The Ten Commandments of Successful IT Project Management

Even with the best of intentions, managing projects in the Information Technology arena will always include elements of chaos. As a Project Manager you have a responsibility to effectively manage your project in a way that meets customer and stakeholder expectations.

Managing the expectations of your customers and stakeholders is just as important as understanding the vision and expectations of the initiative. Because you most likely do not have control over many of your resources, Stakeholders, Customers and Sponsor – identified process is the way in which you can successfully manage technical projects.

Identified process and communication of identified process will provide the parameters, expectations and the governance you need to be successful. In my experiences, failed projects all have had the same common thread; there was either a lack of defined process or identified processes were not properly communicated and adhered to. The good news is defined project management processes are available and made to be leveraged. The Project Management Institute (PMI) and Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI) offer best of breed industry standard process in both Project and Organizational Management.

A project is defined as is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end and often constrained by funding or deliverables. The following ten principles are essential and must be utilized for your project to succeed.

1) Sponsor / Business Commitment.

The Project Sponsor has the most interest in the project; in most cases the project is fulfilling business needs for the sponsor. Therefore, the Project Manager and Project Sponsor have a partnership and shared interest in the success of the project. In addition, the Project Sponsor usually controls resources and works directly with or supports the Project Stakeholders. Usually Project Sponsors are not understanding of the level of detail and commitment needed to successfully manage a technical project. The Project Sponsor must be engaged and fully understanding of the project scope and approach. In as much as the Project Sponsor needs to understand your commitment and approach, you need to understand the Project Sponsors commitment and expectations. Through the Project Sponsor, the business group must also have a clear understanding of their needed commitment and project approach. If the program does not understand and has not allocated time needed for their tasks, the project will most likely be delayed. A knowledgeable business team member will be required in many of the project phases including: analysis, JAD sessions, planning, design and testing.

2) Stakeholder Identification.

All stakeholders meaning all people affected by the project and or initiative must be identified. This is critical. Even successful projects can be a disaster if the initiatives are not understood at an enterprise level.

3) Project Scope.

It is critical that every project have a clearly defined scope that details all deliverables in relation to the business needs being met. The scope will be agreed on by the sponsor and all stakeholders, including Project Team Members. Any changes to the project scope will be addressed through the change management plan (discussed later).

4) Project Requirements.

Every project will need identified project requirements; the level of detail will depend on the complexity of the project. Generally, project requirements consist of functional (business) and technical requirements. The functional requirements address the business needs and may include: use cases, process flow diagrams, data needs, reporting needs, gap analysis, testing requirements and other documentation that accurately identifies the business needs. Technical requirements leverage the functional requirements with consideration to any technical standards and policies of the organization. Technical requirements may include: data base diagrams, architectural diagrams, screen shots, performance requirements and other technical specification and design documents needed to procure or develop the desired solution. It is understood that requirements are developed through analysis which will include Joint Application Design (JAD) sessions as well as interviews and or review of existing documentation. Both functional and technical requirements are to be reviewed, understood and approved by the designated project management Team.

5) Detailed Project Plan.

Contrary to popular belief a project plan is not just a Microsoft Project gantt chart/mpp file. A true project plan will consist of the following documents:

• Project scope – defined above

• Project requirements – Defined above

• Communications plan – A Communications Plan will identify all stakeholders who will receive communications, the level of communication, the method of communication and how often. This is important to set the expectation of how your stakeholders will be communicated with.

• Risk management – this document will qualify and quantify risks and how they will be mitigated.

• Gantt chart/project/cost schedule. This document; commonly referred to as the project plan will include time estimates, dependencies, milestones and identified resources. The gant chart includes the scheduling, dependencies and resources needed. This is the document that will be referred to when managing the schedule.

• Issues list/ action items. As issues are identified they will be included in the issues list, assessed and prioritized. The project team will determine how the issues will be addressed.

• Change Management Plan – The process in which scope change will be handled (described below)

6) Change Management Plan.

A change management plan identifies the processes involved when a requested change affects the project scope, requirements and or schedule. Typically the requested change, resolution, needed resources and project impact is identified by the project team. The final decision on how the request is handled is usually provided by the Project Sponsor and or Stakeholders.

