Achieving Successful Projects: Competent Project Teams

Duncan Ross Russell
The vision of the Association for Project Management (APM) is ‘A world in which all projects succeed with project management as a life skill for all’, but how do we ensure that our projects succeed? In this fourth article of the series reviewing the APM’s five key project success factors, I discuss competent project teams.

What does a competent team look like?

Internal Staff - A project takes you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.  Who will understand these two positions better than an internal member of staff?  Internal staff play a key role in providing this connection between the past and the future. 

The project sponsor should always be a senior member of your staff who is passionate about the benefits the project is to deliver.

My ideal team would include an internal staff member on the project leadership and at each of the key touchpoints between the project and the current business establishment.

Project Professionals - Internal staff know where you are and where you want to get to, but they do not necessarily know how to navigate the project through the rocky waters in-between.  For this, you need project professional input.  This can either be a suitably trained and experienced member of your internal staff (common for organisations that run many projects) or could be a specific hire or consultant.  How many project professionals you require and where they sit in the project team is project dependant. 

Subject Matter Experts - The subject matter experts differ from project to project, and through the project too.  These are the people who are really going to develop and then deliver your plan and their competence is critical to success.

Competent project teams bring together a full understanding of three environments:

  • the client organisation - internal staff.
  • the project – project professionals,
  • the benefits required - subject matter experts

All three are required to make an effective project team. 

Clients should be very cautious about the way they procure project support.  You get what you pay for and mistakes made in planning will cost far more than the difference between the cost of the cheapest and most expensive project team.  Investment in a competent project team is rarely wasted.

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