On the Baseline site recently there was an article posted about the recurring theme of IT projects running chronically late. The title of the article is 8 Ways to Save Your Next Project.
Here I’m taking that article and giving it an Oracle spin!
1. Get your head out of the software
Most project managers spend too much time in their project-planning applications and not enough time doing the briefing and communicating for which they are solely responsible. You should be spending the bulk of your time talking to and corresponding with project constituents – your team, the stakeholders, vendors, consultants and key end-users. The “soft” skill of communication is integral to project success.
Oracle Spin: Totally agree! Our Project Collaboration module pushes the task of tracking progress and creating issues and managing documents and deliverables to your team members. Why have the PM have to ask for status updates and then enter those when it’s best done if the hands of the task owners?
2. Plan and define as much as possible—but don’t go overboard
A key component of project management is the thorough and meticulous planning of every aspect of a project, but a perfectionist could spend all his or her time in the planning stage. There’s no way to anticipate every variable so at some point, you have to pull the trigger.
Project managers are increasingly using rapid project deployments and iterative models that have been successful in the software development world. These models are based on the principle that in some ways it’s better to start the project and see what you’re up against.
Oracle Spin: Our project creation templates take the pain out of making new projects! Why create a project from scratch when you already know 80% of what you want it to look like because you’re doing the same thing over and over? From pre-defined templates with most of your relevant information included, to actually choosing a past project to copy from to build your new project, we’ve got you covered when it comes to saving time setting up your details.
3. Manage scope creep—for real
Like a turkey on Thanksgiving, you can rely on the fact that the project you think you’re heading for may bare only a passing resemblance to the one you end up with. With the increasing complexity of data centers and the Pandora’s box of surprises once you get under the hood, it’s advisable to game out and document the potential sources of scope creep. For instance, the team may want to take a different approach than planned, management may want to change, add or expand the deliverables or you may uncover a technical aspect you didn’t know existed.
Oracle Spin: Our Change and Issue management feature helps you keep on top of those constant changes that occur in your projects and even lets you see the impact of accepting a change request before you approve it!
4. Don’t be lazy with risk management
If you need 200 servers delivered at the same time for a worldwide mail server upgrade, it’s not enough to know what the risk is if the vendor doesn’t deliver. It’s time to manage the risk by deciding ahead of time that, as reliable as your vendor has been in the past, there’s little margin for error. Going with two or three vendors might be more complicated but in the end, it may save your project if only 20 severs aren’t delivered on time instead of 200.
Oracle Spin: Nothing to spin here since we believe Risk Management is something every good PM will do – in this scenario it’s a business decision that just might make sense for the given project. If you want, you can model several different versions of a budget under various costing scenarios by different vendors so you can see what cost impact that redundancy will have.
5. Get a grip on expectations
Ask vendors and consultants for the best, most likely and worst-case scenarios and then use your own resources to calculate the aggregated risk so you can determine the probable outcome.
There are risk management software applications that can help you do the job. There’s no way to guarantee that a project won’t be delayed or go over budget, but taking off the rose-colored glasses will reduce the likelihood of extreme variances.
Oracle Spin: Check out one of our newest acquisitions called Crystal Ball – this best of breed predictive modelling software suite of analytical tools includes Monte Carlo simulation, optimization, and forecasting.
6. Govern with strength
Even with all the good work you did up front, problems and roadblocks will surely arise. Don’t blow it when it comes to actually addressing the problems. To the degree you can, refer to the approaches you documented and discussed with your team. If planned properly, your team should be able to tackle the problems early on before they become major hindrances.
Depending on the event, governance may include gaining approval from management to sign off on project changes that effect the project budget or time frame beyond a certain point. For example, if changing direction means the project will cost 10 percent more and take 10 percent longer, it may be time to bring senior stakeholders into the loop.
Oracle Spin: Again I refer to our Issue and Change Management features of our product which will help you assess the impact of unplanned project bumps. If you’ve tracked an Issue (and if you’re using Project Collaboration, any team member can create an Issue!) and now it’s time has come, you can easily roll it over into a change request and route it for approval.
If you need enterprise strength Governance, check out our complete solution here!
7. Prepare for intervention
If your approaches are better in theory than in practice, it might be time to intervene with the project plan. Create an intervention plan before the project starts and communicate the plan to everyone directly and indirectly involved. The plan may include steps to take when adding resources, for assessing project-management practices and even changing the project leader.
Oracle Spin: Oracle Projects allows you to store and share documents with all of your team members to keep track of important items such as the Charter, Statement of Work, Risk and Compliance Procedures, templates etc.
8. Drive behavior to use the technology
Whatever you do, don’t rest on your laurels when the technical aspects of the project are completed. Creating a plan to ensure that people actually use the technology you just spent 18 months implementing will serve you well. If you and your organization want to see your expected return on investment, make sure you have a hand in educating and training users.
Oracle Spin: And if you want to see that your project ROI has been positive, be sure to use our Earned Value reports and calculations as you progress through the project. So even if the end users decide they really didn’t need that whizz-bang new application that you built, at least you’ll make sure you were managing your project to expectations and within budget and you’ll have a great story as you’re looking for your next project to run!