7) Project Baseline

It is recommended the project be saved to a baseline. The baseline identifies the schedule and saves it. Any deviations from the base-lined schedule shall be identified and reported as part of status reporting.

8) Project Monitoring and Reporting.

Status reporting shall be done on an identified basis (determined in the communications plan) and include statuses regarding the schedule, cost, resources and any other issue which impact the project. In most cases an Issues list is employed to track identified issues and how the issues will be resolved in the form of a stated action.

9) Exception Management.

In as much as we would like things to go according to schedule, they rarely do. Exception management is a must and includes all actions relative to managing project exceptions. Exceptions include, project variances, schedule variances, scope change, resource issues, personnel issues, personality issues and any other issues you can think of.

10) Needed Skill Sets

To be most effective a Technical Project Manager should have a thorough understanding of: project management process, technical knowledge, and organization and communication skills.

Project Management is as dynamic and rewarding as it can be gut-wrenching; my advice- expect both. I hope this article provides assistance and a realistic reference for you to be most successful managing your projects.

Role of a Project Manager and Methodological Approaches of Project Management

Project management is an important field of study. Many universities and colleges around the world offer different graduate and post graduate level degrees in this field. In order to apply for these degree courses people need to have a certain level of skills, knowledge, aptitude and maturity. A professional in this field needs to take a lot of difficult decisions on a regular basis and so, it is important that he or she has a high EQ or emotional quotient, which is required to take unbiased decisions. The project management degree courses do provide training to the individuals for acquiring a higher EQ.

The project managers are employed in different private and public companies and even in government organizations where they have to take care of different projects, meant for the development of the community or the society at large. Over a period of time, the demand for degree courses in this field, has increased by leaps and bounds. In order to meet this increase in demand, many new management institutions were established which started offering both online and offline degrees, diplomas and other courses in the field of project management. These institutions also offer certification courses as well and these courses are conducted online.

Professionals who successfully complete these degrees are hired by different industries and even by governmental bodies to handle several nationwide projects. In private companies the projects are often of small scale and they last for a short period of time. They are often aimed at improving the performance of the company or improving its sales and revenues. In government projects, the aim is mainly to achieve long term results and the projects include a lot of resources, man power and revenue. They are people who can make a difference to the success of the organization, both in the public and the private sector.

Many managers, working in managerial positions across the industries, open opt for certification courses in project management. These courses help the professionals in getting more responsibilities and a better profile in their respective organizations. With the skills and knowledge acquired through these courses, the managers can responsively and effectively handle different projects which are introduced in their companies. Many government officials also undergo training in this field of study from time to time as these officials have to supervise many large scale projects. Thus, project management degree and certification courses are always in demand.

Main tasks

In order to become a project manager, one would require having a certain amount of experience and knowledge, including a thorough study of the techniques of project management, problem solving, outstanding characteristics of leadership and excellent communication skills. The degree courses in this field of study will help the student in acquiring a clear understanding of the responsibilities, duties and roles of a project manager.

The main tasks of the project manager include:

  • Process planning and scheduling of detail,
  • Organize efficiently and effectively the human resources at its disposal,
  • Facilitate communication and the understanding of the project team,
  • Allocate resources and monitor activities on the course,
  • periodically carry out the process of monitoring, reporting to the steering committee the progress of works and estimates of completion, anticipating the needs of any particular intervention or review contracts,
  • Participate in the steering committee and implement the decisions,
  • Take all necessary actions to prevent risks,
  • Liaise with users and end users reference planning and involvement in various activities of the project,
  • Produce the documentation of its jurisdiction and oversee that produced by the team project,
  • Check the quality of the partial products and ensure that quality standards adopted are respected,
  • Provide for the accounting of resources on behalf of his company (your provider),
  • After the close of the project, providing for the summary task,
  • Always have a special focus on process improvement project.

Generally, when a project draws to a closure, the tension often tends to drop, so that group members sometimes diminish the pace of their efforts in tackling the latest project deadlines. Inevitably, people start thinking about the next assignment, even if they are required to address new or urgent needs of the project. Even in this case, the project manager has a crucial strategic role, providing encouragement to the team for staying focused on successfully completing the project.

Methodological approaches

In all project management degrees, diplomas and training courses, the different methods or methodological approaches used by project managers to complete a project is given a lot of importance.

