Welcome to our latest edition of the ProjectTalk newsletter. This month we will discuss of The 5 phases of IT Projects, What to do when your project slips and Delivering projects using Agile Methods. Enjoy.
-Ruffin Veal III, Principal
Coming from an IT background, I’m often asked by new PMs, which steps do I take to manage an IT project? I usually begin by responding that IT projects are different than other types, as they require a lot more analysis and design upfront, before the project begins. So we thought we'd step you through the classical life cycle for an IT project here in this newsletter, by describing...
The 5 Phases of IT Projects
According to Google, "IT and Software" projects are now the most common type of project undertaken within the field of Project Management. So what are the phases in a project life cycle that involves IT and Software? We've set them out for you.
Phase 1: Analysis
The first step for an IT project involves analyzing your requirements for a solution. To do this, you need to analyze your business environment, processes, systems, people and organizational structure, to help you set out exactly what it is that the new IT solution must deliver. Typically, companies write a "Requirements Specification" which sets out their business requirements formally, so that at the end of the project, they have a formal stake in the ground, against which the solution can be measured.
Phase 2: Design
When you know what it is that you want, the next step is to design a solution for meeting those needs.
In the design phase, you will design all of the components of the solution, including the; hardware, software, user interface, security and integration with other systems. The Project Manager will often get a "prototype" built, so that the customer can see roughly what the solution will look and feel like, before the development phase begins.
Phase 3: Develop
The longest and most time consuming phase is always the development of the system. This involves writing software code, constructing hardware, building the database, writing the user interface and fitting together each of the components into a complete solution for the customer. It’s during this phase that most delays are experienced, and they are typically due to insufficient analysis and design being completed.
Phase 4: Test
When the solution has been built, it's time to test that it performs as expected. A smart tester will have already agreed with the customer what it is that should be tested and what the outcome should be. If this is done, then testing is more of a formality and there should be "no surprises" during the testing process. There are various types of testing, including system / load / performance / security / user interface testing.
Phase 5: Implement
After comprehensive testing, you're ready to "Go Live". You do this by installing the hardware at the customers’ site, installing the software, and migrating the data over from the existing system to the new system. Some final "checks and balances" are performed to ensure that the data is accurate and the system is performing as expected, and then you're finished.
Note: While the phases in an IT project may be different than other projects, the way you manage them will be the same.
What to do when your project slips…
Ever had a project deliver late or over budget? If you haven’t, then you’re lucky because the majority of projects are delivered over budget or over schedule. So when you’re in the middle of project delivery and things start slipping, what do you do? Here are four tips to help you out.
Step 1: Focus the team
A common trend is that in the middle of a project, the team start to feel like they are under pressure and they lose sight of the end goal. The excitement of “project startup” is long past and any team politics have kicked in. It’s now that you need to recognize and reward staff for good performance. And it’s now that you need to focus the team by restating the objectives, providing incentives and boosting morale. You need to be their shining star when things get dark and gloomy.
Step 2: Prioritize
If there is simply too much to do in the timeframe you’ve been given, then prioritize all of your tasks. Identify the key deliverables that must be produced and then identify the tasks involved with producing them. It’s those tasks that you need to focus on now. Then get the priority list approved by your project sponsor, so that you have their buy in. Only with their acceptance, can you confirm that the tasks you’re working on, are the most important tasks required to deliver your solution.
Step 3: Reduce Scope
After you’ve focused the team and prioritized your work, then update your schedule. If you’re still likely to deliver late, then request approval from your Project Sponsor to leave the low priority tasks to after the project deadline. This will reduce the scope of your project. It will also boost your chances of delivering the high and medium priority tasks by the deadline date. Reducing scope is by far the best option to take, as the smaller the project scope, the lower the risk of project failure.
Step 4: Increase Resource
If your Project Sponsor will not extend the end date of the project or reduce the scope, then ask for more resource to help you complete it. With more resource (people, money, equipment and materials) you will be able to complete more tasks in parallel and boost your chances of success
Step 5: Communicate
Ok, so if you’ve tried all of the above and there is no hope—your project will be delivered late regardless of what you do. You then need to accept it and communicate this to as many project stakeholders as possible. Set their expectations as early as possible that you will be late. If they understand the reasons for late delivery and they know it’s coming, then it will be less of a shock when it happens. And if you are able to miraculously deliver it on time, then your team will be seen as heroes.
Delivering Projects using Agile Methods
There is a whirlwind happening in the project management industry and it’s called “Agile”. While the core principles of project management remain unchanged, what is changing is the way you manage projects ‘day-to-day’. To help you learn more, read here about...
Delivering Projects using Agile Methods
There are tons of ways of delivering projects and one of them is using an “Agile” approach. To show you how agile can change your project life, we’ve listed here 3 examples of the agile approach. They suit projects of any type, size or industry:
Have you ever been involved in a project that has so many deliverables and such short a timeframe that it all gets “overwhelming”. Well using ‘sprints’ you can cut through this. Basically, you break down all of the tasks that a team has to deliver, into 2 week groups. These 2 week periods are called “sprints” (Note: You can have sprints of any duration, but we recommend 2 week sprints).
At the start of each sprint, you get together as a team and set yourself goals for what you’re going to achieve over that 2 week period. Then you “sprint to the finish”. In this way, your team only have to think about what they need to complete in the next 2 weeks, so the weight of the entire project is lifted off their shoulders. And the best thing is that if they achieve their goals at the end of the sprint, you can recognize and reward them for it.
To help your team keep focused during the sprint, you hold daily meetings. Yes—daily meetings! Actually, if your team meet every day, first thing in the morning just to talk about what it is that they will achieve that day, then the team become incredibly focused. If the meetings only run for 15 minutes, then it boost communication and helps build a sense of accomplishment. It will reduce politics and increase efficiency, as everyone knows exactly what they have to do that day. Let your team take ownership of the meetings, you’re just there to focus them if they go off track.
At the end of each sprint, the team leaders should meet to review the outcome of the sprint. They should then present to you for 30 minutes, telling you whether they have achieved their sprint goals, where they succeeded and where they failed. They will tell you what the lessons were that they have learned and how they are going to use those lessons to improve their own performance in the next sprint.
If you break the project down into sprints and use the above methods to deliver your project, then you will find that the team will “run themselves”. They will be responsible for managing their own progress, reviewing their performance and improving their actions. You are then treated like a customer, allowing you to oversee the project “at an overview level”, reducing your stress and improving your chances of success.