How to Harness the Power of External Project Resources

Your project gets off to a great start. You’ve got a clear project vision and mission. The project scope is locked in and agreed to by all the key stakeholders.

And you’ve decided you need to bring in some external resources to help you deliver.

While they aren’t an official part of the project team, their contribution is going to be critical to your success.

But what happens when some of these external resources don’t deliver on their commitments?

How can you get them to give you what you need so you can assign your team the work they’re waiting on to meet the schedule?

If you’re already working with an external resource, then here’s five ways you can improve your engagement.

In this article, we’re going to look at how you can ensure the relationship helps deliver a powerful project right from the start.

Determining dependencies

Once you’ve established who your project team is, you need to determine dependencies, and you should include your external resources as part of this process.

The key to this is to truly understand the role of each person. Who needs to be involved in the delivery of the project both inside and outside the project team?

How will each of these people contribute and how are they a dependency on the rest of the team?

It’s also important to know when they are going to be a dependency on the rest of the team.

Once you’ve established who these people are, what they need to do, what kind of dependency they have, and the timelines of those dependencies, put an agreement as to how you’re going to work together.

When you do this, everyone has a clear understanding of their impact on the success of the project and you’ll avoid delays in timelines, and confusion about priorities.

Setting rules of engagement

Once you’ve established dependencies, setting rules of engagement helps you to establish clarity around the role of your external resources.

The main question you need to answer here is:

Will this team work directly with the project team?

Will they be physically sitting in-house with the project team? And if that is the case, will it be on a part-time or ongoing basis?

Deciding what this should look like, whether it should be part-time or full-time, need to come back to what kind of an impact the person’s presence on a part-time basis might have on the overall project delivery.

If we really need the resource to be full-time but they can only make it part-time how will that change the team’s ability to succeed? Does it mean that we won’t be able to deliver in the timeline we have committed to? What timelines might need to change and are we okay with that?

Are we happy with a part-time contribution as long as it’s on the days that the external resource will be required to deliver something that the team is dependent on?

When you’re setting rules of engagement, you also need to consider how the external will participate in team meetings.

Do they need to be present? How can you schedule meetings so that this can happen? And if they can’t be present, how will you communicate the outcome of critical project conversations?

Rules of engagement need to be extremely clear. They should be communicated and agreed to via an email exchange, or even a more formal written arrangement. You might also need to present them to leadership to get a formal approval or consent to the rules of engagement on the project.

And make sure that all your key stakeholders, including your externals, are clear on what impact they create when they are not adhering to these rules.

Delivering the work

Another way to ensure that you’re harnessing the power of external resources on your project is answer some questions and set some parameters around the timeline, the scope, the budget and the quality of work that you need delivered.

What are the boundaries they need to abide by? Are there certain design elements they need to follow?

Is there a quality assurance process? Does somebody need to check they are on the right track and if so, who does that person need be? How frequently does this quality check-in need to happen?

In answering these questions, you’re trying to establish what the bare minimum of delivery is for the external resource.

It’s about setting expectations around the working relationship with the external project contributors, so that we don’t have to compromise on the value we’re creating for our stakeholders or the commitments we’ve made on things like the timelines, budget, or to the scope of our project.

These are the keys to a successful external engagement

When we know what we need for the team to be able to succeed, we’re able to minimise and solve for any possible negative impacts of using external resources on the delivery of the final product or solution.

External resources can help you power up your projects. It works when project teams and externals understand what we need to deliver, what part each team member and resource has to play in influencing the success of overall project delivery and what we all need from each other to be able to make sure that we don’t compromise on our commitments.

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