Friday, May 15, 2009

Get your projects under control...

In these trying times…or some variation of that…is the first line in every other article or post of the past 6 months, and I am getting really tired of it.

What usually follows is advice to get things in order, whatever the thing of interest is, while focus is elsewhere and before it turns back to you. However, if your thing of is interest is the slate of current IT projects in your organization, there indeed may be some opportunity here. It’s time to get positive.

Do you have a lot of parallel projects? Probably figgting for the same more limited (than ever) resources? Are they all target-date challenged, i.e. all late or later than late? Now is the time to get them under control.

The absolute first priority is to wind-up as many of these projects as possible, as soon as possible. This sounds like common-sense; it is certainly sensible, but not at all common.

No rocket-science here, you need to allocate all your resources to a subset of the on-going projects, get some successful project deliveries, and then look around for new opportunities. If you have a large slate of current projects, you may need to do this again (and again) for another subset of projects. Keep doing this until the number of current projects no longer exceeds your capacity to resource them, or as close as you can get. Do your utmost to avoid initiating any new projects while cleaning up the current projects.

(Of course, some projects cannot be delayed, especially changes needed for new legislation or other compliance issues. Jump on those immediately and get them done quickly so you can get back to the other on-going projects.)

It also helps if you can manage to identify any existing projects that can be canceled out-right. This will not be totally in your control, as the business unit or sponsor that wants the project done may resist. It is just to your advantage to identify any projects that are clearly no longer needed, and who’s sunk costs should be capped.

How many projects should you focus on as described above? You can’t overload a single project either, without incurring diminishing returns. A rule-of-thumb would be to define the number of people on a typical project team in your shop, and then divide that number into the total number of people you have available for projects. There are many ideas and opinions about optimum team size, usually around 7 plus or minus 2.

Next time: which projects should you pick first?

About Me

Ontario, Canada
I have been an IT Business Analyst for 25 years, so I must have learned something. Also been on a lot of projects, which I have distilled into the book "Cascade": follow the link to the right to see more.