Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment III of III)

Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment III of III)

(Previous segments Segment I of III,  Segment II of III)

To recap from earlier segments I and II, we talked about the critical project success elements of Project Schedule Rigor and Proactive Resource Management. Now let’s finish off with the critical element of Proactive Risk Abatement.

Proactive Risk Abatement is something that is often completely missing, or disguised as a filler page in a budget request as things that may go wrong. Webster’s definition of proactive is “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes”. The definition of abatement is “the act or process of reducing or otherwise abating something”. Abating risks simply means you want to avoid a risk becoming an issue. It’s not about managing issues – that’s what contingencies are for; it’s about avoiding them.

At GE I learned a process that boiled down to a few simple steps:

  1. Define all the risks you could think of
  2. Decide on scale of one (low) to five (high) both the likelihood that risk might occur (probability of occurrence) and the effect (effect of occurrence).
  3. Decide what actions you could take to abate those risks
  4. Put a “trigger date” on when those actions would have to be executed (to be effective)
  5. Decide how much the actions (if executed on the trigger dates) would reduce either/or the probability and the effect.
  6. Decide what contingency actions would need to be taken for any risks that were not effectively abated (it means those risks turned into real issues).
  7. Document all this as a Risk Abatement Plan and tie the trigger dates to your main Project Plan/Schedule.
  8. At EVERY Project Review confirm that every risk abatement action with trigger dates on or before the review date have been, or get executed.

In summary, going from a simple list of “risks” on a page to a proactive, actionable plan, tied to your project plan, will result in far fewer failed projects. I suggest it makes your project plan more than twice as likely to succeed.

To summarize all segments, IT Projects have had, and continue to have, a high failure rate. Many agree on a 60% rate of failure. Beyond fundamentals of knowledge and experience (and certification if you like) of project management methodologies, we believe paying attention to three key elements improve your chances of success. Applying Project Schedule Rigor, Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement will make you less likely to fall into the abyss failed IT Projects.

 

Sources:

Project Management Institute – http://www.pmi.org/

ENTRY Software – http://blog.entry.com/why-is-project-resource-planning-still-no-better-than-guesswork

Webster’s: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor / https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abatement

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.

CRITICAL ELEMENTS OF IT PROJECT SUCCESS (SEGMENT II OF III)

Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment I of III)

(Prior article – Segment 1 of 3)

To recap, in our first segment we talked about the critical project success element of Project Schedule Rigor. Now let’s talk about the second of the three — Proactive Resource Management. 

Proactive Resource Management means you have access to resource capacity, with the necessary skills, to deliver what you promised.  Then it’s all about managing the team of resources to complete all tasks. Of course managing also means successfully resolving challenges that could arise from poor estimation, resource churn, and even Murphy’s Law. Rather than assuming you’ll get the resources as planned, I suggest you use a three-step plan to get resources engaged. At an earlier employer I developed what was call a 30-60-90 day resource plan. Depending on the size and duration of your project you may break the steps into different durations. In this example resources we not all coming from local sources where onboarding was predictable. And the projects tended to be six months to 18 months in duration.

The “90” day was a long view of what resources would be needed, sometimes before every last detail was defined in terms of technology and technical skill needs. In a sense this represented a “soft allocation” of resources to the project. The number and general type of resources were defined, and all long lead time activities were started. These could include Visa filings, travel plans, local recruitment, and any specific training that was required.

The “60” day was a threshold by which the long view had been taken care of, and the details of technology and number of resources was firmly committed to. By 60 days you were making a “hard allocation”, or named resources, to the project. All long lead time activities had to have been completed, and any adjustments to resources types or numbers had to be resolved quickly. At this stage you needed to prepare to be ready to deploy these resources on the project within 30 days.

The “30” day was the threshold whereby within a 24-hour notice you must have the resource ready to deploy. This meant all remote resources coming onsite had to have visa, passport and flight ticket in hand. Resources that would be working remotely would have to have all onboarding completed (including training), and equipment and access provisioned and tested. All local resources (external and internal) has to be onboarded, trained and committed.

In tandem with proactively lining up resources, there are well-known challenges that you need to address. The list is long, so I’ll take advantage of a study completed by Entry Software, who is a recognized as an innovator in project manage software. Their study found the three most critical success factors that needed to be addressed includes:

  • Lack of information = lack of process and systems
  • Recalcitrant team members = cultural resistance
  • Unskilled project managers = skills development”

Entry found that by “… addressing these three success factors is critical” (to success).

In summary, managing resources on a project doesn’t start on project day zero. It starts in advance of the project launch date. In addition to managing proactively, it requires you address the critical areas of process and systems, cultural resistance, and skills development.

In the next segment well address the third and final critical element of IT project success — Proactive Risk Abatement. Check back for that.

 

Sources:

Project Management Institute – http://www.pmi.org/

ENTRY Software – http://blog.entry.com/why-is-project-resource-planning-still-no-better-than-guesswork

Webster’s: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor / https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abatement

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.

 

Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment I of III)

Who hasn’t heard a research analyst say that 60% of IT Projects fail? Whether you heard that 20 years ago or yesterday it’s still touted as an unsolved problem. So then why? We’ll avoid what would be a much larger discussion of how software development models have changed over the years. From Waterfall, to JAD, to Agile, and maybe now turning back again; let’s instead focus on the elements of project delivery that matter most.

Much focus is given to the process of project management, often referring to PMBOK published by Project Management Institute. Notwithstanding process significance, I’ve seen where knowing how bait a hook doesn’t always result in fish. In the same way, I’ve hired PMI certified PMs that failed miserably at following the established guidelines to successfully execute a project.

So, what elements are key to IT project success, and how do we improve executing on those? Let’s boil it down to the three that I’ve found key to success. They are: Project Schedule Rigor, Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement. In this first of three segments we’;; address Project Schedule Rigor.

Project Schedule Rigor assumes you put together a detailed project plan. Rigor, as defined in terms of strictness by Webster’s Dictionary is “the quality of being unyielding or inflexible”. When we refer to schedule, being flexible means you’re not serious about deadlines. Yielding to unscheduled changes also risks not meeting deadlines. It’s not about being “nice” to all those that want to take the heat off, but about getting it done. Rigor means taking a timely review of progress against schedule. In other words, publicly stating:

  1. What did we get done that was promised by today?
  2. What will be done to catch up before our next review? and
  3. What will we do to ensure we do not miss anything by our next review?

This can be done in the form of “Stand Ups”, Sprint Reviews, or any other method that exposes misses and clearly holds people accountable. It doesn’t matter whether it’s done in person or virtually; as long as no one leaves until all three questions are answered fully, and it’s glaringly clear who owns what. In terms of tracking short-term “projects” progress, a “W3” – Who, What and When plan of action works just fine.

In summary, a detailed project plan, and familiarity with the guidelines of great project management are table steaks. The real value comes from executing the plan. Effectively. Being fully prepared only pays off if you stay for the entire game, and apply enough rigor to create a win.

In the next two segments well address the critical elements of IT project success — Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement. Check back for those.

Sources:

Project Management Institute – http://www.pmi.org/

ENTRY Software – http://blog.entry.com/why-is-project-resource-planning-still-no-better-than-guesswork

Webster’s: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor / https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abatement

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.