In the final instalment of our series on Project Management, George Strathie, Software & Services Director, gives some hints and tips on how to ensure the success of your project.
Create a project plan – often plans can become out of date, as it’s created at the outset and shelved once the supplier has been selected. It is however vitally important that it’s maintained and is reflective of the current state of play.
Conduct acceptance testing
I would argue that compared to parallel running; acceptance testing is a better way of ensuring that the solution achieves what it’s meant to. Parallel running can be very time consuming and onerous, and the outcome is that it only serves to confirm that the old system can do the same job as the new system and vice versa. Whereas acceptance testing is about proving that the benefits have been realised from the new system. You should prepare for acceptance testing by preparing a guideline of why you are testing and you should create a testing plan that’s documented and defines the key areas of the system that you want to get the maximum benefit from. The acceptance test is a good validation mechanism used in combination with hand-holding at project go-live, so users are supported throughout to ensure they become confident with the new system, which helps with buy in. Users not receptive to change can adversely affect the success of any project.
Document everything – not just in terms of reference but also sign-offs. It sounds onerous and bureaucratic, but it’s important that each set of deliverables are actually signed off, if just to confirm that they are delivered to ensure that nothing has been overlooked.
It’s essential that changes are signed-off. Changes often happen, but you should keep a record of why they are happening, the costs and the impact. The right level of authority needs to make the decision in relation to change requests, otherwise changes can happen without being properly considered or evaluated.
Project status reports – these ensure we can see how we are doing, whether we are on track and on budget. Project status reports are important and combined with strong adherence to your chosen methodology, are easy to produce.
You should really understand the project and what the resource requirements are. You should define what you want to achieve and the benefits of achieving it, ensuring it’s documented where possible as this can be the justification for the investment.
You should select the methodology which best suits your organisational and project requirements. Sometimes you’ve not got a full choice, as you may be confined to the methodology offered by a supplier. In which case, ensure you examine your supplier’s methodology and choose the steps that are relevant to the size and nature of your project. You don’t have to do everything, instead focus on the elements that provide most benefit and mitigate risks.
Senior level commitment
Don’t pay lip service to project management. It’s essential and ensures a highly successful outcome. It’s important that the project has senior level commitment so the benefits proliferate throughout the organisation to ensure buy-in.
Contingency needs to be built into your planning as things happen. Build in breathing space, so if things do go wrong you can help ensure the project is still delivered on time and to budget.
Make sure you keep people in the loop. The Terms of Reference document is an articulation to the organisation about why you’re undertaking the project and the importance of it. People need to know there’s a project on the go and what it will achieve.
Project teams need to all pull in the same direction to ensure they remain aligned. You should actively look at the deliverables, make sure they are signed off and any change is reflected in the plan. Don’t be afraid to reassess the scope of the project to ensure you get the outcome you need and be honest in your review of deliverables and feedback in a positive manner.