Make an effective project management process a high priority for application development projects

Although projects occur throughout all organizations in the IT group, the most urgent need is to have a documented project management process that is followed for application development projects. Here's how about creating an effective projectg management process.

By Joe Feliu in conjunction with the Enterprise Computing Institute

Although projects occur throughout all organizations in the IT group, the most urgent need is to have a documented project management process that is followed for application development projects. Business literature is replete with case studies of projects gone wrong, and careers sidetracked. If your organization exhibits any of the following symptoms, make an effective project management process a high priority:

  • Approved initiatives out-of-sync with business needs
  • Key business enabling projects not implemented 
  • Requirements and costs are not well defined/understood
  • Project surprises (dependencies, unknown commitments, etc.)
  • Staff make strategic decisions, not management
  • Slipped due dates and project cost overruns
  • Duplicate or unclear project roles and responsibilities
  • Project processes and procedures defined but "gathering dust"
  • Project resources over-committed
  • New project initiative generation process is a mystery
  • Frequent emergencies - reactive mode is standard operating procedure
  • Extensive rework late in development process
  • Overlapping or duplicative projects

The challenge is to implement a process that fits the organizational culture, which will give early warning of impending problems so that timely and appropriate action can be taken. The basis for the process is a Project Methodology, most often expressed in terms of a Systems Development Life Cycle. Such a methodology works equally well for infrastructure and applications development efforts. With this methodology in place, project success rests on the adequacy of the Project Control process used by the Project Manager. The following are the key elements of an effective Project Control Process. Look for these features in your process, particularly the rigor of the change control sub-process.

Project Control Process

A rigorous Project Management Process is a necessity. Here's are its benefits:

  • Provides a common language for cross functional communication
  • Integrates actions of all stakeholders
  • Identifies problems early so that corrective action can be taken
  • Minimizes rework
  • Provides a framework against which to assess project changes

First steps

If there is not an effective project management discipline within your organization (e.g., projects are started and not completed, or time/cost estimates are regularly missed) take the following steps:

  1. Search through your senior staff to identify a resource with expertise in project management (use external resources if necessary)
  2. Have this individual document a project management process, with components similar to those provided in the previous example, tailored to the culture and development processes in your group
  3. Quickly institute project phase reviews (tied to your Systems Development Life Cycle) to ensure that projects do not get far off track while you are implementing the more formal project management process
  4. Consider creating a "competency center" of a small number of experienced project managers who can be allocated to projects as they arise

Example

Figure A shows a sample of a high level project plan for the technical aspects of the implementation of a major system. Each task in this plan would be expanded into numerous subtasks of typically several days in duration. Further, this project plan will be a subset of a broader plan that includes the complementary business-related activities involved in the successful implementation of any information system.

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Figure A

Task No.

Task Name

Task Duration

Start Date

End Date

Task Dependency

Task Owner

1.0

I.T. Infrastructure Readiness Plan

247 days

6/9

2/10

1.1

Obtain Project Signoff (Inception Phase)

1 day

6/9

6/9

Sam

1.2

Generate Detailed Project Plan

5days

6/10

6/15

1.1

Sam

1.3

Define Technical Requirements (Requirements Phase)

16 days

6/15

7/1

1.2

Sam

1.4

Conduct Technical System Design (Design Phase)

31 days

7/1

8/1

1.3

Steve

1.5

Plan Production Support Strategy (Begin Development Phase)

20 days

10/28

11/25

1.4

Howie

1.6

Complete Quality Assurance System Site Preparation

5 days

8/8

8/12

1.4

Steve

1.7

Complete Production System Site Preparation

10 days

8/10

8/21

1.4

Steve

1.8

Define and Implement a Printing & Spooling Strategy

54 days

9/25

12/23

1.4

Mike

1.9

Assess and Install a Storage System Strategy

35 days

9/18

11/7

1.4

Mike

1.10

Define and Implement a Backup/Restore Strategy

46 days

11/7

12/23

1.9

Joe

1.11

Identify and Implement High Availability Capability

89 days

8/15

12/19

1.4

Shelton

1.12

Define and Install a Disaster Recovery Plan Strategy

89 days

8/24

12/30

1.4

Shelton

1.13

Define, Implement and Train - Operations Management

101 days

8/25

1/26

1.4

Brenda

1.14

Assess and Install Sufficient Network Capacity

76 days

7/15

11/25

1.4

Brenda

1.15

Implement Production System Management Capability

65 days

10/2

12/22

1.4

Glenn

1.16

Define and Implement Desktop Management Strategy

58 days

11/26

1/23

1.4

Glenn

1.17

Assess Production Readiness

2 day

1/23

1/24

1.16

All

1.18

Conduct Go Live Meeting – Sign Off for Production Cut Over

1 day

1/24

1/24

1.17

All

1.19

Production Cut Over

1 day

1/25

1/25

1.18

Bob

1.20

Execute Post Go-Live Activities (Begin Support Phase)

12 days

1/26

2/10

1.19

Sam

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