Embedded Teams & the PMs Who Love Them

December 1, 2016

Three tips that every PM working on an embedded team should keep in mind.

Working on an embedded team can often feel like you’re living a double life. Not only do you have to track the details of your own company and team, but you also must pay special attention to an entirely separate, but collaborative group of people who represent the company that hired you. It can seem like a lot, but with the right group of talented people, a healthy attitude, and a strong sense of confidence, you’ll be just fine. After my second week at L4, I was assigned to a project that would lead me to work within an embedded team. I am onsite there two days per week and in my time there, I’ve picked up a few tips and pro-moves that I wanted to share.


Embedded Teams Graphic

Tip number 1: Get to know your home team, and be attendant to their needs.

When I say home team I’m referring to the team you’re bringing with you to the client’s office. Understanding what’s important to your home team you’re working with day in and day out can make all the difference in the world. What makes them happy? What’s upsetting to them? What are the puzzle pieces important to them that you should fight hard to achieve? What are the items that are less important and not worth the energy to push for?

When the project finds itself approaching a hurdle, knowing your team will enable you to stay focused on what’s truly important and will allow you to be the champion that your home team rightfully deserves. There are many details to track, but by staying on top of what your team needs will go a long way to earning trust, and over time a team that trusts each other will move much more quickly, do far better work, and probably have a lot more fun in the process.

 

Tip number 2: Start everyone off on the right foot.

You and your home team will need to play nice with the other kids at school, so starting out on the right foot is key.

  • Get organized when it comes to logistics and schedules from the get-go.
  • Work directly with the client team AND your home team to outline the goals of the project.  
  • Establish a repeatable and comfortable cadence for dedicated work days vs. days that are meeting heavy that works for everyone’s schedules.
  • Get clarity around when your home team will be onsite, and when will they be remote.
  • Make sure that when they are on site, they will have a comfortable place to work. This is not always easy, but it’s important.
  • Determine the processes that your client already has in place which work within your recommendations, and what don’t.
  • Find out what development and communication tools the client prefers to use, and who’s responsible for delivering specific things from the client’s side.

Working through and coming to an agreement about these important details in advance will allow the teams to work together with less stress and will keep accountability high by removing much of the ambiguity that can plague embedded teams. A team that doesn’t have to worry about the logistics can stay focused on building the app, site, or whatever it is you’re working on. Let the team work, and you, as the PM should worry about everything else. That’s just good PM 101 thinking right there.

Team Transparency

Tip number 3: Everyone has an off day. Deal with it.

When you’re onsite at the client’s office, you need to bring your A-game. You’re representing your company and the way you present yourself can have an impact on your success. This is probably obvious, but it is important. What happens when you or someone on your team is having an off day? It’s important to have a safe place near the client’s office, yet private enough for your team to have open discussions. There are just certain things that your team will tell you, but won’t feel comfortable sharing directly with the client.

Find a safe place where you can talk openly and honestly without the client. Work to create opportunities for them to be comfortable in letting their guard down. Team lunches and internal retrospective meetings worked well in my case. Even though it wasn’t a ton of time, having a dedicated hour here and there to reflect with your team gives them a break and allows the PM to check for any issues or concerns simmering under the surface.  

These tips worked for me, but by no means is this list exhaustive. Figure out what works for your team, and do that. Earn and keep their trust, and above all, listen carefully. Good luck out there!  

Ben Brodsky

Ben Brodsky is a Senior Technical Project Manager at L4 Digital with more than a decade of experience working in games, emerging technology, and digital marketing. When not spending time with his L4 family, you’ll find him geeking out over the latest gadgets, or zooming around the city on an electric bike that he understands is cheating, but doesn’t mind.

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