Making Plans:

So last time I talked about my general approach, how I generally kick off a project, and have all those initial conversations and meetings. This time I’m looking at how all this feeds into our planning…

At the start, and throughout a project, we are constantly planning, adapting and evaluating progress, because plans always change! It’s important to ensure that tasks are discussed as a project team and understood before they begin work on them, asking questions such as:

  • What is this going to result in?
  • How will we know this task is done?
  • What are the acceptance criteria?
  • Does it impact on anything we’ve built already or that we know will need to be built in the future?
  • Who in team has the best skills to do it?
  • How long will it take them?

This helps us to know that what we are going to produce is adding value to the project and getting us toward the end goal for the customer. It also reduces the chance that we will waste time and money re-working anything that’s not been properly thought through.

We find that involving the customer as deeply as you can at this stage of the project produces the best result, as they are actively engaged in what is being done in a particular cycle of work and know what to expect. It gives them a greater understanding of the impact they can have in changing requirements during a cycle, and whilst it won’t ever prevent a change it does prompt consideration of the impact, value and priority.

Keeping control:

Careful and consistent planning also allows our delivery teams to exercise the control needed to run a successful project. We’ve developed a number of ‘playbooks’ or ‘frameworks’ if you like, so each member of the delivery team is clear on how we perform certain standard tasks or procedures. This not only ensures consistency of approach but drives improvements in quality and efficiency. These playbooks are live resources and constantly updated by the team when they come up with new and innovative approaches to solving common challenges we face.

Regardless of what you do and how well you plan the unexpected is always going to crop up. I find the most common is scope creep which is actually something you invite by having high quality communication with the customer, especially in that initial stage we’ve already touched on.

Scope creep is something that many people look on with contempt. Personally I relish it! To me it means the customer is really understanding the potential of their data and/or their needs. It’s also often a sign that they are understanding our capabilities and how we can help them as well. Sure, changes to, or new requirements, need to be controlled. And we need to take the customer back to the reason they engaged with us in the first place. Re-working with them what the ‘ask’ is and fundamentally what long term do they want to achieve. Once we’ve re-established that we walk the customer through the change they have just requested and see where, and if, it fits in with that. Often in the ‘real’ world projects are constrained by three things. Time, money and resources. The project triangle! It’s a tough balancing act trying to explain to a customer that with the time and budget they have and the resources allocated they can’t always have it all. But we reassess the business value, and if we need to shift then we shift. So long as this is understood by everyone working on the project then scope creep is not a bad thing.

 

In Part 3 I’ll be sharing my thoughts on learning during and after a project.