Hire a professional!

14 key ideas that you can follow to help alleviate the dreaded bottleneck in your organization.

I just recently finished my two-week bathroom tile remodel project I started over the 4th of July and as you can tell by the date, I missed the estimate by a mere few months.

So what went wrong? In a nutshell, I did not properly plan for it. Bottom line!

Like so many people in the world, I have a strong degree of I-can-do-it-itis. That is, I think I can do anything – and in most cases, I usually can.

In truth, however, it is one thing to be able to do something and in reality being able to do it correctly, on time, and on budget. In this case, a major fail on my part.

The final project looks pretty good, I must say. But, in the end, I finally relented and hired a professional to come in and finish up the hard parts – not because I couldn’t do it – I simply ran out of time and ambition and grew tired of looking my wife in the eye and making up creative estimates about when I would finish.

The irony of this scenario is that I face these questions all the time when I speak to credit unions about why their IT projects are taking so long to roll out or complete.

In reality, many of the same things are going on:

  • Staff bites off more than they can chew based on their current workloads.
  • They do not take into account the necessity of being fireman for ongoing IT issues.
  • Other projects under way run into delays.
  • Delays cause a chain reaction of missed rollouts all down the line.
  • The list goes on.

There is also one other factor that comes into play and that is simply lack of expertise on the part of the customer. Most IT shops are run by competent folks with a knack for figuring out how to make the most from limited resources and keep things moving.

That said, many IT shop staffers are not experts in project management and resource planning – and as such meet with the same result I did with my remodel project. They simply don’t understand the full scope of the project when they started it.

So what’s the answer? It is pretty simple really, like the yellow page ads of old: hire a professional.

This advice is especially true when rolling out complex IT projects where they impact the entire enterprise. Not only is the IT component of getting the software and hardware rolled out, there is also the coordination of meetings, getting the stake holders together, and creating a plan that works for everyone.

With all due apologies to the IT folks here, most with whom I have met and personally know, they don’t like – or in some cases – don’t do well with the interpersonal aspects of enterprise projects.

Hence the advice: Hire a professional.

Here’s what I mean: I have been in the IT industry for more than 30 years and in that time have worked on literally hundreds of enterprise system rollouts.

The ones that proceeded the smoothest and tended to have the best ROI were the ones where the projects were properly managed. That proper management usually involved a dedicated or semi-dedicated trained project manager.

Successful project managers were the ones who could act as the interface between the IT staff, vendor, and stakeholders in the credit unions. That project manager was not always a credit union employee.

In fact, in many successful implementations, the project management role fell to the vendor as they had the expertise, skillset, and experience on how to best implement their solutions given the project scope.

One other key aspect of a successful rollout is the ability to correctly identify the scope of the project and produce a resource and task list that identifies the various phases of the project into small manageable sized, mini projects.

I realize that this is an extremely over-simplified summary of how to successfully handle your next IT project, but there are some key ideas that you can follow to help alleviate the dreaded bottleneck in your organization. These ideas are not in any particular order but rather generalizations to help you:

  1. Identify what the final project objectives will be and who will be responsible for its management. Write them down and stick to them but realize that this will be a constant work in progress and may need to be modified from time to time.
  2. Determine the methodologies that will be used to communicate during the project. Will you be using a formal project management tool or will it be email or something else? Determine what works best within your organization and be diligent about it.
  3. Determine the best estimates in terms of time, material, and costs to accomplish this project.
  4. Identify the best vendor(s) to work with to successfully accomplish these projects.
  5. Work backward from the stated objectives by breaking the tasks into manageable phases.
  6. Identify the key stakeholders in the projects and get their input and buyoff with the roles and responsibilities each will play.
  7. Determine realistic timelines into the completion of each task and build in slack times to compensate for over-runs.
  8. Create benchmarks that must be accomplished at the end of each phase and what the move forward is for each section. (In agile project management, you may run these phases simultaneously so plan accordingly.)
  9. Make sure you have buyoff with the stakeholders along the way to ensure their continued support and cooperation.
  10. Once each phase is completed review to ensure there are no missing pieces that may have been overlooked.
  11. Hold periodic stakeholder review meetings to insure interoperability is occurring across each departmental areas
  12. As the project nears completion make sure that the project objectives that were laid out have been followed, bought off on, and completed.
  13. Set a cutoff date for the project so that that project creep does not occur.
  14. Schedule a review at specified interval times to ensure that the project has met and will continue to meet the objectives originally established.

This list is by no means a cure all for your projects, it may, however, help establish some basic ground rules before commencing with the work. If you follow the spirit of these guidelines, it may help you avoid that uncomfortable position of explaining to the chiefs why the project is taking so long.

What’s on your list? Oh … and next time, I think I’ll just hire a professional and stick to what I do best: helping my customers get their projects in on time and on budget … hopefully.

Scott Cowan

Scott Cowan

Over the past 25 years, Mr. Cowan has held Executive Technical Sales and Management positions with several Fortune 500 companies including: Fiserv, Qwest Communications and Nokia Internet Communications, Network Security ... Web: www.mviusa.com Details