In the highly specialized enterprise software product implementation arena, projects getting completed on time and within the budget are few and far between. This less-than-desirable track record of enterprises gives rise to the pertinent question of what is missing and what needs to be implemented in existing systems – to ensure projects are delivered successfully, meeting the rigorous demands of time, quality and monetary considerations.
Here are ten guidelines for enterprises to implement in their projects from a methodology point of view.
1. Stay committed to the project
The sponsor and the company engaged in the project must be fully committed to making the project a grand success. This commitment must be backed by sound objectives, which the project owners must completely understand. The project owners should also be able to spot red flags as and when they arise. While they do not have to address all of them upfront, they need to be aware of the areas that need attention down the road. At the macro level, the company and the sponsor should provide the project owners the requisite support every step of the way. In essence, this ensures accountability and ownership across the value chain.
2. Outline success parameters
There must be clarity on who the primary sponsor for the project within the company is and what their definition of ‘success is. The success parameters and performance metrics must be clearly outlined and communicated to the project owners, as any ambiguity during the implementation of the project will undoubtedly impact the team’s productivity.
3. Identify all stakeholders
Project owners must know who the other stakeholders of the project are and make sure they align with the objective(s) of the project and the common measures of success. Before the project is up and running, it is crucial to ascertain that all stakeholders are on the same page. Even if this means investing some time and effort at the start, there will be significant savings in the long run during the project.
6. Objectives over individuals
Once project owners plunge into the project, it’s all about meeting the objective and titles can be left at the door. The Agile process allows project owners and leaders to provide an ideal objective-oriented environment much more than the Waterfall Methodology. In such an environment, team members tend to see the project managers/owners as ‘partners’ who are ‘engaged’ in the process of meeting the objective and not as people standing ‘in the way’.
4. Communicate the objective
It is not enough to have the objective in place. Project owners and managers must also spend time with the team members creating awareness on the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the project’s business objective. During the early stages of the project, it is vital to communicate the various facets of the objective to understand them and work towards them.
However, this is often ignored or given less importance in many enterprises and that’s when trouble starts brewing because there is a disconnect between the actual objective and the perceived one.
Once the project commences, the business objective must become the objective of the team engaged in the project. When there is a perception of ‘we’ as opposed to ‘I’ within the team, team members work with commitment, care and a sense of belonging.
5. Build a good team
A lot of thought must go into finding the right person for the right job. This means finding people with technical expertise and domain knowledge and people with the right leadership skills, attitude, and thinking. A good project is headed by the right leader supported by a good number of ‘thinkers’.
For the entire project duration, team members practically live together; so, the people chosen to be part of the team should also vibe well and have fun together.
People with a positive attitude are also a big plus, especially in large projects with huge teams, as their energy is contagious. Projects also need to be staffed with people who want to grow constantly and have a hunger for learning.
Project managers must surround themselves with change agents rather than people who are comfortable with the way things are.
6. Break it down and update it frequently
So, now the objectives are defined and the right team is in place. What happens next? The next step is where the actual work begins. Often, when teams chase goals and meet deadlines, they can get lost in the sea of deliverables. The team gets a sense of achievement and celebrates frequent wins if the overall chunk is broken down into manageable bite-sized components. This will propel them positively in the future.
One impediment to project success is people’s lack of understanding of how their contribution fits in the larger scheme of things. If that is communicated clearly to the team, after every three to four sprints, team members get a sense of where they stand concerning the big picture. Managers must frequently update the team on what they have achieved thus far and what they must be aiming to complete next.
7. Establish multiple target dates
Agile is no doubt a robust and transparent model. However, one tends to keep running in this model. So, sometimes, people may lose sight of the endpoints or the interim milestones. Project owners need to set interim target dates to work towards these dates even in the Agile model.
8. Mitigate risks
A significant part of today’s processes is fraught with risks and they cannot be avoided. While project managers should be ready to take risks, they must also have a clear risk mitigation plan. If projects have to meet their timelines, it doesn’t make sense to indulge in a last-minute scramble for alternative ideas. If Plan A fails, project owners and managers must always have Plan B in place if some risks do not play out the way they intended. This assures a relatively smooth transition from one plan to another without wasting too much time and effort.
9. Take swift corrective action
Managers and project owners must be ready to take quick corrective actions when things do not turn out well. They must keep a close watch on the proceedings and be agile enough to correct the course, whenever and wherever required.
10. Manage relationships smartly
While risk management, dependency management, and issue management are all important, it all boils down to one crucial aspect: relationship management. This refers not only to managing relationships within the team but also managing relationships with all stakeholders. This ensures everyone rises to the occasion in case unprecedented issues and risks crop up.
So, the first and foremost step before enterprises jump into the ‘project bandwagon’ is to ingrain the methodologies mentioned above in their processes systematically. Once they become part of the enterprise DNA, projects can be implemented with a high degree of ease and success.