Matching Tasks with People? Bias, subjectivity, complexity. Try Skill based project management.

June, 2022

Think for a moment how you diagnose and solve a medical problem.

Do you randomly pick one of the doctors you’ve ever met?

Do you ask your friends for names of the doctors they know?

Do you search for any physician with a smiling face?

Absolutely not.

If you have a medical emergency, you get to hospital, where experts make the diagnosis and have a specialist examine you. An orthopedist for a broken bone, a cardiologist for a heart condition.

For a minor problem, you make the choice yourself. If your tooth aches, you find a dentist. If your vision is blurry, you find an optometrist.

This is so automatic for us we scarcely think about the process.

We need a particular medical procedure at a particular time…a specific task to get done. We need to find a person with the credentials, experience and training to solve that specific problem. Dentistry is different from dermatology, even though they are both medical. It’s first about the task, and only with the task determined will we look for the certified medical professional.

The entire focus is on the task at hand, the problem we need to solve at this moment.

 

Software project managers have the same concern… how do we allocate our teams’ skills, today, to move the project ahead efficiently?

Meet “Skills for Jira”, a Jira Cloud app which lets you find and allocate skills in your development team to solve today’s tasks, quickly and efficiently.

We built Skills for Jira to solve a painful problem of our own.

We were rapidly scaling up our own software team in the face of some wonderful opportunities. In doing so, we needed to add contractors to our team, each covering a specific area of work.

We also made our team a training experiment, adding people who wanted to change from dead-end career paths into the wide open world of software development.

Managing all of them? Yeah, no.

It could only be feasible if we had a way to involve all these people with minimal overhead.

How could we keep track of all these moving parts and still complete the projects vital to our growth?

We had a problem.

Our approach had been that of most project teams, which manage their work by first looking at their people.

Who’s with us, who has available time, who is doing good work, who has a positive approach to the project?

With such a growing staff, including people new to the team, many gaining new certifications regularly, it gave us headaches even contemplating how we could grow.

 

The breakthrough?

We realized we’d be better off to look first at skills, rather than people. Much like the doctor’s office first making a diagnosis of the problem, then finding the specialist with the appropriate credentials, we had to first look at the task required, and only THEN find the person with skills to address the task.

When this occurred to us, we realized others had taken similar approaches; in medicine, sales and marketing, and in certain levels of software development.

We felt we could take it deeper. This effort became Skills for Jira.

 

And now Skills for Jira is available for you…because we suspect your challenges are similar to ours.

Each complex software project, the project types in which Jira shines, has a myriad of tasks necessary to complete efficiently.

The project leader is wired to deliver and thus asks daily:

  • We need to do a user story. But who?
  • We need to mock-up the user interface. But who?
  • We need to write the code for data acquisition. But who?
  • We need to test the software before the end of the sprint. But who?

Skills for Jira answers these questions, providing the project leader, the project team and the customer with tangible benefits.

The project leader is freed up to focus on the task. Like our person facing a medical issue, the project leader can focus on the skills required and not be distracted by who on the team may be in or out of favor.

The project leader can even automate this task in Skills for Jira, allowing each team member to pull the next task in queue for which they are qualified when they are ready for a new task.

As one project leader put it:

When we have many incidents, we get to know where we are lacking in skills, as SFJ app easily displays issues where required skill is missing.

 

The team members each benefit immediately. Skills for Jira allows them to pull tasks as soon as they are ready.

No delay in waiting for yet another project meeting to get the next item for which they are qualified. This gives them a keen sense of control and contribution.

These tasks are prioritized as well. Thus, the next task is also the most important at the time. Further, the team member can see what additional certifications might give them the shot at better and bigger tasks.

 

The relationship between the project leader, management and the team members also grows.

The conversation on career development can shift from the usual question “How are you contributing?” to “What skills do you have? What skills are you developing? What skills would you like to learn and try? How do we help you gain the next certification?”

This skill based conversation moves the team into closer alignment with what the customer wants.

Rather than management and team members sitting on opposite sides of the table, in tension over career advancement, performance and pay, it allows them to sit on the same side of the table, looking at what skills customers want and evaluating how to best develop and deploy those skills.

The same mindset applies when the software team uses contract, intern or short-term staff.

 

Skills for Jira allows the project leader to clarify which skills may be required. This then allows clarity in searching for individuals with those skills.

Rather than throwing a huge net into the lake of possible software sources, Skills for Jira tells the project manager what specific bait to use and where to throw the hook.

 

We use Skills for Jira every day in our own shop.

We continue to develop it, believing this skill based approach is essential in our field.

We’d love to have you join us for the ride.

 

Learn more about Skills for Jira here. The sooner you start, the sooner you can benefit.

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