IT project management — take the bull by the horns

IT project teams have torn their hair out trying to figure out what it is exactly that non-IS management is looking for as they plan, execute and deliver projects. Non-IS management is equally frustrated with what they do and don’t get.

Mind-reading project expectations is a chump’s game — you’re much better off to tell ’em up front exactly what they should expect to see, and what they should not expect to see. There’s nothing like having a clear understanding of what project management success looks like before you get started.

Dear management: For this project, you should expect to see from us:

Cross functional and stakeholder input: Expect that we will deliver a list of project stakeholders, the key results that each stakeholder requires from this project, and the deliverables that we must deliver in order to meet these expectations. You should also expect that these deliverables will be cross-checked against the deliverables that fall out of our schedule — we think that if a deliverable is important to a stakeholder, it had better be visible on our schedule.

Management of conflicting project objectives: We know that different players have objectives for this project that may not all align — in response, you can expect us to conduct a disciplined cross check of stakeholder requirements. We will either develop a risk mitigation plan for these conflicts, or communicate them to you and ask for your help in resolving them in a timely manner.

Risk and uncertainty assessment, communication and mitigation: We will provide you with a formal opportunity to review how we assessed risk and uncertainty for this project, as well as the risk mitigation measures we are undertaking, and any assumptions we have made.

Consistency in monitoring and evaluation of projects as they progress, and formal opportunities to intervene at key milestones: You can expect the plan for this project to incorporate formal milestone-based check points, to allow you to intervene if opportunities or problems arise as we progress, or even to terminate the project in a timely manner if pre-determined project success conditions are not apparent as we progress.

Forward looking planning and reporting: We know that most project reports focus on what has happened, rather than what will happen in a project. You can expect forecast costs and schedules as the project proceeds and make revisions accordingly. Our planning will be transparent enough to allow you to answer questions like, “Where do we have to be at the end of February in order for us to be comfortable that we are tracking to our December objectives?”

Building on experience: You can expect that the experience and knowledge that we gain from this project will be formally captured in a post-project review (that we have already built into our schedule), and that we will make this review available to other project teams.

Flexibility: You can expect to see detailed planning from us for activities that are near term, but much less detail for those activities that are further out, recognizing that the nature and impact of changes on a project make day-by-day planning for events more than six months out wasteful.

We should also let you know that if we deliver everything on this list, we expect to be anointed the ‘project management Gods’ of the organization (with attendant bonuses) when we bring this project in on budget, on time, and within the pre-determined scope, subject to changes accommodated within our highly-effective change management processes.

Now, as to the question of how you deliver on this list, that’s what we’ll be talking about, amongst other things, over the next few months.

Hanley is an IS professional living in Calgary. He can be reached at