It’s easy to focus on the methodology of project management. From Scrum to Lean, each approach orchestrates a project team in a unique and fascinating way.
But focusing heavily on the methodology for managing a team can lead to neglecting an important consideration. Who should be on the project team?
Regardless of the techniques managers use to tackle projects, it’s the team who is responsible for success or failure. Stocking your team with individuals who wield the right skillsets can be a challenge.
If you’d like to see what skills you’ll need for your next project manager job and what the top requirements are, have a look at our complete analysis of 200+ project management job descriptions.
Here are the 5 people nearly every project will require to be successful.
The Project Manager
Equal parts planner, politician, and communicator, the project manager is the nexus through which the entire operation flows. In many cases, they are the difference between failure and success.
Good project managers exhibit the technical prowess to understand and judge the needs and performance of subject matter experts while also displaying soft skills to diffuse any tension that arises internally within the team or externally with other stakeholders. They also bear the majority of the organizational responsibility, which is why they often require project management software to create wikis for documentation, manage tasks, and engender collaboration.
Technical skills may be the main requirements sought by executive leadership or hiring managers, but it’s actually the people skills that differentiate good project managers from excellent project leads.
For example, if two members have a disagreement, the PM must become the judge. He or she will smooth out the situation in an objective manner. Both parties can leave the discussion with the sense that their opinion was acknowledged.
The Executive Sponsor
Every major initiative needs buy-in from the leadership team. Without the backing of the leaders of the company, the project will be underappreciated, understaffed, and underfunded. It’s the main sponsor’s job to make sure the rest of the higher-ups appreciate the importance of the project and allocate the necessary resources, including the right financial solutions.
The specifics of this role can vary depending on the size of the company. The project manager may themselves be on the leadership team, and therefore may play the role of the executive sponsor. If they requested the project, then the executive sponsor may be the driving force behind it.
Either way, the political clout that the executive sponsor wields is vital to the livelihood of major projects. Any manager working without an executive ally will find change in requirements or schedule much harder to justify.
The Subject Matter Expert
Subject matter experts (SME) are the writers, developers, designers, and anyone who performs the functional aspects of researching and building different aspects of projects. They have greater knowledge of specific parts of the project than the PM. This helps flesh out smaller details that you didn’t discuss in leadership meetings.
Deciding which blend of SMEs to recruit for your team will depend on the unique requirements of each project — one writer may be sufficient for your upcoming eBook or you may need to pull in another contributor to double check the facts on that massive benchmarks report you publish every year.
The project lead will likely lean heavily on the expertise of the subject matter experts for input on the small details of creative direction or realistic feedback on functional capabilities for a product.
Keeping the subject matter experts happy, productive, and focused is one of the main responsibilities of the project manager. Without these members, you simply won’t finish the project.
The Business Analyst
There can be some confusion about the role of the business analyst compared with that of the project manager. Both are concerned with project requirements, ROI, and resource allocation. But, the business analyst works more closely with the subject matter experts. This is to gather data and distill that information into reports for the project manager and other internal stakeholders.
In essence, a business analyst is a numbers person. They play an important role in examining the project from an objective standpoint.
Even if your organization practices a flat form of project management, each team will need to feature the skills above. Although the actual titles of the individuals may be different. With the appropriate mix of technical skill and team communication, these roles help create a well-rounded team.
Zach Watson is marketing operations analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers marketing automation, project management, healthcare IT, HR, and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.