Throughout my career, I’ve had the great fortune to manage projects in a wide range of disciplines and industries. The majority of the projects have straddled the business and IT. These days you would be hard-pressed to find a project that does not have a significant IT element even if it is billed only as a business project.
The key element to consider before kicking off any project is determining whether it underpins the company strategy. If there isn’t a strategy in place, which is actually quite common, then getting board level or senior management approval from the outset is critical.
The above strategic design and communication element has been my sweet spot in project management throughout my career. Gaining top management support and continually reiterating progress and benefits is where I’ve excelled. It’s equally crucial to communicate the purpose and benefits of the project to every level of stakeholder, so they understand their role in its success. Whether this is a $100m IT project or a new strategic department that is being established, the standard for project communication should be set extremely high. I’ve seen how difficult project work can become when communication at any level is lacking.
Another critical element of a project management is ensuring a clear understanding of the status quo. Whether it’s as-is processes or business flow diagrams, some type of documentation needs to be available to understand how to take the impacted people on a journey from A to B. Designing to-be policies and processes are also important but only after today’s ways of working are clearly articulated. Thereafter, an appropriate change management plan along with communications and training can be developed. I’ve witnessed many projects where systems have been purchased and roll-out dates have been set without a good grasp of how each level of the organization is currently operating. The majority of projects fail, not because the new system fails on day one or a new organization design has flaws, but rather as a result of not having brought the impacted people along on the journey.
Another frequently overlooked facet is the importance of accepting vanilla IT solutions. IT vendors spend years developing bespoke software for their chosen industry. The more a company deviates from the vanilla version of the software, the more it compromises the inherent benefits. As a result, a project should adopt strict product change management that allows for software change only when benefits are enhanced or when certain compliance requirements are not being met. Strong oversight of this change process is critical and requires consistent management of business and IT resources on the project.
I’ve run business and IT projects in a range of industries and at all levels in the organisation. The considerations mentioned above are just a sampling of the many pitfalls of project management that I’ve waded through over my career. My people management and communication skills are my greatest differentiating factor and I excel at growing the internal resources involved in the project alongside the day-to-day project management activities.