An interesting thing about projects is that everyone is involved in one. Most times in more than one!
Well, dig a bit and you are amongst chaos right from conflicting project deadlines, resource sharing, project priorities and associated interdependencies.
What does this entail for our tech project managers?
To start with they too aren’t spared as the tech project managers themselves are at the helm of multiple projects needing their attention on priority.
So, it is not only about managing the projects they are responsible for but dividing their own efforts towards various initiatives.
All of these while ensuring nothing falls through the cracks!
This calls for the project managers to be at the top of their game with excellent project management skills in action at all times.
In this article, I would like to share snippets on proven tips based on real world experiences.
Align with your Project Pipeline
Getting new projects is exciting. It means more business and revenue. But not always.
Project pipeline management must be an organizational strategy. Stakeholders from all the key business functions like sales, transition, delivery, operations & PMO must be involved to identify and streamline conflicting projects.
It isn’t about delivering everything on the plate. Rather, being judicious in planning & sequencing in a manner that is in the best interests of the organization and the customers alike.
Collaboration among the strategic stakeholders at the initial stages helps reduce chaos, enables better execution strategy organization wide and helps move the business forward.
The important thing then becomes to have a transparent and accurate visibility of the project pipeline across the portfolio. Read on…
Maintain visibility of your Project Portfolio
Excel sheets, shared libraries and word docs cannot make up for a real-time portfolio dashboard. Invest in an enterprise project management software that helps manage your portfolio end-to-end.
The focus here isn’t on the granular details or the daily execution status. Rather a helicopter view of how things are and where they are expected to be.
The executive dashboard must provide the key project metrics in terms of the budget, estimated timelines and efforts spent/required with possible filters w.r.t the project managers, clients etc.
This helps you to analyse how things are progressing, what are the possible roadblocks & take proactive measures to avoid possible resource and timeline conflicts.
It is all about staying on top of your execution strategy and ensuring it is aligned with the overall business plan for the current month/quarter.
Lock your Requirements
As impossible it may sound, you aren’t going to success without it.
Requirements gathering is “the most” important critical success factor for your projects.
Take as much time as needed to capture the important aspects of the initiative. Be diligent and schedule calls, interviews & working sessions with all the relevant stakeholders.
You must gather
- The most important goal of the project
- Desired project management methodology that is preferred
- Define milestones & time-lines
- Delivery schedule
- UAT process
- Change request process
- Success criteria
Scope management and preventing scope creep is serious business. A goof up there can cost the entire project with long ranging repercussions at both ends. You never want that!
Do a Kick-Off Ceremony of Sorts
Project kick-off meetings are equally important as rest of the other key project management activities e.g. initiation, planning, execution, monitor &control and closure.
Kick-off meetings are your means to introduce the project and project charter. Project Charter is the Project Manager’s bible for a simple fact that it outlines everything between today’s problem and expected solution.
It clearly introduces you to –
- the problem statement for undertaking the project
- the solution to be implemented for the problem
- the timelines for completion of the project
- the project deliverables & goals
- the stakeholders – management, client, team etc.
- the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder (RACI Matrix)
- the foreseen risks and current identified constraints
Once you have shared your vision, associated goals, time lines, productivity and delivery goals with your team it is utmost important that they provide feedback.
Depute a reasonable amount of time to answer all their questions and/or concerns if any. You may unearth crucial information and facts that may prove beneficial for the project.
Finally, kick-off meetings are the perfect meet n greet platform for your team and establish the right connections to last through the course of the project.
Choose the right Project Management Methodology
Everyone wants to get things done in a jiffy. And “it appears” the world has moved on to Agile – Scrum & Kanban principles from the good old waterfall methodology.
This is great. But do not attempt a “me too” approach.
Identify your organization’s culture and your team’s way of functioning. Understand what motivates them. How self-organizing are they? Do they need constant push & monitoring?
Once you have trustworthy answers to these choose your drug!
It is easy to kind of get lost amidst all the choices that are available. Trick lies in choosing one that is most suited to achieve the goal and what works best.
Teams today run entirely on scrum or Kanban boards and prefer more qualitative metrics than just quantity.
You also need to account for your customer’s PMO maturity and willingness to adapt and maintain the right mix of agile and waterfall if needed.
Communicate adequately and some more
Being consistent with your project communication is always the best prevention. PMI has considered it significant enough to be added to their PMBOK.
A stitch in time, saves nine! Communication is the stitch here!
Timely communication acts as a panacea when it comes to critical project risks and issues.
Hence, all your projects must have an active and robust communication plan to fall back on when the team is hit by a crisis.
Your communication plan covers
- whom to contact
- when to contact
- how to contact
- what to access
- where to access
- how to access
- what to share
- when to share
- how to share
Now this lays a solid foundation for maintaining and tracking all project documentation right from your contract, scope, resource plans, vendor info, escalation matrix, risk register, issue list, project metrics etc.
In addition everyone on the team knows who is responsible for which document and whom to grant access and what type of access.
Secondly, you also know what type of info to share with a specific audience. Case in point – a high level project metrics about budget, risks, profitability etc. are of not enough use for your tech teams.
Thus you protect your team from the obvious operational glitches of not knowing and not being able to access the right info at the right time.
Invite consistent User Feedback
User feedback is your project’s RADAR. It prevents your team from veering off the project goals.
Customer feedback are a continuous reminder for your tech teams of the business requirements and objectives.
Note, user feedback helps you stay focused and gets you closer to the success criteria.
Having a mechanism or a platform to obtain and brainstorm user feedback improves the overall quality of your project deliverables.
More importantly, you get to handover the ball to the customer and ensure active participation and engagement.
Smart Tech Managers know that projects go astray when there is low or negligible customer engagement.
Not having timely & enough customer feedback is a quick route to project failure.
I can understand this may sound a lot but if approached with the right processes and setup they are a saviour.
They not only give you precious hours of your life back, but save you a lot of stress & anxiety.
At the business side of things, they increase
- project success rate
- greater customer satisfaction
- team motivation & productivity
- organization wide strategic alignment
- project pipeline & revenue
So what’s it gonna be for you?