The Ten Commandments of Successful IT Project Management

Even with the best of intentions, managing projects in the Information Technology arena will always include elements of chaos. As a Project Manager you have a responsibility to effectively manage your project in a way that meets customer and stakeholder expectations.

Managing the expectations of your customers and stakeholders is just as important as understanding the vision and expectations of the initiative. Because you most likely do not have control over many of your resources, Stakeholders, Customers and Sponsor – identified process is the way in which you can successfully manage technical projects.

Identified process and communication of identified process will provide the parameters, expectations and the governance you need to be successful. In my experiences, failed projects all have had the same common thread; there was either a lack of defined process or identified processes were not properly communicated and adhered to. The good news is defined project management processes are available and made to be leveraged. The Project Management Institute (PMI) and Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI) offer best of breed industry standard process in both Project and Organizational Management.

A project is defined as is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end and often constrained by funding or deliverables. The following ten principles are essential and must be utilized for your project to succeed.

1) Sponsor / Business Commitment.

The Project Sponsor has the most interest in the project; in most cases the project is fulfilling business needs for the sponsor. Therefore, the Project Manager and Project Sponsor have a partnership and shared interest in the success of the project. In addition, the Project Sponsor usually controls resources and works directly with or supports the Project Stakeholders. Usually Project Sponsors are not understanding of the level of detail and commitment needed to successfully manage a technical project. The Project Sponsor must be engaged and fully understanding of the project scope and approach. In as much as the Project Sponsor needs to understand your commitment and approach, you need to understand the Project Sponsors commitment and expectations. Through the Project Sponsor, the business group must also have a clear understanding of their needed commitment and project approach. If the program does not understand and has not allocated time needed for their tasks, the project will most likely be delayed. A knowledgeable business team member will be required in many of the project phases including: analysis, JAD sessions, planning, design and testing.

2) Stakeholder Identification.

All stakeholders meaning all people affected by the project and or initiative must be identified. This is critical. Even successful projects can be a disaster if the initiatives are not understood at an enterprise level.

3) Project Scope.

It is critical that every project have a clearly defined scope that details all deliverables in relation to the business needs being met. The scope will be agreed on by the sponsor and all stakeholders, including Project Team Members. Any changes to the project scope will be addressed through the change management plan (discussed later).

4) Project Requirements.

Every project will need identified project requirements; the level of detail will depend on the complexity of the project. Generally, project requirements consist of functional (business) and technical requirements. The functional requirements address the business needs and may include: use cases, process flow diagrams, data needs, reporting needs, gap analysis, testing requirements and other documentation that accurately identifies the business needs. Technical requirements leverage the functional requirements with consideration to any technical standards and policies of the organization. Technical requirements may include: data base diagrams, architectural diagrams, screen shots, performance requirements and other technical specification and design documents needed to procure or develop the desired solution. It is understood that requirements are developed through analysis which will include Joint Application Design (JAD) sessions as well as interviews and or review of existing documentation. Both functional and technical requirements are to be reviewed, understood and approved by the designated project management Team.

5) Detailed Project Plan.

Contrary to popular belief a project plan is not just a Microsoft Project gantt chart/mpp file. A true project plan will consist of the following documents:

• Project scope – defined above

• Project requirements – Defined above

• Communications plan – A Communications Plan will identify all stakeholders who will receive communications, the level of communication, the method of communication and how often. This is important to set the expectation of how your stakeholders will be communicated with.

• Risk management – this document will qualify and quantify risks and how they will be mitigated.

• Gantt chart/project/cost schedule. This document; commonly referred to as the project plan will include time estimates, dependencies, milestones and identified resources. The gant chart includes the scheduling, dependencies and resources needed. This is the document that will be referred to when managing the schedule.

• Issues list/ action items. As issues are identified they will be included in the issues list, assessed and prioritized. The project team will determine how the issues will be addressed.

• Change Management Plan – The process in which scope change will be handled (described below)

6) Change Management Plan.

A change management plan identifies the processes involved when a requested change affects the project scope, requirements and or schedule. Typically the requested change, resolution, needed resources and project impact is identified by the project team. The final decision on how the request is handled is usually provided by the Project Sponsor and or Stakeholders.

7) Project Baseline

It is recommended the project be saved to a baseline. The baseline identifies the schedule and saves it. Any deviations from the base-lined schedule shall be identified and reported as part of status reporting.

8) Project Monitoring and Reporting.

Status reporting shall be done on an identified basis (determined in the communications plan) and include statuses regarding the schedule, cost, resources and any other issue which impact the project. In most cases an Issues list is employed to track identified issues and how the issues will be resolved in the form of a stated action.

