Many companies get overwhelmed with the scope of large projects. Here are a few tips to make sure you bring in a project on time and in budget:
Simplify the project goals: Too often companies create projects with multiple, potentially conflicting goals. Suppose that a company wants to do a technology refresh because the codebase uses an obsolete technology and the original development team is long gone. Also suppose the company wants to introduce new capabilities and features. And suppose the company is trying to address new regulatory compliance issues. Creating a single project to deliver a new system that addresses all three goals is likely to cause project confusion. It might be much better to address the goals by creating three sequential projects with shorter durations and clearly focused deliverables.
Do not modify the scope: Changing the scope or the delivery goals during the execution of a project will disrupt the schedule, cause wasted effort as completed work has to be modified or discarded, and typically introduces quality control problems.
Break down the work into small units: When performing initial project estimates break down the work into small enough units to understand the underlying assumptions for each portion of the project: Too often initial estimates are created based on the desired delivery deadline, and acceptable budget figure. This leads to project plans that are created to mollify whoever will initially approve the project but are wildly inaccurate. Creating an accurate estimate requires breaking down the work into small units where people can make accurate predictions about the time required to complete each individual milestone. The assumptions used to create estimates should be clearly stated and comparisons to similar work from other completed projects should be highlighted.
Paul Hill has worked with SystemExperts as a principal project consultant for more than twelve years assisting on a wide range of challenging projects across a variety of industries including higher education, legal, and financial services. He joined SystemExperts full time in March 2012 and coordinates the SMARTday practice.