Successful Project Management – in a Nutshell
A PM MUST know well about the business of the client and how the project will bring value addition to their business. If the client has other projects already in production try to understand its release, support and maintenance process.
Know your Project
PM MUST know the underlying business case of the project – the value addition the project will bring to the business
Know the Project Scope
It is an agreement between the PM and business on what all features that will be delivered, as a part of the project. Sometimes features will be delivered in multiple phases but it MUST be agreed upfront with the business
Know your organization
As a PM you may need to interact / help of many departments for the smooth execution of the project. For example development team may need the support of IT to get the infrastructure for testing environment. Similarly being an ISO / CMM certified company, the software needs to be audited at various stages. PM must be aware of these policies and procedures of the organization for the smooth delivery of the project.
PM is responsible for forming the project team with right mix of skill sets and roles. PM MUST make sure to gain as well as inject enough confidence and trust with the team for the successful completion of the project.
Publish roles and responsibilities of the team
PM MUST make sure that each team member is fully aware of their roles and responsibilities and how they should play it.
Split project into manageable chunks / phases
It is the responsibility of the PM to divide the project into manageable chunks and set direction to the team. These chunks can be considered as project milestones and each milestone has its own start and end dates.
With the help of the team identify the tasks to complete all identified milestones. In this process PM should not be worried about the effort, cost etc. associated with it. There will be tasks which won’t have clear cut requirements or implementation vision, but needs to be considered as it is essential for project completion. So during this process team is not worried about the clarity of the requirements. Team will also identify the complexity of the tasks
Sequencing the Tasks
Team needs to focus on identifying the sequence in which the identified tasks needs to be executed. It all depends on the relationship between the tasks and its complexity. There will be tasks which can be implemented in parallel whereas there will be some which can be started only after the completion of another task. During this process no effort should be put to identify the start and end dates of these tasks or trying to identify the person responsible for it.
Identifying resources to the tasks
Once the tasks are identified and sequenced, it is time to allocate people who are responsible for completing each task. The skills, experience and ability to solve complex problems are some of the criteria that are considered to allocate a team member to a task.
Once the task are identified and allocated to the right team members, it is the time for estimation. Project estimation for each task MUST be provided by the team responsible to it and it MUST be in person days. For example a task which takes 10 person days can be completed in 5 days (elapsed days) if there are two members.
Identifying the constraints associated with the tasks
Some tasks can start only after a specific date as the resources required will be available only after this date. Some members will be putting only 50% of their time for the projects or having vacations during the development phase. These are all constraints which will impact the project schedule and delivery.
Create a project Plan
This is the most vital document in a project. It is created based on the information collected so far such as project deliverables, milestones, tasks, resources, dependencies and constraints. This plan will be the base for tracking and monitoring the project.
Estimating Project Costs
Once the plan is made, PM will make use of it to estimate the cost to deliver the project. PM needs to consider many factors like resource cost, testing, maintenance, build, training etc.
Getting the approval for the Project Plan
PM needs to get this plan approved by the senior management. Once approved PM needs to baseline the plan as any variations to the dates or costs from it will not be acceptable to the senior management without further approval.
Start with a project kick-start meeting with the core team. The objective is to set the project vision, briefing about project, team roles and responsibilities and project governance.
Making sure team is performing their activities without wasting time and they are no roadblocks. The challenge here is though some members will voluntarily raise their issues majority will hide their issues and will wait for PM to identify. PM has to make sure that there are positive attitude and team spirit within the team and work as a single unit.
PM has to make sure that work is progressing as per agreed upon project plan. Any deviation needs to be corrected ASAP and MUST be notified to the stakeholders. Daily or weekly team meeting MUST be scheduled for plan tracking based on the complexity of the project.
Issue and Risk Tracking
Maintain an ARID (Assumptions – Risk – Issues – Dependencies) log as a part of Plan tracking. It is the responsibility of the PM to take initiative to mitigate it.
Project progress MUST be regularly notified to the key project stakeholders. The communication plan MUST be agreed upfront and PM must act based on it.
All the changes whether minor or major must be logged. Its impact MUST be discussed within the team and must be analyzed against the plan, cost and timeliness. Any changes that can be managed without plan change can be approved directly by PM whereas others MUST be addressed to the stakeholders for approval.
Plan project Go-Live
PM needs to plan at the end of project completion on how to release the new software to production. This includes plans like whether it requires a parallel run with the existing software or whether modules must be made available in phases etc. These plans MUST be presented to the key stakeholders and MUST get the approval.
Engage with the Deployment Team
Once the Go-live plan is approved, PM MUST seek the help of IT Operations team who is responsible for releases. PM must collect and provide all the information required by IT for the smooth release of the project to production.
Preparing the Support Plan
A support plan MUST be published to key stakeholders. PM has to make sure of the provision for the maintenance of a support register and the publication of the support metrics. These are immediate support plans until it covers a warranty period during which users will get familiarized with the new product.
Project transition Plan
PM is responsible for creating a transition plan where the ownership will be transferred from the project team to the IT operations team.
This means project is operational in real environment and business started using it. Make sure that Go-Live plan, support and transitional plan are approved well before going live. If necessary IT must rehearse the go-live plan in advance.
The project closure phase happens after successful completion or cancellation of the project. PM must share all the findings to PMO, archive all documents related to projects and must settle all invoices related to the project.
Share the Experience
PM MUST share the lessons learned with PMO and if necessary with the team members. It must cover learning related to various aspects of the project like planning, communication, tracking, go-live etc.
Celebrate the success of the project by sharing the good things which will motivate them for the next project.