9) Exception Management.

In as much as we would like things to go according to schedule, they rarely do. Exception management is a must and includes all actions relative to managing project exceptions. Exceptions include, project variances, schedule variances, scope change, resource issues, personnel issues, personality issues and any other issues you can think of.

10) Needed Skill Sets

To be most effective a Technical Project Manager should have a thorough understanding of: project management process, technical knowledge, and organization and communication skills.

Project Management is as dynamic and rewarding as it can be gut-wrenching; my advice- expect both. I hope this article provides assistance and a realistic reference for you to be most successful managing your projects.

Understanding Project Management As Related to PMP Certification

This article will provide an overview of projects, and the relationship between portfolios, programs, and projects, an overview of the processes within project management and discuss it in the content of PMP certification and the PMBOK, the project management book of knowledge.

Many organizations today have a renewed interest in project management and its many benefits. Project management is used on all levels of the organization and is now seen as a valuable profession. Organizations have realized that project success relies on the knowledge, processes, skills, tools, and techniques that skilled project managers can bring to the project.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the governing body that issues project internationally recognized management certifications.

There are six different types of certifications that can be obtained after completing the required coursework, field experience, and passing the exam. These include the following:

  1. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  2. Project Management Professional (PMP)
  3. Program Management Professional (PgMP)
  4. PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
  5. PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)
  6. PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)

The successful completion of the PMP® examination will show employers that you are an internationally recognized project manager.

A project is a unique undertaking so the approach to managing projects must be different compared to normal operations. Projects are a temporary endeavors and have a clearly defined start and end date.

There are distinct differences between projects and the normal, daily operations of the organization. Characteristics of operations include tasks that are on-going and are usually in a continuous cycle, they have no end date as they are crucial to the daily functions of the organization.

Operations are also repetitive and the inputs and outputs are expected and routine. There is usually nothing unique about operational tasks. Projects, on the other hand are temporary endeavors; they have a definite beginning and end, they are also unique and involve a new undertaking for the organisation and are unfamiliar ground that the organization has not explored before.

Projects can include one or more individuals, one more departments, and even one or more organizations. They can create a variety of tangible or intangible products, deliverable, services, or results.

A few examples include the following:

  • A product can be unique to the organisation and one that has never been produced before or could be an additional add-on to an existing product.
  • It be focused on improving a service or an process for an organisation
  • A project can be an improvement to an organization’s existing products or service lines or it can also be results-based, such as implementation of a computer system or producing an analysis or research document.

Some examples of projects from various industries are:

  • A young couple hires a firm to design and build them a new house.
  • A college campus upgrades its technology infrastructure to provide wireless Internet access.
  • A Banks decides to implement a NEW Customer service computer application
  • A group of musicians starts a company to help children develop their musical talents.
  • A pharmaceutical company launches a new drug.
  • A television network develops a system to allow viewers to vote for contestants and provide other feedback on programs.
  • A government group develops a program to track child immunizations.

These various examples show the diversity of projects and the importance of project management across different industries.

In project management, there is a key relationship among portfolios, programs, and projects. As we have discussed, a project is a unique undertaking so the approach to managing projects must be different compared to operations.

Projects are temporary endeavors and have a clearly defined start and end date.

A program is a group of projects that are similar in scope, activities, and similar subprograms. The purpose of a program is to manage the projects in a coordinated way that would not be possible from managing them individually.

The portfolio includes all programs, projects, and subprograms that meet the strategic objective of the organization Programs and projects do not need to be related in order to be in the portfolio; they only requirement is to be related to the overall strategic objective(s) of the organization.

So what is project management? The simple definition is the management of projects. However, project management is much more than a simple definition. A more useful definition in understanding project management is the application of knowledge, tools, skill, and techniques to project activities in order to meet project requirements.

As defined by the PMBOK Guide, there are five distinct processes that projects go through.

These include the following:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing

During the Initiating Process, the need of the project is clearly defined. This is an important first step as the scope, budget, and timeframe will all be based on the need and expected outcome(s) of the project.

In the Initiating Process, the Return on Investment Analysis is also conducted. The organization will determine if the expected outcome of the project is worth the time, cost, and resources required to complete the project. Based on this information, the organization may determine whether to move forward with the project or stop the process. If the project continues, the final step in the Initiating Process will be to begin the development of the budget.

During the Planning Process, the project scope is defined, the budget is set, the timeframe is determined, and the project team is assembled. As the Planning Process moves forward, the project’s activities will be determined and the responsible project team members will be assigned their various tasks.

