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Project Team Is Key to a Successful Technical Implementation

The rule of five

When building the right project team to complete a custom solution there are many forces at work. These include business drivers, technical drivers, and organizational and political motivations. Regardless of the business or organization there are three basic rules to follow in building a team to deliver a technical solution. The first is to involve the business before the team is even assembled.

Each organization has certain technology standards that govern specific tools and products that can be used on a given project. These standards need to be considered and coordinated within "governance" management when architecting the solution. The third is the driving element that will let you successfully implement any medium or large-scale project and that's to follow "The Rule of Five." The Rule of Five is the basis for choosing the right number of people to be on your project team, and if you follow this rule your team will deliver the project on time and on budget. =

Assume you are the project manager for a newly selected technical implementation for a specific line of business that you're familiar with. You've been chosen for this effort because of the confidence that both the business and technology departments have in you to get the job done. Your past record speaks for itself and you have an opportunity to select people currently in your company as well as augment the team with new hires and consultants. Whether your project requires a medium or large-scale project team you should plan your team accordingly. Always plan in five-person team increments.

1.  Business/Technical Lead - This person should be someone who understands the business requirements very well and hopefully was one of the main authors of the "Business Requirements Document." This individual should be technically very strong, but doesn't necessarily know all the technologies that have to be deployed to implement the system.
2.  Technical Architect - This person is responsible for designing the technical framework in which the entire system will be built. He should be intimately familiar with all the technologies required to deliver the system and be mindful of all governance requirements in your organization. This is the lead person who will insure the technical success of the project.
3.  Data Analyst - This person should be knowledgeable about all of the data elements required for system implementation as well as where the data currently resides in the organization and how to gain access to it. This person will coordinate all DBA requirements and work with the governance group in the organization as well as lead all logical and physical database design efforts.
4.  Technical Programmer - This person will be responsible for coding parts of the system based on the direction of the Project Manager. For example, this person may be the front-end technical programmer.
5.  Technical Programmer - This person will be responsible for coding parts of the system based on the direction of the Project Manager. For example, this person may be the application server programmer.

The Rule of Five focuses on any medium or large-scale project that will have a team composition based on these outlines. For example if the project is scoped to be a medium-sized project the team composition is one project manager and a team of five. If the project is scoped to be a large-scale project the team composition is one project manager and n(team of five) or either a 10-, 15-, or a 20-person team. It's rare that a project team is larger than 20, but the same rule holds. Keeping the team composition as listed above allows each team of five to work successfully on their portion of the project.

If your project team is greater than 20 people, the Rule of Five means a team of five to oversee all project activities and provide centralized project coordination or project governance as shown in Figure 1.

When determining who will be on your Rule of Five team follow the basic guidelines. The Business Technical Lead must be someone that is very senior, has direct contact with the business, and can resolve any outstanding business issues that come up. You should handpick this person from a small list of applicants. The Technical Architect must be very senior and preferably someone you've worked with before. He should have demonstrated superior knowledge in all technical aspects of the project and be hands-on at all times. The Data Analyst should be knowledgeable about ER tools and the SQL language being used in the project. This person should have worked on other projects in this group before to reduce the learning curve. This role is generally overlooked until late in the project. The Technical Programmers tend to be junior compared to other members of the team, but are focused on coding the application.

When building your next project team think in terms of five and you'll be able to maximize your business and technical capability to deliver a solution on time and on budget. A team that's too small or too big will either deliver the project on time but over budget or late and over budget. See if the "Rule of Five" works for you.

More Stories By Robert Shinbrot

Robert has been a successful businessman and manager for over 25 years. He has implemented some of the most innovative solutions while working at banks and brokerage firms by breaking the mold of how to get things done. He then took this knowledge and applied it to Consulting where he is widely known to have built 2 of the most prominent Financial Services Consulting Business’s. He now focuses his attention on Coaching Managers at all levels to help them become Successful Managers. If you would like to reach Robert Shinbrot his email address is [email protected] and he is available on linkedin.

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Most Recent Comments
Scott 05/16/07 06:52:45 PM EDT

This is plain wrong. Based on this if you're 2 coders were each allocated 50% more work than they could actually do you'd hire five more people, not just another coder. There's no way you'd get that sort of thinking past management.

Project teams should be based on the needs of the project. If you don't need a DBA because there are few data requirements but need 2 interface coders then thats what you need. Its just that simple.

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