It's choose-your-own-adventure management!
February 20, 2012 5:32 AM   Subscribe

If things go my way, I may be a Team Lead for a group of remote analysts soon. But this position was basically invented to keep me around. There’s no job description and I don’t really know what I would be doing as the Team Lead. Help me figure out specific actions I can take to make myself useful in this job.

Background: I’ve been an healthcare software analyst for 5 ½ years. I am certified in an enterprise application that’s in high demand right now. My consultancy trying to sell remote analyst services to companies - basically, the client would get a small team (5-7 people) from my consultancy who all work remotely full-time for the client. This is good for the client, because they have difficulties filling these positions with experienced people and these remote analysts are experienced, but are willing to work for less than onsite consultants due to the lack of travel. This service is just starting, so I would be working on the consultancy’s first remote work team. So there’s no model for this within our company, and to my knowledge there aren’t many models for this kind of team in healthcare IT.

When my consultancy mentioned this to me, I told them that I was only applying for Team Lead jobs at the moment. So to keep me around they offered to make me a TL for one of the remote teams. I would do all of the usual analyst work as well, plus I'd be the first layer of management for the remote analysts. Which is awesome for me, except that they just invented that position for me. Originally, they expected the entire team of consultants to work independently - each consultant got assigned to a team at the client and worked on their own without any real leadership from my firm. Frankly, this has worked just fine for the consultancy's onsite consultants because they hire very independent consultants, so I feel that this TL position is a little unnecessary. If I'm going to make myself valuable as a TL, I'll have to create that value myself.

So now I’m wondering what I can do to make myself useful as a Team Lead. What should I do to make sure I provide some kind of value to the consultancy, to the client, and to the consultants? I'm not asking for general managerial advice here - there are plenty of old AskMe's for that. I'm looking for specific actions I can take as a remote manager of remote, independent consultants. So far I've thought of a few things.

1) Stay out of the way of consultants communicating with the client and getting work done. These are independent people, they should be free to communicate and accomplish things without constantly CC-ing me. I should not inject myself or be a drag.

2) Have a high-level work list shared with the client so we know what the client expects to be delivered. This sounds nice, but I wonder if it's just work for work's sake - will it really provide any value for a group of independent people?

3) Meet weekly with the client's managers so I can take feedback and make sure things are going well with the entire team of analysts. Basically, be involved with the client's team leads so they feel comfortable sharing feedback with me.

4) Be the first point of contact for client relations. Be the first person the client can come to with questions and problems so they don't have to call the consultancy's partners right away.

5) Have short weekly One-on-Ones with the remote consultants so I can get their questions and concerns, and just to make them feel connected to the team - as many AskMe questions have noted, working from home for a long period of time can be a challenge, so I want to make sure the consultants are engaged and feel like they're accomplishing something valuable.

Are these good ideas, or should I drop some of them? Do some of them need modification or clarification? Are there other things I should be doing as a TL?

For the sake of this question, please assume that all the clients are in the US and all the remote analysts will also be in the US. There’s currently no international component to this arrangement, so any mention of international considerations would be a derail.
posted by Tehhund to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What about the following:
- tracking hours worked against hours remaining in contract. If the consultant is getting close to max hours worked, either renegotiating with client to extend the contract or allocating the consultant to a different project
- optimizing allocation of consultants across projects to smooth cash flow for each individual consultant
- new business development, upselling existing customers
- recruiting and hiring new consultants, firing underperforming consultants
- going to local networking events, etc to promote remote consultancy as a real thing, do speaking engagements or blogging, do case studies on customers to show that your consultancy is successful and more people should hire you
- any client communication around contracts should go through you
- improving project time and deliverable tracking processes is on you
- you report on the state of your consultants upwards to upper management weekly, you should have spreadsheets and other data supporting your effectiveness as a team

Basically you would let the consultants just do "real work", while running the business falls on your shoulders.

Also, tracking a list of deliverables is a real thing, not just makework. Perhaps you have billing milestones around these deliverables. Perhaps your client has a fixed amount of time in the contract, and slips in schedule to execute on one deliverable puts the remaining deliverables at risk. Once the future deliverables or billing milestones are at risk, it should be your job to help fix it (ie, renegotiate the contract).
posted by crazycanuck at 7:29 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

You should also consider a kick-off event of some kind (call, face-to-face, cam, whatever) where everyone on a project formally says howdy to everyone else and walks through the goals and their responsibilities on the project.

People skip this all the time for what sound like good reasons (not our first rodeo, we all know each other already...) and that's a mistake. It's also a mistake to leave anyone out for any reason.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:31 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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