This field consists of different methodological approaches adopted for the management of a project, including agile approaches, interactive, incremental and based on pre-defined sequence of steps.

Many of them refer to the PMBOK developed by the Project Management Institute and are universally recognized by management institutes, corporate giants and educational institutes.

Development phases of a project

Whichever approach is used, particular attention should be given to the setting of clear goals / objectives of the project and their implications, including a clear definition of roles and responsibilities of all actors involved, including contractors, is of decisive importance for the success of the project.

In the case of very complex projects (for example in the case of a set of related projects) and in cases where significant impacts of projects on these organizations and their processes are known, the project must be conducted with a more global approach, acting in terms of change management that focuses on managing the impact of human and organizational transformation within a business context and / or social.

Among the main existing approaches include:

The classical approach which is actually represented by the orthodoxy of the PMBOK developed by the Project Management Institute and which are connected with other frameworks;

The Rational Unified Process (RUP) consists of a framework for the iterative development of software products created by Rational Software Corporation;

The approach of Critical Chain (Chain / critical path) that focuses on resource availability as well as the logical dependencies between the activities of the project;

Approaches to project management based on processes (Process-based management) that are derived from a generalization of the concept of project control.

Project Management V Service Management Part 2

Last week I gave a talk on Project Management v Service Management at the IT Service Management Forum’s Conference here in Singapore. It wasn’t the best presentation I’ve done in recent years but the topic was a relevant one.

My most recent project, in the manufacturing sector, lasted 18 months and was not my most challenging from a project perspective. However it did highlight several areas that I come across on many projects, more vividly, than most.

The interface between Project Management and Service Management as it relates to the IT world, is broken. Yes, I know, we all know it, we’ve all known it for a long time too. In most cases Project folk like to maintain their unique role as special function and not be seen as art of a “service” organization.

Hey, I was like that too many, many years ago. It’s nice to be different from the crowd, have different responsibilities, and to be on a high profile job, like a major project. Well that’s all fine but it’s not good for the organization investing in the project and it’s a very inefficient way to operate. And here’s why:

Project Management v Service Management

Without a clear definition of the project deliverables that include the service management needs;

  1. customers requirements may not include support requirements resulting in the project delivering products and services that will not meet service and support needs.
  2. integration of change process between the two organizations is prone to problems and risks if not operated as one. This can and often does lead to clashes and delays as two organizations attempt changes relating to common infrastructure and operations.
  3. strategic business decisions that may influence the support model may not be fed into the project solution.
  4. project outcome may satisfy the initial requirements but be a nightmare for support services to manage and therefore prove a poor long term investment and not deliver to the business strategy 100%.
  5. handover of the project into an operational environment will prove more of a challenge than it needs to be.
  6. lack of “synchronization” between project management and support management will cause delays and increased costs against the project.
  7. Many process and procedures that the project organization need to use or interface with are inefficient for project work or are created specifically for the project and don’t interface or leverage the operational procedures that they need to become part of.

If you look at the ITIL model, the approach to the Service Life Cycle almost emulates the Project lifecycle at high level, in Prince 2. This is no accident. In business the strategies are discussed and presented. The design of a solution to deliver that strategy is worked out and then the solution is built. Once the new solution is in place, well, someone has t support it, don’t they?

It’s no surprise that the service management organization is key to the delivery of business strategies and in so doing encompasses a high degree of project management in the delivery f those strategies.

The link between project management and service management organizations is more like an intimate bond. So why is it missing in action in so many organizations?

I don’t have the answer here. I could speculate, based on many years of project management and service management experience. But I won’t, here, and now.

My message is this;

  1. Project scope and requirements must include the service management or support organizations requirements as well as the business needs.
  2. Management process and procedures that support a project should be aligned to operational procedures as much as possible. That means operational procedures need to be flexible and efficient in support project needs as well as operational needs. i.e. Procurement, Resource engagement, Financial reporting, Change Management etc.
  3. Project skills are not easily learned and are sufficiently different from a service management skill set that it pays to get experienced project managers on to major investment projects. However, never lose the opportunity to develop good service staff by attaching them to the project in assisting roles.

Project Management is about people, so is Service Management. Both have similar needs and common threads, both also require training and practice (experience) to become professional delivery agents.