How to get your IT project off to the best possible start

When it comes to IT and business project management, one of the biggest challenges is that most people find it easy to see the ‘big picture’ but tend to overlook (or simply don’t understand) the complexities involved in taking the project from concept to delivery.

Workshops (and meetings of all sorts) are often fobbed off as time wasters, keeping people from the ‘real’ work that needs to be done.

A project definition workshop (PDW) gets a project off to a good start but often the company doesn’t have the in-house skill to run the workshop effectively. A PDW facilitated by a professional project management practitioner can, in essence, be distilled down to the old tailor’s maxim: measure thrice, cut once.

Even, and perhaps especially, companies intending to manage their projects internally can benefit from an externally facilitated PDW. The facilitator would brief participants beforehand on what preparation they would need to do prior to the workshop so that time at the workshop is spent proactively and productively.

The professional project management practitioner would start with the client’s output from a strategic point of view, taking the project from its high level vision to a well-structured project plan, based on the nine areas of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®). The time and money spent on such a PDW will be recouped many times over and the benefits include:

  • Development of a well-structured project schedule and documented project management plan including integration; scope; time; cost; quality; human resource; communication; risk management and procurement management plans.
  • Transfer of knowledge to project managers and other participants on how to run a successful PDW in future.
  • The introduction of good planning principles from the word go.
  • Clarifying the expectations of all stakeholders and adjusting these if necessary.
  • Identifying and allocating the proper resources needed for the project.

And it could not be simpler: at the end of the process the client could receive the project documentation in any number of formats; including Microsoft Word (project plan) and MS Project (project schedule). These documents can also be provided in XML format, which can be used in the client’s project planning tool of choice.

If the client doesn’t have the money (or desire) to hire a professional project manager, the workshop facilitator can be involved in the project on an on-going basis, reviewing the project and mentoring the in-house project manager. The value of an unbiased ‘monitor’ who is not affected by internal politics and pressures simply cannot be over stated.

There is no doubt that a professional project planning workshop reduces the risk, saves money and gets the project off to the best possible start. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.