Embedding resources

Working at a smaller agency, our resources are often deeply involved with clients, discussing their projects and developing their solutions – not just taking the next job from our pipeline.

Embedding resources into a project has a number of advantages and disadvantages. It can add to a project, just as much as it can endanger it.
Weighing the pros and cons and actively defining a degree of embededness will help reap the benefits, without endangering a project or client relationship.

What is an embedded resource?

I use this term to describe an in-house resource like a developer, designer or information architect, who is deeply involved in a project, to the point where they become integral to its ongoing use and development.

At this level, the resource performs a number of tasks normally assigned to a project manager, and can be responsible for taking, estimating and delivering tasks.

Advantages

  • resources become experts on the project and can move effortlessly within the project constraints
  • resources can handle low level interactions with the client, avoiding bottlenecks higher up
  • resources are often motivated by the added responsibility and tend to take ownership of their solutions
  • resources are directly exposed to the client’s needs and consider them throughout
  • Clients build a personal relationship with the resource, strengthening their ties to the agency

Disadvantages

  • a project can become vulnerable to change, since knowledge is isolated with the embedded resource.
  • added contact points between client and resources complicate the project overview, potentially confusing the process

Gleaning the advantages – coping with the disadvantages

As you can see, embedding resources has a number of advantages, but it is important not be seduced by informality.
The direct friendship-like relationship with a client must maintain a layer of formality and professionalism to function. Here are a few ways too offset the disadvantages of embedding resources, without losing out on the advantages:

  • Put a priority on documentation, so that other resources can take over when necessary.
  • Hold frequent (and short) team meetings to keep everyone up to speed.
  • Include your embedded resources in meetings with clients and stakeholders when possible.