Project Management for the Information Professional by Eugene Guidice
- understand the importance of effective project management
- understand several basic terms and concepts
- know where to turn for additional help
- defined activities
- defined time frame – explicit beginning, middle and end
- allocated resources
- explicit start and end time
- explicit goal
- add value to the organization
Eugene pointed out that many of these points may be inherently familiar just from experience. I took that to mean that this session would label some of what I already know in terms of project management.
The project management triangle tells the story of the project. It includes:
- time – when does the project need to be finished? are there milestones?
- resources – do you need tech resources? people resources? financial resources?
- scope – what is the project intended to do and NOT do?
The key is to keep the three points of the triangle connected so you can add value to the organization. For example, if you have a project where the scope broadens, then time or resources usually needs to expand as well. The mantra I made my attorneys live by was: pick two: cheap, fast or good. The concept is the same.
What are the two things that are the most important, because the third item will be your constraint.
Program manager: someone who manages a number of different projects in a program.
What Gets Managed:
- Scope: Beware of scope creep, or prepare for it. Scope creep is when people want additional functionality and that requires
- Risks – in terms of finances, resources, business opportunities
- resources – individuals, time, financial
- communications – how will the project status be communicated, how will the project valuse be communicated, how will the constituents who have to live with the results of the project be informed?
- expectations – what will people expect of the project manager? Will people expect or be expected to work full or part time on the project
- quality – this is not a question of shabby vs. good. It is question of quality on a continuum. How long to recover from a failure?
- Change – communication is key as people move from an ‘as is’ condition to a ‘to be’ condition. Training needs to be in place and processes need to be updated.
Before You Start
What is the strategic intent of the project and how does it fit into the strategic intent of the organization?
What is the business case for this project? what value will it deliver that supports that strategic intent?
- Understanding ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ conditions – how are things right now? What would we like the new state going to look like?
- scope and approach – what is included? are we going to do a buy or build decision? In house or contractors?
- risk assessment – based on business case, what happens if we don’t have resources, if the project isn’t brought in on time? How will it impact the organization?
- options – what are the options from going from ‘as is’ to ‘to be’ condition
- time frame – should we think of breaking it up into multiple projects?
- environmental factors – what’s going on internally? Significant change and will project add to chaos? Should we wait until change in leadership is finished? What is happening externally? How is COVID-19 affecting projects? Is there a recession?
Planning the Project
It’s a lot easier to make a change to a document or form, when you are in the planning stage, than when you are in the middle of the project. At this point it is helpful to have a project management tool. The more sophisticated the project, the more sophisticated the tool, but a simple Excel spreadsheet can be fine.
This requires a lot of time and energy. Rely on institutional knowledge and a wealth of experience others have. Talk to them and mine their experience, because it can enhance your project plan.
What goes into the project plan?
- Consider scope of specific tasks.
- Hours. If they are too big, consider breaking them up.
- Dependencies – sequence in which tasks have to be executed
- milestones – spots along the way where you take a breath and say where have been, where are we going, where are we?
- Roles vs. Assignment – these are different. A role is a job title that is going to work on a specific project. The more granular you can make roles, the better you can allocate resources.
Managing the Critical Path
The critical path is made up of those tasks that will take the longest. Tasks on the critical path define the shortest amount of time it will take to complete the project. Any slip in critical path tasks will delay the project. Critical path tasks require close monitoring. An automated tool can help you determine and manage the critical path.
There is also a feedback loop in any project. The start is executing the plan. Next is tracking and updating the plan then communicating changes, especially to upper management. At this point there is a decision point: do we continue with the plan or stop. If yes, then you start with executing the plan again and going through the steps again. If no, you stop the project.
Generally, it is acknowledged that management can handle good news and bad news, but not surprises. Management will see the trend as you keep communicating with them and they make the decision, based on internal and external factors, as to whether the project still has value to the organization. Thus, they decide, based on your work, whether to continue. It is not a reflection on you. There are a number of factors that go into such decisions.
Finishing the Project
You can’t just walk away after all the tasks have been completed. You want to do this even if the project was stopped, so people can learn from it.
- Make final updates to the project plan – this will become a piece of institutional knowledge for future project managers
- Make final updates to the supporting documentation
- Lessons learned – even if a project is cancelled, there are lessons to be learned and lessons that can be brought to other projects
- what went well / what didn’t go well
- Restatement of the business case – how does this compare to what we have now?
- Compare ‘new’ to-be condition to imagined to-be condition – may take time since companies/orgs don’t turn on a dime
- Recognition – opportunity to give recognition for hard work, growth. This will help you as a project manager, because people will want to work with you again.
- Project Management Institute
- Project Management Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Gregory Horine
- Practical Project Management : Manage Projects Successfully with this Comprehensive Toolkit and Templates by Emanuela Giangregorio
- Projectified – a PMI podcast
- 9 Podcasts for Project Managers on the Go by Ian Haynes, July 2020
I think Eugene did a good job laying out the steps for project management in a 30 minute session. I think anyone could watch his session and have a good idea how and where to start.