Effective Practices in Technology Project Delivery

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By focusing on five things, you will  begin delivering projects more effectively and build a better “project culture”. We understand that effective project and program delivery is vital to support the agenda of and organization and that good project management is a critical business skill.  Even in the challenging climate, typically the demand for projects exceeds the capacity to deliver. In addition to good project management, organizations need to effectively manage a portfolio of projects. Different groups within the organization compete for scarce resources and priorities and needs change over time. Too often, we see the same set of issues go wrong in project delivery and we also see the most mature organizations succeed across a number of dimensions. These successful organizations are, in particular, strong at linking projects and programs to business strategies, establishing strong cases for change, and maintaining a good “project culture”. Success is less about the fact that a set of project management standards exist, it has more to do with the quality and commitment of people, the collaborative culture of project delivery (business and technical)  and the maturity of ingrained project delivery practices within the organization. Some of the problems we often see include:

  • Objectives not clear and agreed – too often projects begin without clear direction or alignment on outcomes, business value and scope. No Charter exists that clarify the rationale for the investment and the outcomes expected.
  • Approach is wrong – teams have not taken the time to plan an overall approach that considers the impacts and objectives. The business and  technology change are not fully considered and the approach (e.g. waterfall vs iterative) often does not match business goals and technical requirements.
  • Change not fully considered – a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion occurs within teams and across organizations when program and project objectives and approach are not well communicated and the impact on business is not well understood and managed.
  • Resource not aligned – projects too often begin without the benefit of having the right skill sets and adequate levels of resources on the team. Part time assignments and cutting corners often leads to a lack of progress and late, over-budget delivery.
  • Inadequate project control – the core aspects of maintaining a project schedule, budget and resource tracking is too often poorly managed. Projects lack risk and issue management procedures and quality and acceptance processes . While this is often the first thing one thinks about when considering improvements to project delivery, it can’t be addressed by procedures alone. Good project control requires both the right procedures and the right people managing projects – bringing skills in client relationship management, scope management as well as the mechanics for project control.

So, how can you ensure improvements in project delivery?  The answer is in focusing on an the end-to-end approach of portfolio management, ensuring business change is managed, and delivering on objectives with a credible projects culture: 1) Manage the project portfolio: Before you even begin, ask yourself the question; Should we be doing this project? Successful organizations manage a portfolio of projects well and understand the interrelationships and architecture impacts.  They also establish the clear linkage between projects and business strategies. 2) Architecting the solution and approach:  the project approach and timeline must reflect a complete understanding of both the business and technical aspects – and clarify how the project will be delivered around milestones and collaborative working. Successful projects are characterized by the right mix of management, technical and business skills, as well as the underlying infrastructure. It is also important to select technologies based on business need rather than technology elegance. How well does the solution design fit with the organization-wide systems architecture? Ultimately, a well designed solution that ties into the overall enterprise model will deliver far greater value to the business – as long as you consider the business needs for time-to-market. 3) Setting up proper resourcing and commercial structures: How should the project be sourced? What are the critical skills and specializations? What existing solutions could accelerate the project delivery and improve quality? Who should you engage?  Ensure that you have structured and effective commercial and service interface arrangements with your partnering suppliers. 4) Delivering Change:  Most technology projects are 20% about technology and 80% about business change and adoption. You can’t skip the steps in delivering change- ensuring the project is rational and the case for change is clear and agreed, making sure the project is ready with the structures and plans for success, delivering the project well- with both the business and the project teams, and importantly – making the delivery stick by embedding the changes in the organization. 5) Project Control: How effective are team members and time allocations? Use clearly defined procedures appropriate with to the project objectives. Be pragmatic, rather than bureaucratic. Manage to quality and benefits, while effectively tracking and communicating time and budget with the right set of technology tools and reporting. Successful delivery of technology projects is about more than implementing project management procedures and controls. Successful organizations effectively manage the complete portfolio of projects. They also have more then a set of standards, they have the right people with the good delivery skills, values and collaborative working styles to ultimately build a “projects culture”  within your organization.

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