During the Executing Process, the actual tasks and activities of the project begin to be worked on and ultimately completed. The Monitoring and Controlling Process actually takes place alongside the Executing Process. During this process the various tasks and activities that are being executed are watched for any variations in terms of scope, time, and budget from the original plans of the project. If there are variations, corrective action may be necessary to keep the project from becoming a failure. During this Process, risk management is conducted to ensure that unforeseen interferences do not derail the project. Changes are likely to occur with any project, so project managers need to assess the various situations and make the necessary changes to keep the project moving forward.

The final process is the Closing Process. During the Closing Process, the project is completed and delivered to the end users.

The customer will review the project to determine if all scope requirements have been met. Once approval is obtained from the end users, the project is officially completed and all project-related documents, accounts, and activities are closed-out. The final task of the project team is to complete the “lessons learned.” This is the process of assessing and communicating what went well with the project and what could be done differently in the future to make similar projects go smoother.

To summarise,in this article we have focused on understanding what a project is and where it fit within programmes and portfolios

Things to Ask When Interviewing a Project Manager – 7 Questions to Ask A Candidate

Selecting a project manager who can do the job can be quite stressful. After all, there’s a lot riding on the success or failure of the project. Your company’s future could be dependent on the project.

But what do you ask when you don’t know what a project manager does?

In this article, I’m going to give you seven things to ask when interviewing a project manager. But before we start I want to clarify two things.

First off, you need to define exactly what you are hoping the project manager will do for you. You also need to realistically define what skills you really need. No I’m not being redundant. You see there are two distinct groups of project managers. One is a real project manager and the other is simply a lead technician. This latter is often called a project leader in order to avoid the management label. Don’t get the two mixed up. Asking for the skills of one when you need the skills of the other is a sure way to be disappointed in your search. In a previous article in this series, I described some of the questions you need to ask before the interview is scheduled or the ad even placed in order to clarify exactly which you need.

Second, a project manager is a specialist manager. He has focused on creating a team from the ground up, aiming that team at a specific problem and then directing that team to achieve that objective despite the distractions along the way. His or her focus is on the implementation of change and dealing with people under the stress of change. This is different from a resource or operational manager whose focus is on maintaining the status quo. And it requires a different set of management skills.

In addition, it also requires a set of specific skills associated with the governance of a project. Finally, it requires the ability to deal with a number of different specialists in their terminology. That involves the ability to gain respect and communicate across specialties. This is different from a project leader who is expected to communicate primarily with a single discipline.

Here are seven questions you should always ask a potential candidate.

1. What types of project have you worked on? What size in money? What size in team? How long were they? How many stakeholders? There are a number of questions but they’re all really the same one. Do you have ten years of experience or one year repeated ten times? The more types of projects, the more varied the experience, the more likely it is that the individual will know how to react when the inevitable hits the rotary air handler.

2. Would you say you’ve specialized in any particular aspect of project management? Even project management has its technicians. In very large projects some people specialize in specific parts of project management. If the answer is any particular part that may mean they are a technician. Which is fine if you’ve got a very large project. But not so fine if you’re looking for someone to run the whole project. Further questions will be needed to clarify.

3. Project Management is often described as both an art and a science. What elements of Project Management would you use to illustrate each? The science of project management is most of the elements covered in the PMBoK — risk, work breakdown structure, time management, cost management, reporting and so on. The art is working with people and getting things done and understanding the balance between the various elements.

4. Art or Science of Project Management. Which is more important? And why? The art is definitely more difficult and more important. After all, everything is being done by the people for the people. So being able to get the people to form a team and work towards the desired goal is more important that being able to fill out a report.

5. What would you say is the most difficult part of Project Management? And why? The answer to this will give you a very clear indication of the type of manager they are. The answer should focus on people (including politics).

6. What would you say is the most important part of Project Management? And why? Everything project management does is intended to get people who don’t want to work together to work together as a team. So people should be the answer. Anything else will give you an indication of the type of manager they are. One exception is risk. This answer tends to indicate the type of organization they last worked in. In that case you should explore their people skills a little deeper.

7. Why do most projects fail? And what would you do to prevent it? You may get any number of responses all of which will help you to identify the type of manager you have. There are really two correct answers. The first is that the project should never have been approved in the first place. The solution proposed will give you some insight in to how the candidate deals with upper management. The second (and less correct answer from a statistical point of view) is that scope changes. The solution will give you an insight into how open the candidate is to change or how they deal with people.