10 Best Practices for Successful Project Management to shortchange the planning process, with an emphasis on jumping right in and beginning the work. The project definition is the primary deliverable from the planning process and describes all aspects of the project at a high level…
1: Plan The Work By Utilizing a Project Definition Document
There is a tendency for IT infrastructure projects to shortchange the planning process, with an emphasis on jumping right in and beginning the work. The project definition is the primary deliverable from the planning process and describes all aspects of the project at a high level. For example, in planning an Exchange migration, the project definition should include the following:
- Project overview: Why is the Exchange migration taking place? What are the business drivers? What are the business benefits?
- Objectives: What will be accomplished by the migration? What do you hope to achieve?
- Scope: What features of Exchange will be implemented? Which departments will be converted? What is specifically out of scope?
- Assumptions and risks: What events are you taking for granted (assumptions), and what events are you concerned about? Will the right hardware and infrastructure be in place? Do you have enough storage and network capacity?
- Approach: How will the migration project unfold and proceed?
- Organization: Show the significant roles on the project. Identifying the project manager is easy, but who is the sponsor? It might be the CIO for a project like this. Who is on the project team? Are any of the stakeholders represented?
- Signature page: Ask the sponsor and key stakeholders to approve this document, signifying that they agree on what is planned.
- Initial effort, cost, and duration estimates: These should start as best-guess estimates and then be revised, if necessary, when the work plan is completed.
2: Create a planning horizon
After the project definition has been prepared, the work plan can be created. The work plan provides the step-by-step instructions for constructing project deliverable and managing the project. Create a detailed work plan assignment help, including assigning resources and estimating the work as far out as you feel comfortable. This is your planning horizon. Past the planning horizon, lay out the project at a higher level, reflecting the increased level of uncertainty. The planning horizon will move forward as the project progresses.
3: Define project management procedures up front
The project management procedures outline the resources that will be used to manage the project. This will include sections on how the team will manage issues, scope change, risk, quality, communication, and so on. It is important to be able to manage the project rigorously and proactively and to ensure that the project team and all stakeholders have a common understanding of how the project will be managed. If common procedures have already been established for your organization, utilize them on your project.
4: Manage the work plan and monitor the schedule and budget
Once the project has been planned sufficiently, execution of the work can begin. In theory, since you already have agreement on your project definition and since your work plan and project management procedures are in place, the only challenge is to execute your plans and processes correctly. The challenge is having the rigor and discipline needed to apply your project management skills correctly and proactively.
- Review the work plan on a regular basis to determine how you are progressing in terms of schedule and budget.
- Identify activities that have been completed during the previous time period and update the work plan to show they are finished. After the work plan has been updated, determine whether the project will be completed within the original effort, cost, and duration
- Monitor the budget. Look at the amount of money your project has actually consumed and determine whether your actual spending is more than originally estimated based on the work that has been completed.
5: Look for warning signs
Look for signs that the project may be in trouble. These could include the following:
A small variance in schedule or budget starts to get bigger, especially early in the project. There is a tendency to think you can make it up, but this is a warning. If the tendencies are not corrected quickly, the impact will be unrecoverable.
You discover that activities you think have already been completed are still being worked on.
You need to rely on unscheduled overtime to hit the deadlines, especially early in the project.
Team morale starts to decline.
Deliverable quality or service quality starts to deteriorate. For instance, users start to complain that their converted e-mail folders are not working correctly.
Quality-control steps, testing activities, and project management time starts to be cut back from the original schedule.
6: Ensure that the sponsor approves scope-change requests
After the basics of managing the schedule, managing scope is the most important activity required to control a project. Many project failures are not caused by problems with estimating or team skill sets but by the project team working on major and minor deliverable that were not part of the original project definition or business requirements. Even if you have good scope-management procedures in place, there are still two major areas of scope-change management that must be understood to be successful.
7: Guard against scope creep
Most project managers know to invoke scope-change management procedures if they are asked to add a major new function or a major new deliverable to their project. However, sometimes the project manager doesn’t recognize the small scope changes that get added over time. Scope creep is a term used to define a series of small scope changes that are made to the project without scope-change management procedures being used.
8: Identify risks up front
When the planning work is occurring, the project team should identify all known risks. For each risk, they should also determine the probability that the risk event will occur and the potential impact on the project. Those events identified as high-risk should have specific plans put into place to mitigate them so they do not, in fact, occur. Medium risks should be evaluated to see whether they need to be proactively managed. (Low-level risks may be identified as assumptions. That is, there is potential risk involved, but you are “assuming” that the positive outcome is much more probable.)
9: Continue to assess potential risks throughout the project
Once the project begins, periodically perform an updated risk assessment to determine whether other risks have surfaced that need to be managed.
10: Resolve issues as quickly as possible
Issues are big problems. For instance, in an Exchange migration, the Exchange servers you ordered aren’t ready and configured on time. Or perhaps the Windows forest isn’t set up correctly and needs to be redesigned. The project manager should manage open issues diligently to ensure that they are being resolved. It may be a potential problem (risk), or it may be an action item that needs to be resolved at some later point. Real issues, by their nature, must be resolved with a sense of urgency.