As a member of top management in a successful business, you face a long list of important technology decisions. Do you upgrade local servers or migrate to the Cloud? Should you open a new location or gear up for an influx of staffing at your existing offices? These are some of the times that IT projects need careful design and implementation considerations. Without a solid plan it is all too easy for a project to stall due to loss of focus, unexpected roadblocks or the failure to adequately budget.
Here are several things to keep in mind as you work through the various project decisions:
Setting a realistic budget and time-frame right from the outset
It is important to conceptualize the project in detail right from the beginning. Flesh out as many of the various factors that may become significant challenges which may consume more time and money than anticipated. Addressing the significant factors in the beginning takes more effort than managers often imagine but can assure the ultimate project success.
Many times the problem of “project creep” occurs due to incompatibility issues. For example, you upgraded your line-of-business software and took into account that it requires a new Windows Server Operating System but didn’t notice that the new version does not support your current version of Microsoft Office. The littlest details can cause delays and cost overruns.
The IT person has many other jobs to do
Projects are typically layered on top of a full time job. It can be difficult to balance project management on top of the day-to-day work of managing technology. Users have daily issues and complex communication systems require care and feeding. These needs often become a higher priority than a project deadline. Consider making your IT professional the project manager but then outsource big chunks of the daily work load to a company such as NPI so they have time to focus on the project.
Project Management is a unique skill
Often IT support people are very good at managing technology and doing small projects but lack the project management skills required for larger projects. This is a specific skill set and requires new knowledge to succeed. Consider sending your IT manager to a course on project management to further develop these skills.
Create a Project Committee
Successful projects come from gathering a team from various functions within the company, each with a different perspective of the topic. Their job is not to roll up their sleeves and do the work, but similar to a board of directors, their input along with their checks and balances can keep a project on a winning path.
Project Management Time
Larger projects require exponentially more project management time to keep them on course. Do not discount the amount of time a project lead will need to create timelines, check in on the progress of other participants, provide feedback to key stakeholders and consult with vendors as questions arise.
Timelines and Status Update Meetings
It is very important to chart out a timeline for the completion of various phases of a project. Most complex projects will unfold chronologically with later work depending on completion of the earlier phases. It is important to establish deadlines for each phase and to focus on meeting these deadlines. Sometimes deadlines need to be revisited and adjusted if they end up being less realistic than originally thought. Setting expectations with a phased timeline allows for more control and accountability. Status update meetings are the time and place to hold the team accountable and to collectively come up with ideas for solving the challenging issues that arise.
What about outsourcing?
Another option is to outsource projects to a company like ours that has the expertise to scope, budget and implement the changes. Choosing the right partner means they have deep knowledge of the right solutions to successfully complete the project to your expectations.
Here are a few suggestions when selecting outside resources:
The lowest price often is not the best value
Look for a company that completely scopes the project and gives you a quote, not an estimate. That way, if they misjudge any part of the process it’s their responsibility to make it right. With an estimate there is little incentive to thoroughly plan the work because any errors are just billed as change orders. This is often the cause of overages.
Make sure you are getting the right equipment
To make an estimate more attractive, some vendors will select lower-quality devices. If the equipment later works sub-optimally or breaks, it creates more billable time for them. Make sure they back up their recommendations with solid information about the performance and life expectancy.
Determine if they are really listening to your needs
You may think you need a particular device to solve a problem and a vendor may be all too happy to provide it to you based on your request. But ultimately it may be the wrong choice because thoughtful discovery would have uncovered that a completely different solution would have worked much better in the long run. It’s always better when a project is designed with a more holistic approach to avoid unintended consequences.
Using these project management tips can help both management and IT professionals work together to their mutual benefit to deliver successful technology projects that meet the short and long term business vision.