You may have heard this before: “I know how to use Microsoft Project; I must be able to be a project manager.” It is a scary thought, but for some would-be project managers, this is their concept of project management.
As a former graduate at the Project Management Institute, I know there are many aspects to every project. You must review each discipline regularly throughout the lifecycle of the project to avoid missing a critical element and bringing it all to a screaming heap.
Let’s begin by listing the key disciplines and their objectives. I hope the result will show the need for regular review. For CIOs, the key is to ensure your project managers are keeping an eye on all their project elements. Ask the right questions and you can gain a degree of confidence that the project manager is really in control.
The key disciplines are:
- Change control
Each discipline may require measuring, reporting and adjusting to ensure the project stays on track. The degree of effort each discipline deserves depends on the type, size and complexity of the project.
Planning is about how to capture, document and maintain data on each of the disciplines. Ideally, your project management office (PMO) will have guidelines, standards and templates to assist with this. The data must be summarised in a regular project status report.
For more information on project management, please see Service development projects.
The scope is what is in this project and what is not. Scope creep (the clandestine addition of activities without re-evaluation of impact) is one of the greatest killers of projects. Make sure that the project is not undertaking any activity that is not in its charter to do so, and list all of the deliverables.
Create and maintain a 'requirements register' that shows all of the identified requirements — who requested them, when, priority, how will they be addressed or are they superseded?
The time/schedule is the work breakdown structure (WBS) that shows all of the activities that have to be performed to meet the requirements and create the deliverables of the project. How long will each activity take and what are the dependencies between them? This is where Microsoft Project comes to the fore.
Each activity has an associated cost. It may be in the resources spent, operational costs in its undertaking and any items that must be bought such as hardware, licences and plant. What is the budget for the project and each activity, and how is the project tracking against that budget?
When it comes to resources, ask yourself: Which resources are needed to perform the required activities? What skills sets are required? How many resources are required? When do they start and when do they finish? Are they available on demand, a lead-time involved or only for a certain period?
Build a communications plan of who needs to be consulted, the frequency of communication and their preferred method of discussion. Even the simplest project can have many stakeholders, so it is important to have a communications plan, a to make sure you deliver to that communication plan. There is nothing worse for a stakeholder than receiving too little or too much communication.
When it comes to logistics, ask yourself: Are all the components at the right place at the right time? How do components move from where they are constructed to where they are needed? What is the cost and time involved? Can it physically be done?
The project will require elements and services that are easier to purchase than to construct specifically as part of the project. It’s important to think about the right time to buy, contract management, finding the best price and ensuring you get what you paid for.
When it comes to quality, ask yourself: Will it have the capacity, availability and strength that are required? Decisions elsewhere in the project may impact on the quality, and hence the value, of the product outcome.
Murphy’s Law can be applied to risk and how to manage the unexpected. Is risk likely to happen? What will be done if it does happen and how to prevent it from happening? Is there any contingency allowed for? Can the project activities be scheduled to tackle the high risk activities first (risk-driven scheduling)?
No project runs in isolation. It’s about managing the impact of other projects that are happening in conjunction, and what to consider when integrating with these other projects. Will it affect the critical path?
All of the above elements of the project will change over the lifespan of the project. Requests for change to the elements must be tracked and their impact managed.
When it comes to ethics, ask yourself: Does the project comply with good corporate citizenship? Are we treating those impacted by the project fairly? Have we engaged the unions, civil authorities, government, environment and other interested parties?
How do we know the project is delivering on what it promised? An independent body needs to review the progress of the project and its relevance to the changing environment in which it sits.
I have yet to see a juggler manage 15 balls at once. This skill is reserved for real project managers so next time you ask, “How is the project going?” remember the full scope of that question.
Gary Percival is an IT service manager with more than 30 years' experience in IT. He has worked in operations, application development and support, and well as project management and service management.
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