Friday, June 17, 2011

Strategies for Onboarding New Project Resources

There are several reasons why new resources would be onboarded mid-stream on a project:
  • A project resources moves to another project
  • A project resource has left the company
  • A project resource is performing poorly
  • A new skill set is needed on the project
  • Additional resources are needed to get the job done
The list can probably go on and on. The reasons can vary, but what can't change is the fact that onboarding a new resource must be done as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as possible. It needs to be performed as seamlessly as possible so that the project doesn't skip a beat. It needs to seem to the customer as though it never really happened - it should go that smoothly. Ideally, it's as smooth as changing the name in the your project management software tool to the new resource. Because anything less and your project is in danger as well as the confidence that you have built up in your customer in the ability of you and your project team to deliver on the engagement. If a changing of the guard on the project causes bumps, then your customer is going to feel them and that is never good.

First, you must assess the situation in terms of the outgoing resource and their status on the project. Consider these questions when assessing this...
  • How key is this person's role on the project?
  • How critical is their expertise specifically for this customer's requirements?
  • How involved have they been so far with the customer?
  • How can we get a new person engaged quickly on the same knowledge level?
Understanding these issues can help you get the right person in the role and transition to the best of your ability in order to minimize the affects on the project and the customer.

So, let's look at key strategies or processes for bringing on new resources to your project in mid-stream.

Provide all project materials

The first step of the process is to get a new resource anything and everything that you possibly can on the project. Of course, this works best if they have some time to get up to speed and aren't immediately thrown into the fire on the project. If the outgoing resource isn't already gone, but has an exit date set, then this entire process - including the next steps below - will be much smoother and it will likely affect the customer to a far lesser degree.

Provide the incoming new team member with everything that was put together for project kickoff including the statement of work for the project. Also, get them the current and recent versions of the project schedule produced from the project management software tool, weekly status reports for the past two months at a minimum, the current versions of the issue lists and risks lists, copies of all deliverables produced and delivered to date, and resource forecasting and budget information - if applicable - for the project.

Direct contact knowledge transfer

If possible, the incoming resource needs knowledge transfer time from the outgoing resource. If the outgoing resource has left the company or was an utter failure on the project, then this step is either not possible or not necessary. But in the case where they are leaving for another assignment, then secure time away from the team and the customer for the two resources to discuss the role, the project, and the customer and to transfer key project knowledge and status. Ideally, the new resource would shadow the outgoing resource on the weekly status customer call for one to two weeks before actually participating.

Team knowledge transfer

Following, or during, the one on one knowledge transfer activities, conduct a series of unofficial team meetings for the purpose of getting the new resource up to speed and offloading knowledge to the knew resource from all team members. How long this takes will probably depend on the urgency of the situation and the number of team members on the project, but one or two meetings should be enough in most cases.

Customer introduction and transition

Finally, conduct an introductory meeting with the customer where your new resource is introduced and can discuss his or her background and what their role will be on the project. Ideally this will be a separate call from the regular weekly status meeting and would also include the outgoing resource. However, that's not possible in all scenarios and it may have to happen as part of the formal weekly status meeting.

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