Project Management

Keys to Project Success - Part 10

Keep Stakeholders Engaged

Years ago, very shortly after I’d taken over management of a new team, there was to be a demonstration of a new set of features that my team had developed.  The demonstration was for the heads of the business areas that would be using those new features.  The software was to be imminently pushed to production, and this was the final step.  I was just about to round the corner into the demonstration room when I heard one of those VPs say, “Well, what did you do that for?  We didn’t ask for that!  That’s not going to work!”

Keys to Project Success - Part 9

Mismatched plug and receptacle.

The Devil is in the Details

Years ago we had to implement some business functionality into a large trading and settlement system that was for tax reporting and withholding.  I met with the leader of the release team and his head designer for this new feature to review the design, as I knew if it wasn't done correctly, we’d be facing fines and a regulatory mess.  So, to decrease the likelihood of failure, I wanted to make sure we were on the right track.

Keys to Project Success - Part 8

Changes Ahead

Manage Project Change

What is ‘project change’?  It’s anything that deviates from the plan.  We often consider change to be only a change in requirements, and indeed that is a change.  But there are far more sources of change than that.  For example, one of your team members is suddenly taken ill for what appears will be an extended period of time.  Your plan was to have them working throughout the project.  So that’s a change.  There are subtler forms of change too, such as tasks taking longer than anticipated.  We often don’t consider “being late” on a project as a change, but it

Keys to Project Success - Part 7

People in field with umbrellas approaching a storm

Manage Risk

Years ago I got a call from our CIO about a project to automate budgeting for our U.S. division.  The company made consumer packaged goods, and so the budget was built up from below the SKU level, as different packaging, ingredients, and many other variables had to be taken into account to arrive at costs.  The U.S. finance folks, like in so many other organisations, used spreadsheets to do the number crunching.

Keys to Project Success - Part 6

Build in Quality from the Start

“The problem with quick and dirty, as some people have said, is that dirty remains long after quick has been forgotten.”[1]  Many times in my career I’ve inherited systems where this quote is so applicable.  There are always various reasons: “They needed a solution really fast so we just banged it out,” or, “It was only supposed to be a temporary solution,” and so on.  The thing is, once the solution is in place, it tends to stay in place, and if it isn’t done with quality in mind, then the future cost of

Keys to Project Success - Part 4

Use the Plan and Keep It Alive

Failing to plan is planning to fail.  And failing to use the plan after it is developed is just as bad as no planning at all.  It never fails to surprise me when I see a project manager move into a ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ approach part way through a project, no longer using their plan.  A typical conversation might go as follows:

Me: “So where are we on the project?”

Project Manager:  “Um, good, I think…”

Me: “You think?  I don’t understand.  How are we tracking to schedule and budget?”

Keys to Project Success - Part 3

Don’t Skimp on Planning

I should start off this segment by defining what I consider “planning” to be.  Planning is not just scheduling, although many ‘project managers’ I’ve encountered in my career consider the creation of a project schedule the totality of their planning work.  For me, planning is much, much more.  Planning is determining not only the sequence of events and the expected effort involved (in other words, the schedule), and not just who of the existing team is going to do the work, but is in fact the creation of a comprehensive model of everything that will happen to

Keys to Project Success - Part 2

Divide and Conquer

A number of years ago, a company for which I was working acquired a competitor.  The competitor’s business had to be folded into my company’s operations quickly to stem drastically declining revenue.  A very major portion of that folding had to take place in one of the systems for which I was accountable.  Partnering closely with my colleagues on the operations side of the business, we did a solid analysis of what needed to be done, and what the end should look like,  and then determined how much work we reckoned there was to achieve it all.  The work was substant

Keys to Project Success - Part 1

Over the course of my career I’ve managed many projects – from small, straight-forward software development projects for one department in an organisation to global system roll-outs across multiple continents and time-zones.  I’ve learned a number of lessons along the way, read some really excellent books throughout my career on project management, and made sure I always learned from my mistakes.  This series of posts will cover a few things that I believe are critical to project success.

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