The deadline was real, set in stone, and seemed impossible. Yet, a company that was developing ticket machines for new and existing train lines was able to hit that deadline, and leaving customers ecstatic about their performance. The project manager said, “Due to our client’s effort and determination, we were able to complete the project successfully within the timeframe. Problems were communicated openly and solved quickly, which has greatly contributed to its success.”
Isn’t that what we want to hear at the end of our projects? Don’t we want happy customers who are satisfied with the final deliverable?
I see you rolling your eyes at me as you say, “Yes, Chris. Who doesn’t want those type of results, but it’s not always that easy!” True, however, there are a few suggestions I have to offer that might assist you in achieving those results with your IT projects. All of them involve things that are established at the BEGINNING of the project rather than the middle or end of the project.
1. Involve the PM and PM team earlier rather than later
For complex projects, the initiation stage requires involvement from not only the sales staff that has been working with the customer, but also the PM. In fact, you need to build a relationship with them as soon as possible.
This gives you time to build trust, build rapport, and establish clear lines of communication. If you follow the PMI method of creating the business case and developing the project charter, crucial to have the project manager involved as quickly as you can. In addition, if the first choice of a project manager/team seems to not fit well, it is much easier to make adjustments or find replacements.
2. Risk management starts yesterday
Even as you are putting together your contract/charter, risk identification needs to begin. Start the catastrophic thinking mentality with your leadership and maintain that throughout the project. As part of the risk management, identify a fallback position for production. Most successful project teams institute a daily delivery report that is shared with the customer in order to track production of hardware and/or software. Make sure the report includes a daily review of risk and a go/no-go on the fallback plan. This ensures that the customer and your internal change control board (CCB) are kept abreast of issues and that focus is maintained throughout the organization.
3. Zero tolerance for unauthorized changes
This means that you need to build this into your company’s culture. When everyone on your team understands how even little insignificant changes can cause BIG problems later on, you will have much less scope creep. Change control needs to be tight, ensuring that all changes from stated requirements are identified and discussed, and that the impact will be assessed with agreed upon follow-up actions. All changes are registered irrespective of their impact on the project deliverables, timescale, or cost. In order to get buy in from your team and clients, you need to START with this mindset, not introduce it halfway through the project. Start strong, end strong.
These are several things that should be a part of starting and ending projects well. Take a moment to reflect on your latest project and think about how if you had started with some of these suggestions, it could have made a difference in the outcomes. Until next time!