Mark Hayes, 2nd August 2019.

What Makes it so Difficult to Get the Right People?

Misplaced Accountability, Conflicts of Interest, the Wrong Person in Charge and Integrated Administration

In many environments, because of the sums, risk or subject matter, there is a need to have professionally qualified oversight. For example, from a chartered accountant, architect or engineer. A person who can be struck off from a professional body for misconduct etc.

Mistakenly such a person is often tasked with delivering and managing the project. A mistake, not just because of the obvious conflict of interest.

As can be seen in image 1, regardless of the organisations choice of delivery model, the development team end up wrapped in a layer of people and functionality irrelevant to the solution itself.

Image 1. A Recipe for Disaster

Notice a distinct lack of Analysts, Testers and Subject Matter Experts in image 1 compared to image 2. This is because having a non-technical lead, such as an accountant, almost always results in these three essential roles being filled by other administrators.

Non-technical managers tend to grossly underestimate the skills required to fill these three role types and assume they can be filled with other administrators. At the same time they over-engineer the administrative tasks, give them far to high a priority and insist that the whole team is involved.

The net result, the effectiveness of the developers is massively handicapped, the majority of the "team" effort is spent on administration, politics and compromise, and ultimately the work of proper analysts, testers and subject matter experts is taken on by the developers.

The most important failing relates to conflict of interests. Compromises are made in all areas in order to meet deadlines. Inadequate requirements, scope reductions and incomplete tasks are all signed off because primarily objective is ticking boxes, meeting milestones and appearing to be in control.

Note that red arrows are bad as they indicate counter-productive inputs. See Image 2 below for a more harmonious, productive and efficient approach.

How to Make Sure the Right People are Involved and Doing the Right Things...

Get an Experienced, Strong Technical Lead for the Delivery Team

This is essential. The person responsible for producing the deliverable must be technically strong enough to provide the rest of the team guidance, focus and direction. Also, to be able to shield the team from external distractions, such as administration, needy customers and compliance.

Essentially, a good technical lead will keep the team focussed on the deliverable, control scope and ensure the relevant context is always considered.

Also, a technical team lead will be able to ensure external providers are suitable and the services they provide are appropriate, efficient and cost effective. I.e. they wont be relying on sales pitch and gut feeling.

Externalise Compliance and Project Controls

Image 2 offers a far better arrangement. By externalising administration and compliance, and not involving them in decisions relating to such things as recruitment and suppliers, the developers are surrounded only by relevant people, skills and experience.

The delivery team can now focus fully on the deliverable itself, no longer wasting large portions of time helping administrators appear to understand what's going on. Even worse, compromising the quality of various elements of the deliverable in order to "appear" to meet milestones and requirements.

Image 2. Smooth, Compliant Segregation

Conflicts of interest are removed by making compliance completely independent. Predefined company policy and standards should form the basis of project controls in combination with deliverable specific criteria.

Compliance is better achieved through project control points, or stage gates, than it is through management. Having (project) management, technical or not, responsible for any type of compliance, regulatory or otherwise, creates a fundamental conflict of interest and is incompetent at best.

Instead of using professionally accountable people to manage and deliver, use them to control. Make sure they are entirely independent of the delivery process, and focussed entirely on defining stage gate requirements and ensuring they are met appropriately.

Stage gate requirements should define what should have been done and, where possible, what should happen next. Indicate which are critical and which may, under special circumstances, overflow into the next stage.

If the approach to defining the requirements is iterative, the stage gate requirements should be updated as appropriate, preferably on completion of the previous stage. Pretty standard stuff...

Now imagine how much more productive an accountant (or other such professional) will be if they are free from having to manage (or to be more accurate, administer). Let them focus on the quality of the deliverable in relation to the requirements.

There's a lot of money to be saved here!

Ghost Administration, Save Money and Deliver!

The real beauty of this model is the removal of administration, and therefore administrators, from the delivery process.

Instead of involving them in management, compliance, steering and decision making, use them to provide a service (more on this below). I.e. let the administrators do the paperwork so the people doing the real work don't have to. Additionally, and most importantly, only allow them to liaise with the lead developer and compliance.

The end result, a model that facilitates delivery by removing noise and compromise, improves compliance by removing conflicts of interest, and minimises costly overheads by using administration service.

Important: Images 1 and 2 are deliberately simplistic. The point is that Compliance and Administration should never be part of the Delivery Team, and should not be involved in recruitment or decision making. In particular, Administration do not allocate work, they are a service that DOES the administration.