Assessing the Major Skills Required in the Project Team

To assemble your cast of team players, you must assess the skills that need to be represented on the project team in order to make the project successful. There are several different categories you need to consider when determining the skills required. In each of these areas, it' s necessary to have an expert in the specific brand or type of system, hardware, or component your project will use—or even one who can help choose the best system.

Note This list is necessarily tech-heavy, because we ' re talking about IT

projects. See the last items in the list for consideration of nontechnical experts.

Databases If databases are going to be used in the system, will they be based on Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Informix, Sybase, DB2, or something else? System hardware Know which devices will be involved, such as servers, tape backup machines, printers, scanners, and plotters.

Communications gear Many systems are integrated with telecommunications gear or utilize routers, switches, and hubs.

Development environment What method will you be using to write the code that will run the system? Some languages use development environments that provide an interface for the developers to write their programs. Perhaps the most famous of these today is Sun' s Java Development Environment, but there are others such as Microsoft' s Visual InterDev, Sybase ' s PowerBuilder, and Altova' s XML Spy. It' s obvious that you' l l need to pick the correct development environment for the type of code that' s going to be written and then staff your team with developers who are skilled in that environment. For a new environment (such as XML Spy), some time may be required to train the project members in its use, and this time should be built into the project ' s scope.

You should discourage the use of new languages and development environments unless you ' re switching user paradigms and the change necessitates the switch to the new language (moving from client/server using PowerBuilder to thin-client using XML Spy, for example).

Warning Most importantly, you should decide on a development language and environment and then stick with the choice throughout the project. To change your mind about a language or development environment during the project will probably spell the death of the project—or at the very least its protracted sickness.

Security With the advent of public key encryption, certificate services, and web-based applications, security has become a distinct genre that may require a specialist. Specifically, this person might be responsible for setting up a certificate hierarchy for your application so you can ascertain who ' s using it (and so users know they have contacted the correct server). The security specialist will also be concerned about intrusion detection, handling viruses, and other potential security problems. Security personnel usually should, at minimum, have gone through some training to understand how firewalls—very complicated software products—work.

Web-page development You could lump this category under development environments, unless you need someone who ' s able to design good- looking web pages with quality graphics. This kind of development doesn' t usually fall within the capabilities of your garden-variety business-logic coder. You might have one person writing the Java code for your business rules engine and another person developing the web pages that will interface with the code.

Application servers A new kind of environment is something called an application server. Software such as BEA ' s WebLogic and Microsoft' s BizTalk Server and AppCenter Server are just a few of the sophisticated environments available for application processing, balancing, and integration.

Specialty software Some software is so specialized in nature that an expert is needed to achieve successful project implementation and deployment. Microsoft ' s e-mail program, Exchange 2000 Server, is one example of a product that requires a deep understanding of the way the software works. Cisco ' s complex call-routing program, GeoTel, is another great example. Server network operating systems (NOS) and associated server application software will also probably require a program-specific expert. Business process The most important team members may be the people who thoroughly understand the business processes the project is trying to affect. For example, if you ' re developing a new tax management program for a group of a tax accountants in your corporation, you must have somebody on the team who has an intimate grasp of how the company' s taxes are calculated and paid. On the other hand, if you ' re the PM for an enterprise-wide e-mail server deployment, you may not require a business expert. Adjunct skills If the project is very large, you may need a budget person on the project team to help you with the project budget. Other functions, such as documentation, may be helpful on a project and require the assistance of a nontechnical team member.

The above list is undoubtedly not all-inclusive. Surely you can think of other categories. The point is that you must think of these categories as you assimilate the folks you need for your project.

The above list is undoubtedly not all-inclusive. Surely you can think of other categories. The point is that you must think of these categories as you assimilate the folks you need for your project.

Real World Scenario: Finding the Balance with a Two-Skill Team Member

Real World Scenario: Finding the Balance with a Two-Skill Team Member

Here s one other thing to think about regarding this subject: Perhaps one person has two or more skills that you need in order to accomplish a project. It will be vital that you monitor the time this person spends on the various tasks of the project so it' s proportional to the need for those tasks.

Suppose you have a developer who' s an expert in XML and in web-page design. You need both skills to get your project out the door. Which comes first, the XML or the page design? If the team member isn' t a good manager of his time, you may find that he ping-pongs back and forth between the tasks or consumes a lot of time gearing down on one and gearing up on the other, delaying both aspects of the work.

It may be wiser in the long run to have a person devoted to each operation, thus avoiding the whole balance-of-time issue.

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