The Value of a Project Team Handbook

If you’re a Project Manager, then you’re very familiar with the challenges we face in getting everyone on the project team ramped up for the new project. Quite frankly, it can be a little chaotic if it’s not planned well. I’m talking about all of those little details that are required to make sure that the team members have the tools they need to get their jobs done. You know, little things like access to servers, software for coding, passwords, and user IDs for the collaboration tools and let’s not forget the project scheduling application or the defect tracking database.

There are so many tasks required in getting the project team established and ready to tackle the project that I ended up creating a Project Team Handbook. The handbook lists all the tools, resources, applications, access codes, and servers that the team members are going to need for this project. Although this information may change from project to project, several of the categories may stay the same for your organization. For instance, your organization may keep all project documentation on the same network drive or, all projects may use a specific tool for tracking defects. But for those project details that may change, I find it beneficial to document those details in the Project Team Handbook and distribute this to the team.

For instance, some of the benefits can include:

  1. Consistency in communicating the details eliminates any room for interpretation.
  2. The Project Team familiarizing themselves, early in the process, with the tools, resources, and applications required to work on the project.
  3. Easy distribution and sharing with new project team members, consultants, or vendors as needed.  Include this in the onboarding package!
  4. Reuse of the template for all your projects moving forward. I would suggest adding any topics that are applicable to your organization with respect to project work.
  5. Storing the completed Project Team Handbook for your project in the document repository will help all team members share the document, when needed with new or struggling teammates.

As an example, when I was hired as a Project Manager for a project that was well underway, it took me over a week to access the network path where all the project documentation was stored. The first hurdle was finding out where the project folders were stored. In some organizations, they use OneDrive, others use SharePoint and still others use a network drive. Once I learned the answer to that question I moved on to the next issue – getting access. I have also run into situations where the test team was logging defects into the same defect tracking application but in different instances of that application. Once we figured that out, we had to merge the records.

Can you imagine how beneficial it would have been to have a Project Team Handbook in these two scenarios? In the first scenario, I would have been provided with the handbook as a new team member and would immediately find where the project documentation was stored, and the network path needed for access. In the second scenario, the testing team would have checked their application to make sure that they were mapping to the correct instance of the defect tracking tool to avoid any mishaps later on.

A more recent situation involves all the people who are now working from home that have no familiarity with how to use video conferencing tools. Yet many people just assumed that their team understood how to use the video conferencing tools. Let’s make sure that we are setting our teams up for success by providing them with the information they need to effectively use all the tools. This is the reason I also suggest providing resources for how to use the various tools in your organization. Establish a resource folder that you can refer to time and time again on how to use the scheduling tool, the defect tracking application, or any other tools that you will be using as part of the project effort. Again, by providing a centralized resource for your project team on the tools used, it will help to boost their confidence while also elevating their level of engagement. Most importantly, it can cut any feelings of frustration if they are new to the tools being used.  

Lastly, I suggest that you create a checklist for your team that will be a companion to your Project Team Handbook, asking everyone to review their desktop and/or laptop to make sure that they have access to the necessary tools, resources, and applications. As the Project Lead, having this information from your team members in the early stages of the project effort will be helpful in getting everyone up and running as soon as possible.

Providing your team with the tools they need on Day 1 will help them be productive right out of the starting gate. Who wouldn’t want that? 

Mary Beth Imbarrato
Mary Beth Imbarrato