Saturday, 1 November 2014

Project management simplified in 1,000 words or less

All IT-enabled business projects should follow a project management methodology, and that includes an established project intake and approval process.

Every organization should have a basic set of templates and forms available to ensure best project management practices are followed consistently when implementing IT-enabled business projects.

The methodology is intended to be scalable to the size/complexity/risk of the project.  The Project Sponsor and the Project Manager will determine the amount of detail to be included in the project pre-planning steps, reflecting the size, complexity and scope of the project.

At a high level, follow these project management steps for medium to large projects:
1.    Project Proposal – A business analyst works in conjunction with the sponsor to identify a project proposal outlining at a high level the purpose and benefits of proceeding with the project. Approval of the Project Proposal gives approval to develop a Business Case.

2.    Business Case – A business case captures the reasoning for initiating a project or task. A detailed business case must be completed for each project. The business case contains the background of the project, the expected business benefits, the options considered (with reasons for rejecting or carrying forward each option), the expected costs of the project, a gap analysis, privacy requirements, and the expected risks. From this information, the justification for the project is derived. Although the business case is the responsibility of the Sponsor, the Sponsor may engage the Project Manger to develop the business case on his/her behalf. Approval of the Business Case gives authority to go to the next step of a Solution Evaluation.

3.    Solution Evaluation – When a business case recommends that a RFP be conducted, the solution evaluation is the structured process for evaluating potential solutions. A scoring template is available to assist in the evaluation. The Project Manager leads and is responsible for the Solution Evaluation recommendations to the Sponsor/Steering Committee.

4.    Project Charter - is a statement of the scope, objectives, and participants in a project. It provides a preliminary delineation of roles and responsibilities, outlines the project objectives, establishes the project governance, identifies the main stakeholders, identifies key milestones and timelines, and defines the authority of the Project Manager. The project charter is written by the Project Manager and approved by the Sponsor and IT. The approved Project Charter formally authorizes the existence of a project and provides the Project Manager with the authority to apply organizational resources. The project process best proceeds with creation of effective implementation teams, lead by a single project manager, with strong representation from both Business Area and IT.

5.    Detailed Work Plan – The Project Manager in conjunction with the project team develops a detailed project plan outlining key milestones. The project plan is a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control. The primary uses of the project plan are to facilitate communication among stakeholders, and document approved scope, cost, and schedule. The plan should be agreed to and approved by the sponsor and the project team. The approved work plan becomes a baseline that can be only changed through a formal change management process.

6.    Project Execution – The Project Manager directs and manages to the detailed work plan. He/she has the authority to manage assigned work and monitor performance and is accountable to the Sponsor/Project Steering Committee. Any significant changes shall follow a formal change management process. This execution phase involves many components including managing the timelines, cost, and scope along with communications and risk.

7.    Change Management – A formal change management process is used to manage changes to scope, timelines or costs. Changes may be requested by any stakeholder involved in the project. Although changes may be initiated verbally, they should be recorded in written form. Every documented change request needs to be evaluated as to its impact on the project and either approved or rejected by the project manager and/or the project sponsor.

8.    Project Completion – The formal hand-over from the project to operations. Deliverables and knowledge are transferred between the project and operations for implementation of the delivered work. The Sponsor formally accepts the project. Lessons learned about the project are documented to assist future projects. In addition, the handover stage records the transfer of all the information required for the Business Area to administer and operate the system, and for IT to manage the support of the hardware, software and infrastructure (systems administration function) associated with the products delivered by the project.

The following diagram illustrates the major project stages and approvals required for a large project. Note the approval by the Business Area is ensuring that the business needs are met whereas the IT approval is making sure that the project conforms to the organization’s technical standards. In addition, at each stage both groups sign-off recognizing that the timelines are realistic and resources are available to execute and sustain the project after completion.

Also in the following diagram, we illustrate on the right-hand side where some project management pre-planning stages may be combined, recognizing that this pre-planning effort reflects the size, complexity, and scope of the project and therefore indirectly affects the number of sign-offs by the Sponsor and IT. 

For example, in a small project all the pre-planning stages may be combined into one short document consisting of a page or two. In a medium-sized project, the proposal, business case and solution evaluation may be a single document of just a few pages.

Remember, the level of detail is determined by the Project Sponsor and the Project Manager, and should reflect the size, complexity and/or risk of the project.

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