23th May 2022
Turnover of Key Project Personnel

Concern #7: Turnover of Key Project Personnel

In software development, it is very important to keep the core team stable and unchanged during the entire project duration. Your core team holds all product and project knowledge, most of which might not even be documented due to the agile nature of the project. It’s a real challenge to replace the core team members without losing some product knowledge and team velocity. In real world circumstances, where significant time is needed to recruit new personnel, this becomes even more difficult.

If you have an average turnover of 20% and your project team consists of 5 members, this means that statistically, every year you should expect and handle replacement of one of your team members. Depending on this particular team member’s role, it may barely affect your project or it may seriously impact it.

Staff turnover happens in any company, not only in outsourcing providers. The latter, however, may increase their internal turnover by moving their own employees between clients, based on their own needs and priorities. This creates additional turnover risk for customers using outsourcing. A properly written contract can avoid or at least minimize this risk. For the core team, we suggest hiring dedicated professionals without duties on other projects and clients. A dedicated team will show better stability and thus deliver better value.

As a company stakeholder, you should be prepared for unavoidable staff replacements. Invest into creating a reasonable amount of project documentation, even if you are using Agile. Use special tools like Wiki to optimize your project documentation efforts and integrate this task into your dev process. Arrange for proper knowledge transfer from the leaving employee to the newcomer. Make them work together and face-to-face for a period of time. It’s a good idea to create a knowledge transfer plan/checklist and go through it in a planned and structured manner. Maintain a good relationship with departing staff, so you can contact them should you need additional information or advice at a later time. All these measures should help you cope with project staff replacements and make this process smoother.

It’s worth noting that not all team member replacements are critical or undesirable. In fact, many non-core team members can be replaced without affecting the project. Sometimes, fresh resources can even bring new ideas to the product or spot previously unnoticed product defects. Make your product benefit from a properly executed staff replacement and augmentation.

To minimize turnover of key project personnel and to reduce the impact of such turnover, we at Solead do the following:

  • Do not reassign core team members to other Solead’s projects and clients
  • Keep staff turnover as low as possible; average turnover at Solead is 10%, which is half of the average turnover in the IT industry worldwide
  • Openly share with clients the mood and concerns of the team members with suggestions on how to motivate them properly
  • Arrange for and execute an efficient knowledge transfer process in full collaboration with the client
  • Assist clients in creating and maintaining project documentation at a sufficient level, depending on the project scope and complexity.

Check our next post to learn how to deal with potential culture gaps between client and provider personnel.

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