Control. We all like to be in control of what we are living, managing and doing on a daily basis, right? Both personally and professionally. At least it’s the goal. From a professional standpoint – from a project management standpoint – as we go about our processes of managing all of the projects on our plate that can often mean organizing our activities across four, five or even six live projects at a time. Maintaining control of those projects can sometimes be an issue.
Keeping projects on track, organizing the team and keeping them focused, and making sure the customer has the information and attention that they need and deserve can be a difficult process. From my experience and what I’ve witnessed on my PM colleagues’ projects, ensuring that the four actions that I’m about to discuss below are taken during the project can greatly decrease your likelihood of seeing significant project issues and, therefore, increasing your likelihood of maintaining ongoing control of your projects…
Don’t skip planning
Don’t skip the up front details. Project planning documents like the communication plan, the risk management plan, the development plan, the procurement plan, the change control plan, etc. may not seem necessary, but for most projects creating some or all of those up front plans is important to create stable and well-documented projects. Those documents provide customer confidence that the engagement has been thoroughly planned and also provide a point of reference for the rest of the project.
Sitting down early with your project team and customer to analyze risk may seem like a waste of time on a critical project with a tight budget. After all, risks that turn into real issues are just issues you deal with on the project. They’re just part of the process, right? Wrong! Always spend at least some time going through a risk identification process. Put key risk management tasks in your web-based project management software schedule.
It’s best if you examine all potential risks in detail – giving each a weight and planning how to avoid or mitigate each risk. But just identifying the potential risks is helpful. It means you’ve thought about them and you have them in your scope and you’ve documented them and you’re somewhat prepared to deal with the risk should it present itself as a real issue. Being prepared helps you maintain control of the project.
Create and verify detailed requirements
Requirements are the lifeblood of the project and a project that starts with poorly defined or sketchy requirements is almost assuredly doomed to experience rework and possibly failure. Revisiting the requirements early in the planning process to ensure that they are detailed enough to work from can save enormous amounts of time and money throughout the rest of the engagement. And ensuring that what you are developing from is going to provide the solution that your customer wants and needs will help you maintain control throughout the engagement by avoiding some major issues that otherwise could have arisen.
Plan and prepare for testing
Finally, make sure that the proper tasks are in place in your online project management software schedule to fully handle the project testing work. And by this I mean customer preparation of test scenarios and cases, customer preparation for user acceptance testing (UAT), and then the actually carrying out and support of customer user acceptance testing including approval and signoff. Many customers go into UAT unprepared for what lies ahead. I’m not saying you can get every customer to the point of being testing experts, but you can avoid major project issues and delays during UAT by also planning the proper support and testing assistance from you and your own staff during user acceptance testing. UAT is critical for customer approval and to ensure you’re ready for actual deployment, make sure it’s a critical piece of your project management software schedule as well.
Maintaining control of all of the projects on our plate is always the goal – though it can be difficult when one project starts to experience many ongoing issues pulling us away from the other projects we are also managing. Following consistent best practices is often the best way you can move toward consistent delivery on your projects to the client and the best way you can experience control and successful delivery of projects on an ongoing basis because pure luck is not going to get you there.
Readers…please share your thoughts on this topic and discuss what helps you maintain ongoing control of your projects when you’re managing multiple engagements and multiple teams at the same time.