Gaining Visibility and Commitment to Technology Projects
A project manager is called into his supervisor’s office and told, The SVP in Product Management just promised a new purchasing desktop application to the wholesale market, and she told them it would be delivered in four months. Go write requirements.
Since project managers tend to have a Superman complex, the project manager immediately starts thinking of ways to make it happen.
In other words, he thinks, The boss asked me to do this because he thinks I can handle the challenge. So he charges in, but with doubts about the ability to deliver anything realistic by the imposed deadline.
The above project is likely to jump into a premature solution and limp along while all parties hope that it will get straightened out before implementation.
What results are delays, changes in direction, re-work, and cost increases.
In today’s world of corporate chaos, projects get lost in the noise of too many projects, meetings, production problems, management fire drills, and hundreds of daily e-mails and voice messages.
By following four simple project planning practices, one can gain project visibility and obtain commitment from project stakeholders and participants to get the right project done right.
1. Project Sponsor & Project Charter
A project without a sponsor is doomed.
The sponsor is the project champion; the senior business manager who benefits from the product or changes that are produced by the project.
The attributes of a good sponsor are she can make funding and resource decisions, she reports to executive management, she will shepherd the project through issues and challenges, and she has a level of visible involvement that is recognized by project participants.
The first step toward gaining visibility and commitment is to interview the project sponsor and develop a Project Charter.
Have her articulate the business drivers, project mission, project objectives, other internal organizations with a stake in the outcome, and her definition of what constitutes project completion.
The Project Charter document should be short, direct, and comprise the following sections; Introduction, Project Description and Justification, Business Drivers, Constraints, Stakeholders, Deliverables, Project Objectives for Time, Cost, Quality, and Scope, Project Resource Roles and Responsibilities, Preliminary Resource Identification, Assumptions, Dependencies, and Issues.
This information allows coordination with participating groups on the project. Use numbered lists for all sections except the Introduction and Project Description.
These lists provide the relevant information in an easy-to-read manner that facilitates group review.
2. Stakeholders & Stakeholder Analysis
Project stakeholders are those who have a vested interest in project outcomes.
For technology projects, they would include managers who have to provide project resources, for example, from business end-users and marketing, application development, networking, and data center groups.
Since projects are unique by definition, stakeholders are different for each project.
After stakeholder identification, review the Project Charter with them and the project sponsor. It is their opportunity to hear project details, understand the impact to their respective areas, and provide feedback to the project sponsor.
Next, conduct a stakeholder analysis.
It is important to understand what the stakeholders think about the project and how they define success. I have yet to conduct a stakeholder analysis without learning something unexpected that altered deliverables or affected project scope.
Ask each stakeholder:
1. Does he/she agree with project objectives,
2. What does he/she define as project scope,
3. What does he/she view as project risks,
4. How does he/she define project critical success factors,
5. How would he/she define project quality,
6. What, how, and how frequently does he/she want to hear about the project.
Interviewing stakeholders is just that.
Do not use e-mail.
If unable to sit face-to-face with a stakeholder, use the telephone.
There are no rules other than to get their feedback. I have used directed and non-directed interviews successfully. For non-directed interviews, I merely ask the questions above. For directed interviews, I prompt the interviewee with lists of project objectives and scope from the Project Charter then solicit feedback.
It is important to ask the same questions of all stakeholders.
3. Project Scope
After completing the stakeholder analysis, evaluate the data.
The project sponsor sees the ˜world’ through her eyes. She may not realize that the requested application requires network upgrades and a general ledger system interface.
This discovery now needs to be incorporated into the Project Charter.
Once revised, there should be a final document review with all stakeholders.
The rest of the stakeholder analysis information will be used to design the project and build the Project Plan.
Specifically, stakeholder feedback will be used in the Risk Management Plan, Quality Management Plan, and Communication Plan sections of the Project Plan.
By conducting the above activities, the project manager and planning team have engaged key participants, built early consensus, and given visibility to the project.
4. Project Plan
The Project Plan is the document used to manage project execution.
It defines the project ˜What, Why, Who, When, Where, and How’.
It is a text document (not to be confused with a Microsoft Project Plan) which states how the project intends to achieve its objectives. It helps other internal and external organizations understand what they need to do and when in support of the project.
Although the project manager has primary responsibility for producing the Project Plan, it should be developed as a partnership between the business and technology organizations.
A well-drafted Project Plan would include the following sections. Introduction, Project Charter, Milestones with Projected Dates, Resource Plan, Scope Management and Change Control, Quality Plan, Risk Management Plan, Communication Plan, Communication Matrix, Deliverables / Responsibility Matrix, and WBS.
Visibility and Commitment
These four proven project planning practices increase the chances for project success for one simple reason: inclusion.
All stakeholders were included in the process, they understood the project needs and benefits, and they were given a chance to voice the matters that are important to their support of the project; a recipe for visibility, commitment, and success.