Successful projects rely on five fundamentals.
Do these five things well before you move on with your project and you have a good chance of success. Skip one of these five key fundamentals at your own peril, as it’s essential to get the foundation laid right.
Step One: Identify the Initiative’s People & Teams – Very Key
- Identify the key teams to represent the various stakeholders, including business and IT stakeholders.
- Typically a business-technology initiative is comprised of multiple teams:
- Executive team, comprised of the business and IT executives involved in the initiative who will provide executive-level oversight, including budget approvals, scope changes, timeline changes, and any serious change management approvals. They typically expect a monthly update – high level, picture and number oriented – along with any brief, interesting findings that might benefit the company.
- Project management team, comprised of not just the overall project manager, but also a manager from each of the business units involved in the effort and, conceivably, project managers from vendors and/or a key client, along with manager from production IT area. This is the team that reviews status regularly, hashes through issues, haggles over resource challenges (such as when a key person is being pulled between multiple competing endeavors), and has to come to agreement on what will be presented to the executive team. They are all responsible for a successful initiative – or should be.
- Project working team(s), comprised of people who are working on the initiative as most of their daily workload, either performing analysis, design, coding, installation, testing, etc., or developing documentation, etc.
Step Two: Ensure You Have Defined Scope, Budget, & Have Executive Backing
- Clearly define the scope and executives’ vision for the project — using words that are easy for all stakeholders to understand.
- Ensure that the executives backing the project are fully engaged via committing some resource(s) to the project and willing to serve on the executive team, which shouldn’t take more than an hour of their time on a monthly basis.
- The budgetary guidelines, including cost centers, process/procedure for purchasing and approvals, must all be crystal clear, along with what the total budget is.
- Any issues on executive backing or budget will definitely result in serious difficulties later. If you run into this type of challenge, you need to escalate within your management hierarchy and get your executive to get clarity.
Step Three: Define & Share the Project’s Communications Plan
- Status reporting – both regular status from project workers and management-level – needs to be defined, along with frequency and content desired by the executive team.
- With teams around the globe and virtual workers, communications planning should also include:
- Scheduling of regular day/time for project team status reporting, including utilizing videoconferencing online tools – especially for virtual, global teams;
- Utilization of online toolsets (or corporate-assets on intranet) such as Basecamp for project team issue management, milestone-setting and action items, and much more; and
- Preferred instant-messaging (“IM”) tool to be used by project team to support immediate questions/answers.
- It goes without saying that information needs to be shared from the start about the project’s scope, vision, teams, people on project and their contact info. Get it all documented and available – such as out on Basecamp – right from the start, so as new people come on the project you don’t get bogged down.
Step Four: Define the Change Management & Escalation Plan
- Scope statements seem to always be issued as absolute – as though nobody will discover any new opportunity or challenge during a project. It’s not true: There are always, always, always changes.
- Define how the change will be handled up-front or suffer later. This means you document the change management procedure from how it will be documented, who will review it, who has to approve it, etc.
- Typically small changes are handled for review and approval or disapproval process by the project management team.
- Larger changes, particularly those that impact the timeline or budget, generally have to be presented and considered by the executive team. This can be entertaining to watch – or not – depending on which executive is impacted by the change request.
- Always do this - from procedure to change request to approval – in writing. Fundamental, right? :)
Step Five: Identify the Key Success Criteria
- Key success criteria aren’t really requirements — they’re part of the business vision for the project and are essential to understand and get documented as part of a “vision” for the project.
- The project’s key success criteria actually portray how the executive stakeholders will define the initiative to be a success. Here are some examples:
- - The profitability system numbers presented on the user interface must reconcile back to the general ledger.
- - The users will be able to have a data guarantee (because of the highly-available, redundant architecture being designed and implemented in the data center).
- - The customer service representatives need to be able to use this system with less than one week’s training and be effective on-the-job immediately.
- - The system will provide proscriptive advice to students as to areas in which they need to improve their skills.
This is the first blog post on successful projects; more coming soon.
But these 5 key points for successful projects are vital for getting a project underway.
If your project leadership understands the business well, can adapt to change and grasp the complexities, you have a good shot! Be sure to remember that analysis means you must uncover the real needs the business has.
What I’ve found helpful in getting to key success criteria is having some one-on-one time with the primary business management stakeholders. I’ve asked what success in the project will look like to them, what will it mean for their business unit and for the business overall. More on this element of project management and SDLC coming in a future post.
Successful projects rely on a firm foundation. Spend the effort needed upfront in identifying the people, teams, scope, communications plan, budget and reporting, change management, and key success criteria.