If you’ve ever managed a major IT project, you’re probably well acquainted with Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Every project is going to have some rough patches. The key to overcoming these challenges lays not with the execution of the plan, but with the preparation. Here, we will dive into the many things to consider when you’re planning your next long-term IT project.
1 – Know Your Needs
Believe it or not, understanding exactly what your company needs from a project and translating that into a well-defined strategy with realistic goals, may be the difference between success and failure. First, it’s best to look at the big picture.
- What is the desired result?
- What does the project do for your business?
- How will the implementation of this project affect other departments?
- Will the project directly impact clients/prospects?
- Will there be any downtime?
- Does the team need to be educated about this project?
2 – Budgeting for the Unknown
Prices go up. Projects get delayed. Accidents happen. You need to accept the fact that you’re going to run into an unplanned incident or two at some point throughout the duration of your project. The best way to make sure that your budget doesn’t come up short is by anticipating that there will be unforeseen expenses. Whenever possible, it’s preferred that you give yourself a bit of ‘wiggle room’ within your budget. Of course, you can’t predict the future – but you can look to previous projects for an idea of what sort of snafus you are likely to encounter. Giving yourself a bit of cushion when planning out your budget might end up saving you big time down the road – and if it turns out that you didn’t need that extra money, then congratulations! Your project was completed under budget!
3 – Determine Benchmarks and Measurements
Especially important during a long-term IT project, figuring out ways to measure and gauge the project’s progress before you begin the execution of it. This will help you maintain forward momentum, keep your budget in check and show areas that need improvements for the next time a similar project is required. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are ways to measure that success. Keeping track of the following metrics will help you get a grasp on the way your projects progress throughout the execution:
- Actual Cost
- Cost Variance
- Earned Value
- Planned Value
- Return on Investment
All in all, it should be considered imperative that all planning and execution be overseen by a Project Manager. Should you not have one, you’ll want to clear a trustworthy team member’s schedule and assign them. Otherwise, it’s worth your weight in gold to have someone ensuring milestones are met and your satisfaction is high (and your frustration is equally low!). Using a third party to oversee a company project is very difficult, when they don’t see or fully understand your vision of the end results. If a project is truly going to impact your business, you should have an established relationship with a technology partner who understands your vision. The most important place to begin any thoughts on a project is the “why” stage.
To be continued!…….
In Prt 2, we will look at he most important aspect of planning & execution: Communication.