Monday, November 25, 2013

Lessons Learned: A Project That Had Few Defined Requirements

The end of the year is not only a good time to reflect but also to perform that ever so important part of any Project Mangers role ... Lessons Learned.  Perhaps the most important lesson I learned this year involves a unique project I was tasked with completing.

I was assigned the huge challenge of a Designing a SharePoint solution for a company wide intranet, including a solution for the PMO. The PMO solution needed to include a repository for project documents, confidential financial documents and the usual project inputs and outputs - issues, action items and risk lists.

The Problem:
This was an internal project funded by overhead, not from an external client or vendor source and stakeholders wanted it done without much time or input from them. They wanted it done right and it had to work for everyone. 'Everyone' meant, HR, Development, Finance, executives, remote and in house developers, too.  Without requirements, some of the dilemmas I encountered included:
  1. No defined start and end.  
  2. I could not get stakeholder sign-off prior to development.   They were not directly involved and therefore would not sign-off on milestones involving resources or infrastructure.
  3. Each project was managed differently having different inputs, outputs and levels of detail, so project level requirements were all over the map: Some projects needed more structure and others needed less. Some projects were so quick they were over practically before they were initiated.  
I decided not to ignore the quiet stakeholder as also mentioned by Kiron D. Bondale's Blog and requested approval for internal department work spaces. They got approved with sign-off on Security.

The end solution was robust enough to satisfy all projects that could be implemented quickly and expanded on later. How did I get there?

First, I established the basic structure and needs analysis:
  1. Security definition - Who needed to access what, what was confidential, group based or individual based?
  2. There was a need to store Documents, Secured Financial Documents and Lists.
Then, I analyzed what was needed for an intranet. I asked the question 'What is currently being utilized?', 'What needs to be recorded?' and I performed business analysis and process analysis for each functional work area.

Solution:
A phased Intranet with project work-spaces for project document storage and project status snapshots:

  • MS SharePoint 2010 with Template and Workflow features for each department. 
  • New work-space creation procedures were implemented for each active project.  
  • MS Project was used for Resource planning and plugged into SharePoint for stakeholder reporting.

Compliance and adherence to guidelines brought light to using templates for lists and document repositories for all site elements.  I further worked the requirements on a need by need basis from there to satisfy as much or little needed for the specifications and requirements at the project level.

I learned to be wary of quiet stakeholders,  not to let pressure from the business take away from the current deliverables, and quality should come first above a rush to market with a solution that is not sustainable or configurable. The bottom line is to not allow your project to be under-defined, unstable or runaway.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So, what ensures Successful Project Management?

So, what ensures Successful Project Management? 

If project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals in a timeframe having a defined beginning and end, what is needed to meet the unique goals and objectives?
Essentially, it's Two Things (yes, just 2!) :

Ensure project goals are met

Let's consider the simplest highest goal: to ensure the change, meet the milestones and project goals while adding value.  Projects are usually constrained to tight time and resource budgets and usually have a financial budget that work needs to be contained to. Project plans, Visio high level milestone charts, lists of issues, action items, and risks are needed.


Project Administration

Deliverables and milestones are another thing that requires great attention to during the various stages of the project. Having a Project Administrator monitor action items, issues and risks is key especially during the day to day work, where they can reach out for followups, and interact with resources, often acting as the PM on activities that are not necessarily being tracked. These are usually repetitive tasks directly tied to the success of the project, that can be permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities. Simply put, they are needed initiatives to produce successful project change whether in technical products or services. 

Operational knowledge of roles involved will prove useful because it assists the project manager with the moving targets - the people, regardless of the technical skills or management strategies that are to be adhered to.

Communication

Again, if we revisit the number one challenge of project management: to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while keeping within the projects scope, time, quality and budget, Communication of information is key.


Integrate the Inputs

Lastly, let's not forget one key element of project management - integrating the inputs, which are often more challenging than planning, organizing, motivating and controlling resources to achieve goals. Integration of these inputs, such as changes of scope, reduced budget or resources, are necessary to meet the original deliverables and objectives on time and under budget. A project administrator can help the project manager not lose sight of the moving pieces and help bring the project to a successful close.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Remember the Five Keys to Success

By Alicia Pozsony
I believe that those of us out of work have to have the very same qualities it takes to become our own boss, because we are our own boss in the business of networking, job searching, and selling ourselves.
Imagine yourself an entrepreneur. What do you need to succeed? According to a recent article on Web site ezinearticles.comhttp://ezinearticles.com/?How-Entrepreneurs-Succeed---The-5-Qualities-Needed-For-Business-Success&id=22948—there are five qualities that all entrepreneurs share that are the keys to their business success. See how they apply to your own job search:
  1. Desire You must have a desire to break into the workforce or out of the average nine-to-five in an economy as tough as today’s and to put your ideas, ideals, and beliefs into action. Desire is the one key strength that forces entrepreneurs to stay ahead of competitors.
  2. Positivity Like an entrepreneur, the job seeker of today must have a positive mental attitude toward life, business goals, and oneself. Job seekers must not be restricted by setbacks, delays, or disappointments. A naturally positive person continues to see opportunities where others see obstacles.
  3. Commitment To succeed, you have to be committed to putting in the time and hard work necessary to sell yourself and reach your goals. You must commit to your beliefs and desires. Commitment brings efforts, efforts bring results, and results bring successes.
  4. Patience Patience and commitment go hand in hand, and patient people who dedicate themselves to working away at their goals day after day will reap the rewards when the focused hard work pays off in the form of positive and successful results.
  5. Persistence Usually, nothing is straightforward or without change, and the future is also usually unknown. These factors mean that the final key attribute of persistence is critical to success. When obstacles appear, when the goalposts get moved, and when tribulations get in the way, you have to persist with your ideas, persist with your hard work, and persist in keeping focused on success. With patient and committed persistence, the desired results will ensue.

Remember: a naturally positive person frees the mind from negativity and disappointment so as to be free to dream, imagine, develop, and expand.
Best of luck in your job search. Stay positive, and keep networking!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Commonalities in managing projects of different types

No matter the industry, there are many things that are the same for all projects. Some of them are:
1. People
2. Timelines and Milestones
3. Action Items, Issues and Risks

If you have studied the PMI Principles of Project management as I have, and your company is willing to implement them under the same standards, your life will be easy because you can utilize PMI Standards. 

Your projects will go smoother even if you need to manage projects to some other methodology, perhaps according to the companies specific SDLC or worse, a combination of their standards and different client standards. Internal reporting can be difficult in this situation unless you know how to bridge the gap. This is the case with many companies, both large and small. Then complicate matters by introducing methodologies such as Agile or Waterfall and environments such as a matrixed environment, and it becomes a whole new ballgame!

The bottom line is the same, though: Stay organized Communicate timelines and changes Communicate action items/issues and risks COMMUNICATE effectively across all levels and your projects will stay on track.

If you are really good, and the start align in your favor, maybe even under budget!