By Alex Circei, CEO and co-founder of Waydev.
Deploying complex, revolutionary tech projects requires a form of support and guidance that only steering committees may ensure. These advisory boards are vital to avoiding risks, mediating situations and increasing efficiency. Still, for them to deliver results, you need two things: to include the right people and to offer them access to accurate, reliable data about the team’s and project’s performance.
The IT Management Steering Committee: What Is It And How To Form It
IT steering committees are widespread management practices often used in companies that implement costly, disrupting projects with high stakes. Since they have full governance over the project lifecycle, it is crucial to ensure that these advisory boards have an excellent combination of authority, expertise and skills in IT and engineering.
In this context, a steering committee comprises valuable leaders with a track record of success. These high-level professionals are department heads, C-suite executives and board members.
While they need to have experience in the areas most impacted by the project, it is also crucial not to be involved in its development and deployment. This is because a critical feature of successful steering committees is to ensure impartiality and to offer an objective, outside perspective on its progress.
The Steering Committee’s Scope
Generally, the steering committee provides direction and scope to the project and team, overseeing significant aspects like the budget, the timeline and the methods involved. Still, its role is significantly more complex.
o Ensuring Team Members Buy Into The Project
A successful project needs dedicated people that understand its value and buy into it. To ensure this happens, members of the steering committee share their common vision and help professionals understand the benefits of every change, making them feel part of something bigger. This way, the project’s team has the mindset and psychological resources to deal with the pressure, changes in dynamics and the additional work required.
o Executive-Level Decision Making
Some of your team members might find it easier and more effective to make individual decisions than group ones because they have to understand their points of view and reach common ground with people with different perspectives.
This may be particularly hard, especially if you don’t have collaboration experience. This is where the members of the steering committee come in. They help professionals navigate different opinions and routes and make decisions effectively, as a unit, without causing disruptions in the overall process.
To do so, the steering committee’s members pay attention to the bigger picture to see how the project affects the organization’s ecosystem and all stakeholders. For example, these C-suite advisors may assess the company load and decide to bring in additional talent that helps balance the skill set and talent or that brings a fresh, much-needed perspective.
o Resolve Issues
Although the primary role of the steering committee is to offer guidance, members often need to step in, resolve issues and mediate conflict.
This is because some complex situations may need the expertise of key executives that can help lead the team toward the most efficient path.
Steering committees also intervene and help project managers identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks, optimize projects and help team members reach a compromise. Even more, their role is to ask the right questions, making it easier for professionals to solve potential issues and improve activity.
o Approve Project Budgets
The steering committee oversees the budget, which means that members must approve its iteration before starting the work and agree to any request for changes and new funds.
Members analyze the value and compare it against the organization’s finances to make sound decisions. Using automated tools that offer crucial details on the progress and costs of key deliverables helps those involved have a clear view of the project’s costs and their development to ensure that the budget keeps up with the timeframe and KPIs.
The Functions Of The Steering Committee
o Setting The Strategic Direction, Objectives And KPIs
Since the steering committee’s members bring the expertise and the vision to the project, they are also in charge of establishing how success is measured and setting the KPIs so that the team knows what is expected of them.
o Advocating The Project Internally
Internal communications are crucial when implementing projects that impact the organization on a high level. This is why the steering committee members need to become advocates of the initiative and spark positive feelings among internal stakeholders. This approach generates a chain reaction, where managers and key opinion leaders support the project, thus increasing people’s involvement.
o Supporting The PM’s Activity
The steering committee chooses the project manager and remains by their side, offering constant advice and direct input. The steering committee members share their vision on essential project elements–like budgeting, resources, tools and techniques–while offering encouragement and leadership advice.
o Monitoring Processes, Risk And Quality
To ensure their advice and decisions are sound, steering committees monitor the deliverables’ quality, processes, plans and KPIs.
o Developing Policies And Governance
Given that the steering committee brings together extensive expertise, it is only natural to get involved in developing organization-level policies and governance procedures.
We can all agree that steering committees are crucial elements of organizational success, but not all steering committees are created equal, and the way in which information moves across departments is what makes or breaks a good steering committee.
On the one hand, we have traditional steering committees where C-suite executives and department heads get their information from reports built manually by engineers. This approach fosters communication and builds a strong bond between team members. The downside to it is not being as effective and transparent as the data-driven approach, by which reporting is done automatically and prevents human error.
When it comes to reporting to your steering committee, either manually or through automation, you should make sure that the members have access to relevant KPIs and accurate data.