In the first two parts of this five part series on smart project management, we’ve covered the following concepts:
- Make the customer work for you – the focus on keeping the project sponsor and customer team focused and engaged on the project by strategically assigning tasks throughout the engagement
- Let the team manage the budget – let the team know how critical the budget is and how closely you’ll be monitoring it and you’ll find that they will actually ‘help’ you manage it by keeping expenses and time charging in line with budget expectations
In this Part 3, we’ll examine the idea of wisely scaling the project deliverables to match the size of the project, the visibility or criticality of the project, and the needs of the project customer.
The smart project manager considers the type of project at hand once it’s been assigned. Is the budget large? Is this a long-term, mission-critical project? Is this a key, strategic project for my organization and/or my customer? The answer to these questions should drive some of the early project planning such as how much time is devoted to planning documents, requirements analysis, and user acceptance testing (UAT), for example.
Planning and document scaling
Most upfront deliverable documents and planning efforts need to happen (or at least should happen) on nearly every project. But with the exception of possibly requirements planning and the requirements definition document – because I consider requirements to be the lifeblood of every project – most can be scaled depending on the nature of the project and how important it is in terms of dollars, timeline and strategy. Certainly a smaller, less visible project won’t require as much effort planning for risk identification, mitigation and avoidance as a $1 million one-year effort. Likewise, a communication plan should be put together for every project. But a $50,000 project may get a two page plan outlining how communication and meetings will happen while a $2.5 million technical implementation involving five outside vendors may need a twenty-five page plan documenting every key contact, when progress will be reported and to whom, and when formal presentations will be required throughout the engagement.
Scaling the test effort
The other key area on a project that can be wisely scaled by the project manager in terms of effort is the testing phase. Obviously, no one ever wants to turn over a solution to the customer that is not thoroughly tested. However, the less complex the solution, the less testing preparation and effort will be needed for that solution. That will help keep the timeline and budget in line with expectations. But even more so, the smart project manager will plan less of his team’s involvement in helping the project customer’s team prepare for and execute UAT. Certainly nearly every customer needs assistance with test preparation in terms of coming up with use cases and testing scenarios…they just aren’t usually that familiar with it. But the smaller the project or the less critical and complex the project the less effort will need to be planned for it, thus keeping costs and timeframes to a minimum. The same is true for the hand holding that nearly always happens on a customer UAT effort. Certainly if it’s a mission critical, highly visible effort, maximum assistance should be planned for to ensure testing goes off without issue and a deployable system is ready for the customer at rollout time. For those smaller projects, however, it’s smart to scale those efforts and let the customer reach out for more help, if needed. And the smart project manager jumps on that as a change order which will add additional revenue to the overall engagement.
By recognizing what type of project is being dealt with from the beginning, the smart project manager can wisely plan the effort associated with key tasks and deliverables on the project. Many things are scalable and not every project needs maximum effort put into each deliverable and each testing effort. Not all projects are created equal, so no one template will fit every engagement. The wise project manager must recognize that and strategically scale certain tasks and efforts to match the needs and expectations of the project and project stakeholders.