the BA. The BA should be establishing a relationship with the business users from the beginning of the project, so being the Number one will not be a stretch for the BA, or for the client for that matter. Particularly in the beginning of the project, after the PM establishes the project protocols (contact list, status report, etc); the BA should be the main focus. He or she should be the most familiar with the product and the phases of the project and what needs to be accomplished with the PM away. The BA can also bring a more “personal” touch to the status meeting or any interaction with the client.

Which person is the best fit?

Regardless of the type of project, the fit of the individual is more important than the role they play. Even in a purely technical project, a BA may be involved on your project team. If that person has the technical where-with-all and can easily interact with technical resources on the client team, then the BA may be the logical choice for Number one. Conversely, if the PM is going to be away at the inception of the product project and must interact mostly with the technical resources from the client team, then maybe the technical resource would be better suited to lead the project in his or her absence.
However, this leads to a decision the PM must make regarding fit. If the PM is more comfortable with the BA being the Number one in the PM’s absence, then the PM must go with their gut and choose the BA. Also, if the BA is more comfortable with the technical resource because of the relationship with the client, the PM should choose the technical resource on his team. In either case, the PM should know that he/she is not indispensable and must pick a member on the project team to lead the project in their absence. This choice becomes easier once the PM, like Captain Picard, provides guidance to the BA or technical resource on their team on how the PM wants the interaction to occur and who best to fit the role of Number one.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.