Want to win big? Call in a tiger team
More companies are claiming they use tiger teams, but what does that mean?
The expression “We’ve put a tiger team on it” has become increasingly popular in the government information technology market. The term is thrown around casually, but what does it mean?
To get us up-to-speed, we asked a panel of experts: James Ballard, senior vice president of global services at 21st Century Systems and former president of Perot Systems Government Services; Dan Arnold and Joe Lehman of Harris Corp.; and Cari Dorman, director of business development at Computer Sciences Corp.
First a little history: The term started in the military. Ballard, a Navy man, and Lehman, a retired Marine, both used the term 20 years ago when they were in the service, but it had nothing to do with IT in those days.
“When the Navy needed some quick turnaround work or repairs, they would assemble a tiger team,” Ballard said. “The connotation was that it was a self-contained team that included all the skill sets and resources needed to do the work — journeymen, planners, engineers, fabricators, etc.”
“A tiger team was a small hand-picked, particularly skilled and capable group of ‘tigers,’ often chosen and chartered by a commanding officer, to plan for and/or achieve a very specific mission,” Lehman said.
The idea of a small, focused group is why the term and concept have caught on in the IT market.
The stimulus package and the hunt for shovel-ready projects has helped popularize the term for industry, Ballard said. “A variety of planning, logistics and execution skill sets are required to accomplish tasks in multiple sites or across multiple agencies,” he said.
So who are your tigers?
Team members are usually subject-matter experts and are relatively senior. They also can be called “firefighters" because they get out fast when called on to solve a problem, Dorman said.
“A corporate sponsor is needed because you will need resources, especially budget and personnel,” Arnold said.
Members are drawn from senior business development, operations, finance and administration, and legal staffs. Depending on the project, there also might be senior engineers, security experts, research analysts, and communications and marketing personnel.
“The list [of tigers] can go on and on,” Dorman said.