Managing an IT project often requires working with resources across other teams—not just those fully allocated to your initiative. Supporting resources and teams can be important to the success of your project. (Ideally, all the resources you need are fully dedicated to your project. In reality, this isn’t always possible.)

How do you ensure your team can deliver results if you’re dependent on these partially allocated supporting teams?

The Challenges of Cross-Team Dependencies

Getting supporting players up to speed.

Supporting teams are often asked to perform critical roles on projects yet have little insight into the work that has been done to date. This generates additional work for your team, as the supporting resources may need an explanation of what has been done and why, in a way that avoids Monday-morning quarterbacking.

Taking into account other priorities.

In many cases, supporting teams have little to no bandwidth for your project because they are allocated to other initiatives. You may need to wait longer than you want for another team to respond to a request, which may be pressing and impeding any forward progress. To them, your issue is just one of many.

Getting status updates.

Communicating with a supporting team is also delicate. Asking the team for status updates on your issue too frequently will alienate them and decrease their willingness to collaborate. Not checking frequently enough may waste an opportunity to get their attention and finally resolve the issue.

3 Ways to Maximize Success When Working with Supporting Teams

To solve the root cause of these challenges, lobby your project sponsor and stakeholders for additional dedicated resources. In the meantime, there are stopgaps you can employ to maintain a rapid pace of delivery, and effectively influence these teams over which you don’t have direct authority.

anticipate - communicate - express gratitude

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1. Plan & Anticipate

Thinking about the complete process to deliver value to customers, from end to end, is a good way to anticipate any involvement required from these supporting players. A light documentation of this plan is helpful to monitor as you progress toward project completion. Gather insight about this roadmap by directly asking these questions to your team members:

  • Will any supporting teams need to be involved in our process at any point?
  • What information should we provide to them in advance?
  • How can we be proactive so we are ready to process their deliverables?

2. Communicate Appropriately (i.e. Don’t Nag)

Nagging supporting teams about an item you are waiting on is the easiest way to alienate these team members and slow down their communication back to you. Incessant follow-ups signal that you do not trust in their ability to deliver in a timely fashion. The key to appropriate follow up is through timed intervals, communicated in advance. Send a request for information, then put a reminder in your task management system to follow up again, for example, in 2 days. Tell your contact you plan to follow up on that specific date.

3. Express Gratitude

Ultimately, a large portion of your ability to work effectively with others comes down to how much they like and trust you. When working across teams, the more you can build an amicable relationship, the more likely you are to receive a faster response. Therefore, be sure to thank supporting players who assist on project efforts. Notes to managers remarking on their responsiveness or callouts in emails are a terrific way to express this gratitude.

PMs on their own may not have the ability to secure full allocation of all the resources they need to deliver a project, but these guidelines will help make the situation manageable.