In my previous post, I discussed how I work with the business team’s end-users to help prepare them for their roles on large IT systems project. In this post I discuss methods for preparing that same end-user team for their role in developing the detailed requirements for the project.
The world in which I have spent my career has been one of specialized IT consulting firms developing systems for end-user organizations, mostly government entities. I didn’t always understand it, but there is often a huge intimidation factor felt by the end-user community when they first begin to work with the IT project team.
Think about it. On many of the projects on which I worked, the average age of our entire consulting team was mid-20s. The average age of the end-user organization was typically 30s-40s. I have had every imaginable reaction from the end-users to this seeming disparity. For example: “What am I doing wrong in my career? These people are all so young and so smart.” (Implying that there is something inadequate about themselves.) I’ve also had the opposite extreme: “What can these young whippersnappers possibly show us?” Both attitude are wrong, especially when trying to build a sense of team for the benefit of the project.
My answer to the one group was always, “Yes, they are young. And yes, they are smart. But they don’t know your business as well as you do. So in that regard you’re as smart, or smarter, than they are.” To the other group, “Yes, they are young. Yes, they need seasoning. And that’s where your maturity comes into play to help build this team. When they understand that you are willing to work with them, they will do whatever it takes to satisfy your requirements for the system.”
Another common fear of business team staff is that they are inadequate for their role on an IT systems project. For these people, I assure them that the reason that they are on the team is because they are subject matter experts. The consultants do not know their business as well as they do, and therefore they need the users as much as the users need the consultants. The system can only be developed and implemented well when both teams are working in concert with their respective expertise at the forefront.
Part of the encouragement that I provide to the business team participants, as I help prepare them for their roles on the project as subject matter experts, is not to feel intimidated in any way. They then become emboldened to either correct the consultants when they miss the mark, or to push back should the consultant attempt to reduce the scope during working sessions.
Intimidated users are ineffective as project team members. Knowledgeable, prepared, emboldened users help deliver better project results for their organizations.
[If you’re looking for an upbeat keynote speaker, an experienced seminar leader, an on-site project management coach, or an expert in project oversight and IV&V, you need look no further. Contact Merv to help guarantee your project delivery success.]
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